By Gary Lee
Seattle CID Public Safety Committee
Co-founder of the Friends of Seattle CID
It’s budget time, and we realize you all are very busy. But we urgently request that you sponsor or initiate an emergency land use moratorium in order to have time to study the zoning in and around the Chinatown-International District (CID) boundaries relating to homeless shelters and associated services.
CID (Chinatown, Japantown, Little Saigon) residents and businesses are newly aware of a proposed expansion of the SODO homeless shelter on 6th Avenue South. It doesn’t make sense because at least 15 homeless shelters, and at least that many service providers, are already within walking distance. Since the siting of the Navigation Center, and the concentration of other shelters around the CID, the quality of life, vitality, and public safety of the neighborhood have deteriorated significantly over the past five years.
Zoning regulations for homeless shelters, for example, do not have any spacing or concentration standards, other than Transitional Encampments (i.e. tiny house villages) which cannot be within one mile of each other. The lack of regulatory standards has resulted in the unintentional (or intentional) consequence of over concentration of these uses in, and around the CID, such that it has become a severe public safety issue, as expressed by Police Chief Diaz, in his Sept. 21 interview on KING 5. He said, “Maybe we should take a step back, and really evaluate how much level of service is in this area, because another one (shelter) could really create an impact, just by permanently damaging that neighborhood.”
With Chief Diaz’s statement on the over concentration of homeless shelter/services in and around the CID, and the fact that there are no density or spacing controls of these uses, the CID residents and businesses respectfully request that you adopt an emergency land use moratorium on all new land use applications for homeless shelters/services within a half mile of the CID boundary in order to study the unintended consequences of not having spacing or concentration standards for these types of uses, and to provide some amendments regarding these uses so this does not happen here, or to any other neighborhood in the future.
We urgently need your help in this matter, as you have helped others regarding a mobile home park, as expressed in the linked articles below. If you truly care about the CID community, you will urgently take the necessary steps to enact an emergency moratorium to study this problem and provide an equitable solution for the CID historic neighborhood. This neighborhood is at a breaking point and will surely die if more shelters are added and expanded. Just consider the crime statistics, the highest of Seattle’s neighborhoods, with the eighth homicide occurring just last week.
A temporary surge in police activity in the CID will not solve the problem. The problem is the zoning code. Your committee can stop the unintended consequences of poor Land Use planning that has been slowly killing the CID.
Please let me know if I am missing any procedural steps or requirements to have the Land Use Committee publicly consider this request at one of your Committee meetings for consideration and vote by the full City Council.