A new effort is underway to preserve and protect one of Seattle's great neighborhoods. The Seattle City Council is considering new legislation to give people in the Central District a say in how their community changes.
Robert Stephens has lived here nearly five decades.
"(My dad) brought us up here in 1957," he said, recounting his early childhood and the move from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Seattle and, eventually, the central district.
"He wanted to move us closer to an area with people that looked like us," he said, "This was where the black population was mainly concentrated."
It was also the part of town that gave us Jimi Hendrix, Ernestine Anderson, and Quincy Jones.
But it has also changed dramatically. The Central District was two-thirds African-American in the 1990 census. It dropped to under 30 percent in 2010. Construction cranes now tower over the Central District, threatening to lower the percentages even more.
"Sometimes I walk out of my house and don't see a black family during the day. I think about two blacks on my block, where before it was all black from Yesler to Jackson it was all black," Stephens said.
Stephens went before the council Wednesday to make his case for new community oversight of the development in the Central District, which has not existed before. The council is considering language to create new Central District design guidelines, and a new District Design Review Board, made up of people living in the community. It's a chance for the long time, long invested neighbors to have a say in how the area is redeveloped. There hasn't been any opposition to making such a change. The language would force developers to consult with long time residents to preserve the historic character that has existed here for so long.
"You don't know the joy that came over me," Stephens said, talking about the legislation and the potential for it. "I feel they are listening. They are meeting with us and coming to us and asking us how to do this."
A public hearing is scheduled for April 4, and final passage is likely not far after that.