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Chinatown-International District residents protest shelter expansion

Community members are calling for transparency, outreach and engagement, but say so far, they are not getting that from county leaders.

SEATTLE — King County plans to expand a shelter in Seattle's Chinatown-International District that would provide behavioral health services for more than 400 people.

But residents there are pushing back. On Tuesday, they took their concerns directly to county leaders.

Community members want the county to pause its plans for now. They are calling for transparency, outreach and engagement, but say so far, they are not getting that from county leaders.

"What is happening to Chinatown-International District, it is just unimaginable the kind of cultural destruction that is going on,” Matt Chan said.

Chan was part of a group that gathered at Hing Hay Park on Tuesday morning to protest what King County Council approved in May, when they decided to lease land across the street from Chinatown-International District.

"Our biggest concern is definitely the people who prey on the unhoused and the people who prey on the community. The drug dealers, the prostitution rings, the crime, we want to make sure that there is a public safety plan that will address all that,” Tanya Woo said.

Woo said those concerns led to a large turnout on Tuesday. Protesters marched a half mile and filed into King County Council chambers.

"They are fighting for the community, and these are 70, 80, 90-year-olds who are very angry and very passionate about their home,” Woo said.

"I am ashamed, frustrated, angry about the indifference of the King County Council to the needs of the Chinatown-International district,” Connie So said during public comment at the council meeting.

“We are just making it very clear that this is not against the unhoused,” Woo said.

She said it's about preventing a repeat of history.

“I-5 devastated the community. It divided our neighborhood,” she said.

Chan said that building the Kingdome and the streetcar line also had a negative impact on the community.

That's why Chan said this time around, he wants county leaders to listen.

“Until they come to the table and hear our voices the way we want to be engaged, we are not going to stop,” he said.

There are around 7,500 people living outside in King County, and the county said expanded shelter service is needed.

On Tuesday, Councilmember Joe McDermott released the following statement:

“I know these past few years have been especially challenging on the residents of the CID, with instances of hate crimes increasing and a sense of physical security at an all-time low. The CID deserves safety and security so that the community can thrive. We’ve also seen an exponential increase in unhoused individuals in the same stretch of time, and these individuals deserve the most robust support we can offer, as a community and region, to be housed, stable and secure. We can and should address both of these serious and unacceptable realities, and I do believe that the city, county and CID community can come together to find a path forward to do so – I look forward to continuing to being a part of that process.”

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