Upzone or no upzone, the sentiment in Seattle’s Chinatown International District is much like other parts of the city: people are afraid of being priced out.
After months of deliberation, community meetings and delayed votes, the City Council will vote on Monday whether or not to allow taller buildings in the historic neighborhood.
The ordinance will raise building limits from one to three floors, depending on the area. We could see buildings as tall as 25 stories in some places of the CID, as the rezoning would allow for buildings 270 ft from 240 ft; 170 ft from 150 ft; or 85 ft from 65 ft.
The City says in exchange, developers will have to include affordable units or pay into the City’s affordable housing fund, which is expected to yield 150 price-restricted units.
“Sometimes people go through a process but it’s just to go through the process. And then still go through with whatever you want to do anyway,” Bush Garden’s Karen Sakata said.
The bar and restaurant owner thinks healthy development is possible, as long as the City tries to keep the essence of what the community is. She says the 60-year-old business will close or have to move, as the new building owner wants to develop a hotel or apartment building.
“The idea of keeping a place open somewhere to maintain a place for community to go to, I'm struggling with how to make something like that happen,” Sakata said.
Sakata says many community members are concerned new development will increase rents throughout the neighborhood and push out longtime residents and businesses.
The City maintains the historic zone of the CID will not be upzoned.
However, rents have been increasing even before the ordinance was being considered.
Even self-proclaimed gentrifiers say they too are now being priced out.
“I think, Is it okay for me to be here? Am I hurting someone by being here? But I can’t control the rent. I mean, I am here. I am a gentrifier,” Maria Randall said.
Randall says she moved to the CID because of cheaper rents. She pays $900 for a one-bedroom apartment in the Hotel Milwaukee, but will have to move at the end of her lease because rents in her building will jump about $200 a month.
Her friend Derick Allison, who lived in the CID for more than two years, moved recently from the Alps Hotel to a boat after his rent of $545 increased to $724.
Allison says he felt conflicted when an elderly couple inquired about moving into his building, but faced an access issue because the landlord would only correspond via email, which the couple did not have.
“It did make me feel very conflicted about everything – not just me living here, but everything that’s happening in Chinatown and the city in general,” Allison said. “I had to leave and that's crazy because those older couples that couldn't afford $500, I don't know where they're at right now.”