Thursday, December 9, 2010

ALERT - Comments due Monday 12/13/2010 - SHA's 785 page Yesler DEIS fails to address loss of low income housing

 For immediate release:  December 9.

Contact:  John V. Fox  206-632-0668 or Bill Kirlin-Hackett  425-442-5418
From:  Seattle Displacement Coalition (SDC) and the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness (ITFH)

"SHA's 785 page Yesler DEIS fails to address loss of low income housing and its impact on our community"
                    - Coalition and Interfaith Task Force file their comments today (link to their comments below)
SHA is now taking public comment on the draft EIS outlining alternatives now under consideration for demolition and redevelopment of the 561 unit Yesler Terrace Public Housing Community.  Despite 785 pages of information, the document neglects to provide one shred of information about how their plans will adversely affect our city's dwindling stock of very low income and affordable housing.  Not one of the alternatives studied indicates how many of the 561 units currently on site ever will be replaced and what the impact that loss would have on our city.  Here is a link to our full list of concerns and comments submitted earlier today.  We are raising issues and calling for a level of analysis that is legally required and must be included in the final document due out early next year.
The deadline for written comments on the DEIS is this coming Monday, December 13.  What is contained in this DEIS will be the basis for and inform critical decisions our Seattle City Council will be making early next year whether to grant  SHA’s request for significant upzones, alley vacations, and other land use changes necessary for SHA's plans.  That is why it's so important for the final EIS to include full disclosure of these potentially negative impacts especially those caused by the loss of low income units in our city.
Summary of our comments: 
In sum, we've called for SHA to explicitly declare how many public housing units will be lost under each of the redevelopment options they are considering and to provide the required detailed environmental assessment of what the impacts will be accompanying those losses.  To date - and after more than four years of preparation - SHA still has not pledged to retain all 561 low income housing on site. Instead they plan a massive very dense redevelopment that would include highrise offices, retail uses, and construction of as many as 3000-5000 housing units - most offered as expensive condominiums.  They see the site in fact as a cash cow and revenue generator. Much of the land - SHA would sell off to developers - who then would complete various elements of the project.  Nearly all of the tree canopy including most of the 22 "Heritage" Trees now on the site would also be removed.
Yesler Terrace, is the last of Seattle’s historic garden communities located immediately south of Harborview and across the freeway from City Hall.  It has a 70 year history.  Gary Locke and his family lived there as did hundreds of other young households struggling to get their feet on the ground.  It's also been renovated many times and remains structurally sound despite SHA's claims to the contrary.  The 561 units sit on 30 acres of prime development property overlooking downtown and Puget Sound. You’re eligible for a unit at Yesler Terrace if you earn no more than 30 percent of area median income. That’s about $23,000 a year for a three-person household. You then pay about 30 percent of your income for rent. As it happens, the average income of families living at Yesler Terrace now is only 18 percent of median, about $15,000 a year for a three-person household. 
There are over 100,000 households in King County with incomes in this very low income range according to King County's Housing Benchmark's report, but only about 300 unsubsidized privately owned units in all of the county offered at rent levels affordable to this group.  Only about 10,000 subsidized units, including what now exists at Yesler Terrace are available at these very low income rent level (serving those at or below 30% of median) That's why we cannot afford to lose any of these public housing units or spend millions in limited housing dollars to replace them - dollars we don't have and that we instead must use to expand our stock of these much needed units. 
SHA has an obligation to provide full disclosure of how their plans at Yesler Terrace will affect our city's precious remaining stock of low income units. SEPA and NEPA rules require it.  Our comments raise several other issues such as failure to adequately assess the historic character of Yesler Terrace, failure to adequately assess loss of green canopy and open space and failure to assess the full impacts of the project on the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to Yesler Terrace, specially the Squire Park area east of the site where SHA already is accumulating property and redeveloping in conjunction with their plans at Yesler Terrace.


Founded in 1948, the Seattle Community Council Federation is one of the nation's oldest and most active coalitions of neighborhood groups.  Yearly dues for member groups are $50.  SCCF welcomes new member groups, and encourages renewal by groups whose membership in SCCF may have lapsed.  Individual donations are also welcome and tax deductible, and go very far, as SCCF is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization.  Please mail your check to SCCF, 2370 Yale Avenue East, Seattle, WA  98102-3310.  For questions, contact treasurer Chris Leman, (206) 322-5463,

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