Little Saigon is the Seattle neighborhood that government forgot.

To walk its streets is to viscerally experience neglect. Centered a few blocks around 12th Avenue South and South Jackson Street, Little Saigon is beset with overflowing trash cans, litter, dirty sidewalks and open-air drug dealing.

It is unacceptable that the city of Seattle and King County, which oversees several Metro bus stops in the area, have allowed conditions to deteriorate to this level. That Little Saigon is an ethnically diverse, low-income community in progressive Seattle makes improvements all the more urgent.

On Nov. 28, Seattle Times food writer Tan Vinh noted that two big-name restaurants in the area, Hue Ky Mi Gia and Seven Stars Pepper Szechwan Restaurant, may soon close because the area is increasingly unsafe. It’s a miracle they are still in business.

Piles of plastic coat hangers dot the sidewalk, evidence of shoplifted items quickly sold. In front of the Ding How Center, the strip mall where Hue Ky Mi Gia and Seven Stars are located, drugs are openly exchanged for cash as people hawk everything from hand lotion to steaks.

Reported aggravated assaults in the Chinatown International District (Seattle police Crime Dashboard statistics are for the entire neighborhood, not pinpointed to Little Saigon) increased from 112 in 2019 to 131 for the first 11 months of this year. Reported burglaries increased from 143 to 173 in the same period. In October, two people were shot around midday near the 1200 block of South Jackson Street after an argument over a bottle of whiskey.

Minh Đức Phạm Nguyễn, executive director of Helping Link, a social service agency dedicated to the Vietnamese community, said her office was broken into and robbed of computers and other equipment several times. She doesn’t bother calling police anymore. Officers never come, she said, and dispatch tells her to go online and fill out a form.


Last year, Nguyen wrote to Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine begging for help. In a letter signed by nine local restaurants and other local businesses and nonprofits, she sought more police and garbage removal, particularly cleaning up needles.

Nguyen said she never heard back.

“The businesses in the area have given up on the leaders of the city. We can’t even use the sidewalks. It’s not so far from City Hall, but no one has paid attention,” she said. Helping Link is less than a mile from the mayor’s office and council members.

Time is running out.

As the owner of the Seven Stars restaurant told Vinh, “I can’t see things turning around in a building that’s essentially a slum.”

Seattle is facing the collapse of one of its neighborhood business districts. City and county officials need to move quickly to help with consistent garbage removal. Instead of police occasionally patrolling, cops need to put a mobile precinct on site. Same with Public Health — Seattle & King County and a mobile medical van. King County Metro police must do more than watch over the chaos.

Mayor Durkan and County Executive Constantine represent this neighborhood. So do Seattle Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales and County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay. To all of them: This is on you.