Preserving the vibrancy, diversity and cultural heritage of Seattle’s Chinatown International District must be a priority when Sound Transit selects the location of its future CID station on the new West Seattle Ballard Link Extension.
As the only station area densely populated by people of color, and a neighborhood that has been harmed time and again by exploitative infrastructure projects, this decision is steeped in equity and historical trauma. Unfortunately, Sound Transit’s analysis to date of the impacts potential sites could have on the CID community is woefully insufficient.
It’s critical that Sound Transit conduct a more thorough evaluation on a location for the CID station — including the impacts construction will have on family-owned businesses, cultural gathering spaces and homes. Sound Transit must involve community members in this process.
The CID is an essential element of our region’s cultural identity. It is the epicenter for residents and visitors to explore and celebrate Asian heritage and customs. Many CID residents and small business owners are of Chinese ethnicity, but the neighborhood also hosts sizable communities with Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean and Filipino ancestry. People of color make up 65% of this neighborhood’s population, compared to the citywide average of 34%.
This community has maintained its resilience and identity despite enduring racism, repression and physical displacement for generations. From repugnant policies like internment and recent spikes in violence targeting the Asian Americans and Pacific Islander community, to the disruptiveness of rail construction to feed King Street and Union Station, or the construction of Interstate-5, I-90, Highway 99 and the Seattle streetcar, residents of the CID have disproportionately experienced decades of hardship. According to the city of Seattle’s Racial Equity Toolkit, “people living and working in the CID …(have) an average life span seven years shorter than that of most well-off communities (in Seattle).”
Choosing a location without adequate analysis and community involvement would only perpetuate a pattern of harmful disregard for this marginalized community.
We know how important connectivity is for our region, our economy and our communities. We fully support Sound Transit’s vision of light rail service linking West Seattle and Ballard. The CID sits at the heart of this new transit corridor.
The Draft Economic Impact Statement issued by Sound Transit presents five different options for the CID station — two options on Fourth Avenue South, three on Fifth Avenue South. The document suggests Sound Transit is leaning toward an option on Fifth Avenue South, despite the profound harm a Fifth Avenue South station would inflict on small businesses, residents of color and historic landmarks in the CID.
Construction of the Fifth Avenue South options would create a stark wasteland in the heart of the CID for many years. If Sound Transit can’t choose an option on Fourth Avenue South now, it should use its remaining time to study how to make Fourth Avenue South the best outcome for everyone.
We appreciate that members of the Sound Transit expansion committee have expressed an interest in and willingness to involve community members in this process. This is important because the CID has been in a state of disruption for decades. This neighborhood might not recover from another poorly planned public works project.
But this outcome can be avoided. An investment now in thoughtful analysis and just decision making that includes the community can save millions in construction, construction mitigation and time lost to disputes. Let’s invest now to save later.
This is how we live our commitment to justice and equity as a community. This is how we ensure a 100-year decision truly serves the people who are most affected by it.