Uproar over development and upzoning in Chinatown International District

KING 5's Lili Tan reports.

As Seattle city leaders ready themselves to allow developers to build higher, some community members lashed out.

“You’re making decisions for a community without the community,” one man said during public comment at a community meeting at the Nisei Veterans Hall Tuesday evening.

City leaders want to upzone the Chinatown International District by only two more stories. By doing this, they say they can create 6,000 more affordable housing units over the next 10 years.

“It would allow us to require new buildings to build affordable housing through building that housing inside that building or paying into a city fund for affordable housing,” Councilmember Rob Johnson said, clarifying the city won’t touch the district’s historic zone.

The city says developers, however, are more likely to pay into a city fund than include affordable housing in their plans, according to a fiscal note written by the Office of Planning & Community Development.

Residents say the fabric of the neighborhood does not start in end in the touristy portion: many of the district’s residents live and work in the surrounding blocks and they fear with development comes displacement.

“I consider Chinatown my home and I have barely enough to cover my housing and food and transportation. So if they increase the rent, I will have no place to go,” Li Jen Setau said, explaining she pays $212 a month to live at a senior and disabled apartment complex called International House.

Setau admits it sounds like a steal, but rent amounts to more than half her monthly income.

While others longtime residents think the city’s plan could be beneficial.

“I think we need balanace: some affordable housing and also some development,” said Tai Tung restaurant owner Harry Chan.

He is one of the few supporters of development.

“I have been in this area for over 40 some years, and I love Chinatown. I love the international district, but I still think we need a little bit of change,” Chan said.

The City Council will vote on the ordinance on July 31. Sources say there will be amendments made based on comments made at the community meeting that focus on community ownership and retaining small businesses. 

© 2017 KING-TV


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