By Larry Matsuda
I am against both Sound Transit proposals for the Chinatown-International District (CID). The bottom line is that the light rail planners need to develop viable non-CID options. Remember, WE are the customers and NOT the planners.
To that end, the question is: Have you paid your license tab fees recently? I did for my 2018 car. My total license tab fee was $437.25. Thirty dollars went to License Registration, $5 donation to parks, and the largest category was RTA or Regional Transit Authority or Sound Transit, which was $249. In other words, this year I contributed $249 to have the light rail planners develop plans to destroy or disrupt the historic character of the CID.
As customers, we should all demand quality service and products. At a cursory glance, I’ve identified several transit station options outside of the CID that could work. I will address one new option and several that I spoke about previously in more detail.
The first (new) option is south of the CID and east of the stadiums. It is a Metro Transit bus parking lot. It is flat, big, and full of parked buses. If a light rail site were located there, it would be a small inconvenience for the transit employees to walk an extra block from their offices to the bus parking lot. If the planners don’t select this or any other option that uses city, county, or Metro land, it means that the two options to destroy the CID are better in their minds than using Metro or other public land.
This mindset has its roots in why there is a Chinatown/Japantown. The reason is simple—racism. That same racist thinking created the red-line real estate covenants which restricted where Asians could live in Seattle until the 1960s. To add insult to injury, the I-5 freeway came straight through and split the CID. I grew up on Lane Street near the Japanese Presbyterian Church, which is now buried under the Dearborn exit off I-5. That same thinking brought the Kingdome.
If Sound Transit chooses not to put forth the Metro bus parking lot as an option, then there are vacant lands nearby. Or better yet, the planners could consider using the north parking lot of Lumen Field. They could build the terminal there and put 10 stories of parking on top. Right now, it is a wide open and relatively empty space.
But that option would go against the sports business community. In that case, what’s the best choice for the planners? Inconvenience the sports community who, in the end, will get a free 10-story parking lot, or destroy parts of the CID?
Union Station is another option. It is underutilized and could be linked to the Lumen Field north parking lot proposal either through a tram like the one at SeaTac or some other system. Union Station and the old Immigration Center are probably landmarked, but what does that mean in terms of destroying parts of a protected area like the CID instead? Sound Transit’s plans in this case lean toward demolition instead of preservation. What happened to the idea that the CID was a protected area for preservation?
Whatever comes of this input/planning process, the prime directive for CID preservation advocates must be—WE ARE THE CUSTOMERS AND WE MUST DEMAND TO BE TREATED AS SUCH. Check your license tab fees for this year if you have any doubts.
Finally, I would urge that the Sound Transit planners put some skin in the game and bring options that utilize Metro, city, county or non-CID lands for this project. I think it is high time that the light rail forces stop putting fear into the hearts of CID small business owners regarding the future. Also, they should stop pitting CID merchants against each other since many are struggling financially. CID merchants should be able to live their lives and operate their businesses in peace. Enduring and surviving the anti-Asian hate attacks in the city and CID are enough. The added specter of being bullied by Sound Transit (a public entity) is shameful and offensive.