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Yesler Terrace Resident 'Scared' By Redevelopment Plan

Derek Wang

The nation's first racially integrated public housing complex is a step closer to demolition in order to be rebuilt. Tuesday the Seattle City Council unanimously approved the plan to remake Yesler Terrace.


Yesler Terrace sits on the edge of downtown Seattle, the Central Area, and Little Saigon. Its location makes it prime real estate. And it's also home to about 1,200 people, like Kristin O'Donnell. She addressed the Seattle lawmakers right before they voted on the plan. And she sounded somber.

Kristin O'Donnell: "I'm gonna miss the old neighborhood. It's a good place for people to live in a way that what comes next is going to be less likely to be. And that said, the uncertainty of this plan is really, really scary. We should all be very afraid."

What O'Donnell and other residents are so afraid of is the plan to remake their home. Yesler Terrace is 70 years old. The Seattle Housing Authority wants to sell part of the property to help pay to rebuild the aging complex.

A private developer would pay to replace the low–income housing. And it would be allowed to build new market–rate housing and office towers on part of the property.

Opponents say the financial model might not work and they're worried that the low–income housing may not be preserved. Plus, they're worried about being forced out by gentrification.

The City Council worked to address those concerns. Councilmembers added 20 amendments to the original plan. Those amendments did many things. One restricts how the Seattle Housing Authority can use the proceeds from the sale. Another requires the authority to maintain family–sized units during construction, to limit the number of families that might be displaced.

Councilman Nick Licata says it's not a great plan, but says there wasn't a better plan B.

Nick Licata: "One of the Yesler Terrace resident/activists really summed it up when she said it may be the least bad decision that's available, considering that funding to do anything else is not available."

The Housing Authority now has about two months to come up with a detailed relocation plan for the 1,200 residents. Construction could start as early as next year.

Derek Wang, KUOW News.

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