Our community forum on the UDistrict Upzone draws overflow crowd

Our community forum on the planned UDistrict Upzone, the city/UofW/big property owner plan to cover the UDistrict with HiRises, drew over 220 people last night – a standing room only affair.  Some of the prodensity and developer bloggers editorializing about the event are actively mischaracterizing it as either a NIMBY affair attended by selected set of activists, or that somehow it was racially exclusive.  Here is our brief summary of the event which we hope directly responds to those criticisms.  You can also view a video of the forum here thanks to Mike McCormick of Talking Stick.

The Displacement Coalition and six other sponsoring groups went to great lengths to notify the broader community of our forum last night.  We leafleted the Ave businesses, spoke with many of them, and many along Roosevelt Ave.  We mailed out an announcement of the event to 2200 households within the area of the upzone.  And still more leaflets were dropped on doorsteps.  Announcements went out to each sponsoring group’s membership.  Advance notice was given on radio and TV.  Over 220 people attended, the great majority from the affected area and many with long ties to the community.

When asked for show of hands, it was darn near evenly split with tenants, homeowners, and small business people.  A number of homeless folks and service providers spoke, people from the arts, GLBT community as well.  Some stood up, including small business person, and despite prior city sponsored hearings said this was the first they’d heard of the upzone – thru our outreach for this forum.  A person of color read an eloquent Native American poem about the taking of indigenous lands with parallels to the UDistrict upzone. All who lined up to speak got their say. The vast majority attending and who spoke (including people of color) – we gave half the meeting over to comments from the floor – indicated opposition to highrise upzoning and spoke eloquently about how such a drastic change would destroy the rich racial, economic, historic and social character of the District.

Notwithstanding these efforts, we intend to do much more and it’s a point well taken, to ensure more representation in future events we sponsor from communities of color.  Most aren’t aware of this, but census tracts including the UDistrict have some of the highest concentrations of Asians in the city.  And it’s particularly important for us to alert and actively involve first generation immigrant shops some along that Ave still adapting and learning our language, many of which are directly threatened by this upzone.  Feel free to contact us if you have other ideas for outreach to all these communities or would like to help.  2066320668  Seattle Displacement Coalition.

Note also that Councilmember Herbold attended, spoke eloquently of the need for a comprehensive displacement risk analysis prior to upzoning the UDistrict and that would precede council consideration of any other upzones affecting any of our neighborhoods including the HALA upzones coming down the pike later.  She said she will soon introduce a policy to this effect to her colleagues on the Council.

Other councilmembers sent staff including: Amy Gore for CM Johnson, Susie Levy for CM O’Brien, and Mercedes Elizalde of CM Jaurez’s office. Dave LaClergue in charge of selling the highrise proposal for the city planning department also was there and spoke as did Emily Alverado of the Housing Department.

About John V. Fox

Director, Seattle Displacement Coalition
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