SHA's inventory of very low income housing units is declined not increasing as they allege!

Here is a copy of chart provided recently by SHA.  Note over recent years, SHA has seen a decline in the number of "hard" very low income "public housing units" they provide.  All their increase in stock is either due to an increase in the number of low income households that receive vouchers (with all but about 20-25% used to help them rent a privately owned market or near market rate unit) or due to their own production of market or near market rate units (what they call - other affordable units):

Source for this is a November 16th letter from Tom Tierney head of SHA to the City Council


Attention: 561 Public Housing Units At Stake!

Displacement Coalition Flier (206-632-0668)

SHA veering from its mission to help the poor – you can help

“City would lose low income units, money with Yesler Terrace redevelopment

According to King County’s 2010 Housing Benchmarks report, in Seattle there are about 30,000 households with incomes at or below 30% of median ($23,150 for a 3-person household).  Yet, the report says, there are only 310 unsubsidized units in all of King County renting at levels affordable to this income group.  This stunning shortfall of affordable housing for poor people is a prime example of what economists call “market failure.”  And it demonstrates the crucial role of subsidized public housing. 

The largest and single most important remaining source of public housing in Seattle is the 28-acre 561-unit Yesler Terrace Garden Community owned and managed by Seattle Housing Authority (SHA).  Over the last 15 years, SHA's other garden communities at Holly Park, High Point, Roxbury Village, and Rainier Vista were torn down, redeveloped and now serve primarily higher-income groups, with a net loss of over 1000 public housing units.

As the last of our "garden communities," Yesler Terrace is an irreplaceable resource.  It has served generations of extremely low-income families, the disabled, the elderly, first-generation immigrants, and households of color since its establishment over 70 years ago as the nation’s first fully integrated low-density public housing project. Today Yesler Terrace is needed more than ever to address a resurgence of poverty and homelessness in our city, especially among families with children.

SHA’s plans call for replacement of the public housing with as many as 5000 units (mostly expensive rentals and/or condominiums), 80,000 square feet of retail and about one million square feet of offices (roughly equal to the amount in Columbia Tower, the city’s largest skyscraper).  Despite adding ten times the current housing density and new uses that would generate considerable income, SHA said it would replace only 490 of the existing 561 public housing units on the redeveloped site. Based on past history, we know this means even fewer will wind up there after SHA gets its permits.  As always, SHA insists the remaining public housing units will be built off-site.

What’s wrong with moving public housing off the Yesler Terrace site?  In the new development, public housing would make up less than one-tenth of all units.  An existing community would be dismembered so that this prime land near downtown with great views can serve higher-income groups.  This directly conflicts with what SHA was created to do--to serve the poorest of the poor in our city.

Further, if the City allows SHA to build any portion of public housing replacement units off-site, millions of existing Seattle housing levy, state, and other local dollars likely will be tapped by SHA to buy the land and build those units. That’s what happened at Rainier Vista and Holly Park. Funds badly needed to expand our low-income housing stock instead were used to replace existing housing SHA destroyed.  Meanwhile SHA has purchased several buildings off-site and evicted at least 60 low-income households, intending to use these locations as receiving sites for low-income households they’ll displace from Yesler Terrace.  It’s a game of musical chairs for the poor.

Because SHA is seeking an upzone to build above current code restrictions, our Mayor and City Council have clear authority to withhold approval of SHA’s plans unless specific conditions are met.  Here’s what our electeds must require: 

1) SHA shall commit to 100% replacement on site of all 561 public housing units (serving those at or below 30% of median income).  Further, SHA shall increase the number of public housing units on site if economically feasible to at least 20% of the total. 

2)  SHA will pledge that all units located in the surrounding community it has already acquired and vacated shall be replaced at comparable rents.

3)  SHA will pledge to use only new sources of revenue including the (considerable) income generated from the planned retail, condominium, and offices, to build replacement public housing units and no existing finite source of revenue such as city housing levy dollars, or state trust fund dollars, shall be tapped to build these replacement units.

4) SHA will guarantee that the public housing in the redeveloped site will not be segregated by income, and that amenities such as views, parks and play areas, and access to larger ground-related and view units shall be distributed equally among all income groups.

The 36th (unanimously), 43rd (unanimously), and 34th District Democrats (by a large majority) approved resolutions endorsing the four bullet points listed above.  You can help by endorsing our position, signing on to this letter, and communicating your concerns to the Mayor and City Council.  Groups and individuals to date endorsing this position include:

Partial list of signatories to date (Unless identified for ID purposes only, groups listed below have also endorsed this position:

John V. Fox, Seattle Displacement Coalition   *    Alice Woldt, Washington Association of Churches   *        Rev. Harriett Walden, Founder and Chair,  Mothers for Police Accountability     *      Jeannie Hale, Seattle Community Council Federation Thalia Syracopoulos Seattle NOW   (National Organization for Women)   *      The Rev. David Bloom    *    Gary Clark      *    Judy Nicastro    *     Sally Kinney     *    Trevor Griffey   *     Ishbel Dickens    *     Elizabeth Campbell   *   Rick Barrett   *   Andrea Faste    *    Janet Way    *     Kris Fuller    *    Toby Thaler   *     Sinan Demirel    *    Ginger Segel    *    Robby Barnes Sarajane Siegfriedt   *     Justin Simmons    *      Bob Barnes  (Jobs With Justice affiliation listed for ID purposes only)     *    Paul Bigman   (Business Representative,  IATSE Local 15 ID purposes only)    *    Juan Bocanegra (El Comite Pro-Reforma Migratoria y Justicia Social listed for ID   purposes only)    *     Ann Hirschi, Architect, Certified Arborist     *     Ginger Segel Joe Martin    *     Faith Fogarty   *     Jan Munger    *    Christal Wood, JD    *     John McLaren     *    Chris Leman     *    Marietta Foubert    *    Jorgen Bader    *    Diane Snell    *    Gloria Butts    *    Art Skolnik    *      Carla Bueno    *    Scott McClay     *     Richard C. Kelley  *    Dorsol Plants    *    Christopher Schultz     *     Joe Wall      *      Bill Bradburd     *    Robby Barnes    *    Sylvie Kashdan     *    Susan Bossert   (Partial list)

if you would like to sign this letter email us at and let us know


Update of SHA's Plans for Yesler Terrace

November 2010: An Updated Report on SHA's plans for Yesler Terrace and surrounding community.  Will it turn into another HOPE VI-like debacle with hundreds of millions of limited housing dollars going to redevelop the last of our historic garden communities only to come out at the other end with a loss of hundreds of very low income units most needed in our city?

Two weeks ago, Seattle Housing Authority Director Tom Tierney briefed City Councilmembers on SHA’s plan to redevelop the 561-unit Yesler Terrace Public Housing Project. The discussion was timely because SHA is now taking public comment on the draft EIS outlining alternatives now under consideration for the Yesler Terrace site. Early next year, the City Council also will be taking up SHA’s request for a rezone, alley vacations, and other land use changes needed to accommodate their plan.    

Unfortunately, Director Tierney gave no assurances to Councilmembers their makeover of Yesler Terrace would not result in a dramatic loss of existing public housing so badly needed in our city, and at a cost of millions of our limited local and state housing dollars. 

Yesler Terrace, is the last of Seattle’s historic garden communities located immediately south of Harborview and across the freeway from City Hall.  It sits 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. 

A recent countywide housing report indicates there are about 70,000 families in King County (including Seattle) with incomes at or below 30 percent of median but only about 400 privately owned unsubsidized units in the entire county available at these lower rents.   In all of King County, there may be about 6000 subsidized units offered at rent levels affordable to these families.  No wonder waiting lists in Seattle and at other housing authorities in King County are years long. 

For 70 years Yesler Terrace has provided a safe affordable haven for thousands of low-income people, people of color, and first generation immigrants until they can find jobs, transition into the larger community. Gary Locke grew up at Yesler Terrace.  So did Jimi Hendrix, as did many others who moved on to make their mark in our community.  In fact, it still performs this important function. 

The 561 units at Yesler Terrace are arranged in a townhouse configuration with courtyards and walkways between them.  SHA's plans call for demolition and replacement of all but the recently built community center, with a mix of mid-rise to high-rise offices, retails, and as many as 3000-5000 units of "mixed-income housing".  About 2000-3000 of the units would be sold as condominiums with the rest offered at varying rental rates.  All existing infrastructure, sewer lines, water and electrical systems, and even the current street grid would be torn out and replaced.

In his presentation Director Tierney contradicted past promises to replace all of the public housing in the new development.  While still promising "one for one" replacement of all 561 public housing units, he made it very clear that some of these replacement units would be provided off-site "somewhere near the existing site".  He didn't say how many. 

Robbing Peter to pay Paul
SHA also did not disclose how many millions more it will cost for construction and the purchase of the extra land to build a portion of the public housing units off-site.   

Over the last 15 years, SHA turned its other "garden communities" at Rainier Vista, High Point, and Holly Park into dense mixed income developments (spurred by the availability of HOPE VI federal funds).  In the process about 2000 public housing units were removed, with only about half replaced on the redeveloped sites.   

The other half SHA claims to have replaced off-site. However, nearly all of these so called off-site replacement units were built by siphoning off millions from existing housing levy dollars, state tax credits, and state trust fund dollars which were intended to add to our city’s stock of low-income units, not replace them.  It was a case of robbing Peter to Pay Paul.   

Some of the off-site replacement units also were actually built by non-profit housing developers.  SHA simply “site based” some of their existing rent vouchers meaning they assigned them to housing projects developed by the non-profits allowing them to bring the rents down on those units.  But most of the cost required to build these also came from existing state and local funding sources.  

This is why we say there’s been a net loss of about 1000 low-income public housing units from the redevelopment of Rainier Vista, High Point and Holly Park.   

Now it looks like the same thing is going to happen at Yesler Terrace.  Indeed, Director Tierney has explicitly spoken out against any actions the Council might consider which would restrict SHA’s access later to existing city levy revenues, or other local and state sources. He reiterated that in a letter to Councilmembers this week.

Displacement in the local housing market
Based on Director Tierney’s presentation to Councilmembers, it appears that prior to breaking ground at Yesler Terrace, SHA plans to relocate current residents into the areas east of Boren and into Squire Park all the way to 14th Ave, and south to Jackson, including a sliver of Little Saigon.  They’d proceed with redevelopment on site and resident relocation in phases.

SHA promises that all existing public housing residents who would like to return will be entitled to do so. That claim rings hollow if they plan to remove half or more of the public housing units now on site.  SHA, however, is counting on the probability that some relocated households will get settled in their new location, while others will drift away from SHA housing altogether and get absorbed into private housing.  At Holly Park, Rainier Vista, and High Point only about 25 percent of displaced households actually chose to return.

At this point you may be thinking, “If people are living where they want to live, what’s the problem?”  The fact remains that our city will still experience a net loss of hundreds of public housing units if all 561 are not replaced on site in the new Yesler Terrace.  Furthermore, the displacement of relocated residents has an impact on the surrounding housing market.

Already in the area east of Yesler Terrace SHA has acquired three apartment buildings containing about 90 units where, as Director Tierney has acknowledged, some of the relocatees will be moved.  Sixty of those 90 units actually were occupied when SHA took them over.  Now only 30 remain occupied.  That means at least 30 households already have been displaced due to Yesler Terrace redevelopment plans.

SHA also is negotiating with Seattle Emergency Housing (SEH) to take over the building SEH now occupies.  SHA is talking about a joint development there with Sound Transit with a trolley barn below and low-income housing above possibly for more of the people relocated from Yesler Terrace. SHA also has been in talks with King County for use of part of the site where the juvenile detention facility in now located and is exploring purchase of other sites in that area. SHA is seeking a $30 million dollar federal “housing choice” grant to help with these acquisitions. 

What will happen to the people already living in unsubsidized relatively low-rent units now on First Hill, the International District and upper Rainier Valley as SHA continues to buy up buildings there for relocation of Yesler Terrace residents?

Affordable for whom?
Even as SHA plans to turn Yesler Terrace over to denser, more lucrative uses, including offices and condos for the rich, it claims that a portion of the rental housing units on site would be go to "workforce housing" serving those at 80 percent of median income – perhaps as many as 950 units.  And some of the units would be offered to households with incomes at 60 percent of median.

The average wage earner in King County earns about $44,000 a year or about 56 percent of median for a one-person household, according to current data from Washington Employment Securities.  It’s even pushing it to say that any units SHA creates on site serving those at 60 percent would be affordable to the average worker.  Nevertheless, the addition of rental units at these so-called reduced rates allows Tierney with a straight face to claim there will be an "increase in low-income units on site".  Recall that households now living at Yesler Terrace earn on average about 18 percent of median.

Privatization at work
During the briefing Councilmember Licata asked Mr. Tierney to comment on the prospect of added costs in building more of the public housing units off-site.  Instead of answering the question directly, Tierney turned it around.  “Don’t forget,” he said, “If we include more public housing on-site, then that's more of the site we cannot turn into income-generating opportunities."

This response in our mind raises an important question and gets to the heart of our concern.  What should be SHA's underlying goal for redevelopment of Yesler Terrace?  The Authority seems to be viewing the site first as a cash cow.  There it is on prime real estate above downtown with million dollar views of Puget Sound.  SHA’s first thought seems to be "Let's make a profit," rather than thinking of how it can take advantage of the land’s attributes to maximize the number of low-income people who can be served.  This latter objective happens to be SHA’s founding mission that has guided it throughout its 70-year existence, since its creation during the era of Roosevelt's New Deal.

Tierney’s response indicates that SHA intends to do at Yesler Terrace what it did at Rainier Vista—first obtain land-use changes from City Council that maximize its value, then sell off significant portions of the site to private developers to create the offices, retail, and expensive housing called for in SHA’s plans. 

This leads to another important question.  How much of the 30 acres now in public ownership does SHA intend to auction off to the highest bidder?  What percentage of the site will be forever lost to public use and public control?

Tierney also told Councilmembers SHA would offer some of the land on site for sale to private developers "at discounted prices" on condition these developers create and offer units at 80 percent of median income levels.  No one thought to ask Tierney how long the developers would be required to offer these units at these “workforce” thresholds--30 years, 20 years, 10 years, or only 5 years?

Public waste, private gain
The plan for Yesler Terrace likely will require removal of all the existing sewer, electrical, road, and water/drainage systems now on site--even though SHA has provided no documentation that these systems are in need of full replacement.  At Holly Park where SHA tore out the entire infrastructure, we found documents indicating those systems had years of remaining life despite SHA’s public claims to the contrary.  Replacing those systems at Yesler Terrace will cost tens of millions in extra expenses not otherwise required. This wastes the dollars we need to maintain and expand our very low-income housing stock.

Tierney hinted that SHA may also seek parks levy dollars for the green space planned for the site--which even if achieved won't compensate for all the green they're going to remove on site, including most if not all 22 large city-designated "heritage trees”.

There's something seriously wrong with this picture.  Other than the workforce housing at rents hundreds of dollars above what most workers can afford, what is the public benefit here?  And if there is a benefit, is it anywhere close to compensating for handing over all this valuable land that for decades has been held in the public trust and which if sold would be forever sacrificed?

On site the scenario for redevelopment breaks down like this:  Get the area upzoned to maximize value of the land, then lease the office space at top dollar or sell the land off at top dollar to an office developer, contract with other developers to build condominiums, then sell the condos and the public land under them.  Both the contractors and SHA then walk away with a lot of money--to be used for their next SHA-developer "public-private partnership" that again benefits an extended food chain of contractors, attorneys, bond councilors, bankers and architects.  Then repeat the cycle again and again.  This appears to be SHA's modus operandi.  Over time an increasing percentage of SHA housing inventory shifts to higher-income units.  Less of its land and housing are offered to the very poor, and public housing becomes a thing of the past.  SHA becomes something completely at odds with its original mission to serve the poorest in our city.

Pictures speak louder than words
At the outset of his presentation, Tierney said, "We now know how to do housing better" for the poor.  We know the current Yesler Terrace is not a "healthy environment," he remarked and later referred to the neighborhood as "distressed". (Tell that to the residents).  Our goal, he explained, is "to create a healthy accessible neighborhood.”

As with SHA’s previous projects, when Tierney says Yesler Terrace will be healthier, we ask, "For whom?"  If at least half the public housing units are removed on site and in the end only 25% of current residents ever return, just who is benefiting from this redevelopment plan?  Certainly not the poor.

Below, here's what exists currently on site at Yesler Terrace, a photo Mr. Tierney showed to the Council during his presentation. 

Like the other garden communities SHA has replaced, most of the units at Yesler Terrace are ground-related, built on solid concrete foundations. SHA has spent at least $24 million over the last two decades upgrading and maintaining them. They're capable of lasting many more decades if simply maintained.  In a recent letter to the City Council, SHA alleges that at minimum it may cost at least $62 million to repair Yesler Terrace units.  Divide 561 units into that number and it comes out to about $107, 000 per unit.  Even if the cost is that high, it’s less than half of what it takes to buy the land and build a new unit of subsidized housing. That’s the going rate now commonly paid out by the non-profits and SHA when building a new subsidized unit.   

Many of the existing units have access to yards, shared courtyards and a nearby community garden, play areas and a community center.  To call this distressed or unhealthy is a gross distortionFor decades in fact SHA in many forums touted how livable and vital this diverse community is.   

Below are shots of the former "old" Rainier Vista before it was redeveloped--community gardens, play areas right out the back door, townhouses, garden apartments, common courtyards where people could congregate.

Here’s where some displaced public housing residents from Holly Park and Rainier Vista respectively were relocated. This is characteristic of the kind of replacement housing that likely will be offered to current Yesler Terrace residents--much denser, with common shared stairways and hallways, smaller crowded units not at all suitable for large families, no ground-related access, parks or play areas several blocks away. 


Where would you rather live and raise your kids - in the old so-called run-down housing above or the new housing?


Our alternative – Retain what’s there, fix it, modernize it…..

In a different political reality, we'd pursue a plan of incremental renovation and modernization over a number of years that retained most (perhaps even all) of the current lower density ground related public housing units, all of the tree canopy, and older historic community center (where Jimi Hendrix once played and Bruce Lee taught martial arts).

The historic character and integrity of the site would be maintained. We'd build on the courtyard concept, maximizing the number of ground-related public housing units. We'd encourage even more community gardens and places for non-organized play in and between the courtyards, just like the photos above of the old Rainier Vista.

At the margins we'd consider adding some higher density new development, including a mix of income generating uses such as retail, more expensive housing, and office space--but at a much more modest scale than SHA proposes.  As much as possible of the current infrastructure--streets, sidewalks, sewer, water, utilities--would be retained. And there'd be minimum disruption to the lives of current residents.  No public property would be handed over, i.e. sold off, to private parties. And above all the site would continue to fulfill its historic mission – to serve the poorest of the poor in our city. 



Archived information from past years related to Yesler Terrace and SHA plans are included below

A Report on Last Weeks June 10th Community Forum on the Future of Yesler Terrace at Bailey Gatzert School:

Over 125 people and many residents of Yesler Terrace turn out to tell SHA officials the loss of any public housing units at Yesler Terrace would be totally unacceptable

For housing losses at other HOPE VI Projects, Click on here
For a photo portrayal of what's gone wrong with HOPE VI in Seattle click here
For information on the degree to which the City does have authority over all SHA developments not just those that directly receive City Funds - Click Here

For letter from community activists and SHA residents opposing Sybil Bailey Appointment to the SHA board - click here

Help Us Save Yesler Terrace!

The Seattle Housing Authority has already indicated that they plan a full teardown and redevelopment of the 582-unit Yesler Terrace Public Housing Community. While SHA officials say they won't "officially" begin planning for redevelopment of the site until at least next year, a look at their website indicates that they already have a fairly well-developed notion of what should happen there.  These plans call for a total tear down and do not commit to 100 percent replacement "on site" of the public housing (PH) units now at Yesler Terrace.  When asked to commit to no net loss of public housing on site....SHA officials continue to skirt the question as they have for over a year now. 

Given the high density that could be attained on the site and the value of the land, there are numerous redevelopment alternatives that could be pursued that do not pre-suppose any loss of public housing on site. In fact, it probably is economically viable under these circumstances to pursue options that actually could expand the supply of units serving those at or below 30 percent of median above the current 582 unit total.  The higher end more dense residential and commercial uses SHA says they want to add to the site could easily “internally” subsidize on-site replacement of all existing 582 public housing units yet they will not make a “no net loss on site” commitment. 

Note however at some point, cramming too much growth on the site - even if it’s the addition of public housing - could mean a sacrifice in quality.  We’d be at risk of losing many ground-related larger family units and the very accessible parks, play areas, and open space now on site at Yesler Terrace.  Furthermore it should be noted that residents who live there now prefer a renovation and modernization option over teardown and redevelopment plan.  They also say there is little relatively wrong with their existing units.  Built in the late 30’s these units were built to last with quality construction.  And millions have been spent over the last 20 years to upgrade them and SHA need only modernize and upgrade again at a relatively small cost that would be only a fraction of SHA’s grand teardown plans for the site.

Unless the community and City Council can effectively intervene, however, there is a high degree of risk right now that SHA will ignore any and all options that preserve or expand the supply of very low income and public housing units on site.  SHA wants only to pursue a tear down scheme that will spell a substantial loss of existing public housing units on site. This is what happened at High Point, Rainier Vista, Roxbury Village, and Holly Park.  Before these sites were redeveloped with “HOPE VI” revenues, there were 2100 public housing units on these sites.  When completed these sites will have less than 1100 public housing units on these sites.  (Replacement off site has not occurred as SHA claims and for details on this see below and accompanying attachment)

Their plans for Yesler Terrace are aimed primarily at maximizing their return  - giving the site over to higher density mixed use and mixed income development (including offices, retail, expensive condominiums, and even room for Harborview to expand) – primarily uses that in their mind return a healthy profit to the housing authority. Profits come first - bottom-line thinking along with “highest and best use” and performance or asset-based management rather than the pursuit of their underlying mission - their obligation to serve the poorest of the poor in our city. 

Instead of effectively managing and maximizing the value of their assets to maximize their land and low income stock and to better enable them to weather future federal cutbacks and fulfill their mission, SHA seems intent on cannibalizing some of their assets including some of their very low income stock.  They are intent on squeezing revenues from dismantlement of places like Yesler Terrace, their HOPE VI projects (as well as the Scattered Site Program) hoping to generate excess dollars they need to fuel their transformation and move toward market rate, mixed income, and higher income redevelopment.    

Note that if SHA pursues a teardown and redevelopment option for Yesler Terrace, they likely will pattern if off their previous HOPE VI projects where hundreds of existing public housing units were removed – in total a net loss of over 1000 PH units at these sites.  At these other sites where PH units were removed, SHA says they have replaced them off-site.  They don’t tell you that the off-site units were built from existing sources of funds, meaning over 80 percent of the cost of these replacement units off-site came from existing limited sources of housing dollars – levy funds, HOF funds, tax credits, Section 8 site based funds and vouchers, state trust fund dollars - dollars already earmarked for the region that otherwise would have been used to expand the supply.  Instead tens of millions of these limited dollars are now used merely to replace units SHA has destroyed.  The only way to prevent SHA from doing the same thing at Yesler Terrace is to ensure upfront – and get the City and SHA to commit to this upfront – that there will be no net loss of public housing units “on site” in whatever plans they pursue there. 

If a teardown occurs there at Yesler Terrace, the value of the underlying land, new ‘higher and better’ uses and densities allowed there can help internally subsidize retention and even expansion of public housing units on site.  If PH units are replaced off-site, expensive land must be found and new sources of funds must be located – all resources that we need to expand the supply not replace units removed from Yesler Terrace.

Just yesterday, July 20th, at a City Council Brown Bag Lunch Forum on the future of Yesler Terrace, housing advocates and residents from Yesler Terrace were especially visceral in conveying their wishes for the site.  They made it clear they want in on the ground floor of any planning undertaken by SHA that will affect the future of Yesler Terrace).  These folks have formed a large "Coalition to Save Yesler Terrace" that includes the Yesler Terrace Community Council, Community Coalition for Environmental Justice, Seattle Displacement Coalition, NAACP, Seattle Urban League, The Low Income Housing Institute, American Friends Service Committee, Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, Church Council of Greater Seattle, Minority Executive Directors Coalition, Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans, Fremont Public Association, Tenants Union, Inter-Im, Hate Free Zone, Seatte Young Peoples Project, Coalition to Undo Racism Everywhere and Representatives Sharon Tomiko Santos, Velma Veloria, Maralyn Chase and King County Councilman Larry Gossett.

Yesler Terrace is located just East of downtown Seattle where for six decades it has been home to a community of low income and very low income residents.  It's the last of the garden communities and central to the preservation of truly affordable housing opportunities in Seattle's Minority Community. The crowd sent a loud and clear voice, "the needs of low income and minority residents must come first!" NO NET LOSS OF PUBLIC HOUSING ON SITE!

Click here to see the results of the Displacement Coalition's three year battle to prevent the loss of public housing units at Rainier Vista.

There is a reason why the community and Yesler Terrace residents are so adamant about getting in on the ground floor of planning for Yesler Terrace. They don't want a repeat of what happened at the other garden communities where planning and redevelopment went forward that resulted in the loss of over 1000 public housing units on these sites - units that were not replaced off-site either.  Unfortunately with those earlier HOPE VI funded projects, resident and community groups got involved later in the game - late enough for then Director Harry Thomas to tell the community that "the train has already left the station."  As a result, we were forced to focus our attention on making a demand for adequate "off-site" replacement units to compensate for loss of public housing on site.  While community groups in these cases did succeed in securing some "off-site" replacement housing - most were built with existing state, federal, and local dollars - meaning that instead of seeing these dollars go toward expansion in the supply of much needed low income units....they simply were used to build replacement units - robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Many of the replacement units also were built only for seniors or the disabled and do not serve families with children.  Senior units and units for the disabled are needed but not at the expense of public housing and units serving families with kids.

We are getting involved now to make sure this doesn't happen at Yesler Terrace - so no one at SHA can tell us the train has already left the station.

This garden community of 580 public housing units at Yesler Terrace was one of the first built housing projects ever built in the country - first authorized under the Roosevelt Administration. However, it has gone through several upgrades and modernizations since then and continues to provide critical housing and support services for families and seniors - particularly households of color. It has been integral to helping low income families, minorities, and immigrants transition into our community and as such has really helped anchor the central area


        Yesler Terrace Under Construction in 1941

and our city at a time our city is being rapidly gentrified. Yesler Terrace is also located on prime development property with views that overlook downtown. It's valuable real estate to those at SHA who only view this as just one more asset. And in the era of HUD "devolution", and declining resources, SHA now has a free reign to do what it wants to on this site...unless the community speaks up.

Yesler Terrace is the last remaining garden community that has not been subjected to a complete tear down and redevelopment plan as occurred at Holly Park, Rainier Vista, Roxbury Village and High Point.  Over 2100 public housing units are in the process of being removed at these four sites to make way for multi-million dollar mixed income "HOPE VI" redevelopments.  In all, SHA will spend over one-half billion dollars in limited federal, state, and local dollars - all to come out at the other end with a net loss of public housing - the type of units that we most desperately need in our city.  Once completed the new developments will serve primarily higher income groups with only about one-third of the new units (or about 1100 units) to be offered to traditional public housing residents.  (See chart below for breakdown of units removed at each site and the cost of each of these projects)

Yesler Terrace is located just East of downtown Seattle where for six decades it has been home to a community of low income and very low income residents.  It's the last of the garden communities and central to the preservation of truly affordable housing opportunities in Seattle's Minority Community. The crowd sent a loud and clear voice this last week, "the needs of low income and minority residents must come first!" NO NET LOSS OF PUBLIC HOUSING ON SITE!

Sponsors of this event included: Yesler Terrace Community Council, Community Coalition for Environmental Justice, Seattle Displacement Coalition, NAACP, Seattle Urban League, The Low Income Housing Institute, American Friends Service Committee, Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, Church Council of Greater Seattle, Minority Executive Directors Coalition, Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans, Fremont Public Association, Tenants Union, Inter-Im, Hate Free Zone, Seatte Young Peoples Project, Coalition to Undo Racism Everywhere and Representatives Sharon Tomiko Santos, Velma Veloria, Maralyn Chase and King County Councilman Larry Gossett

For more details, see below call us at 632-0668 or CCEJ at 720-0285.  &  Special thanks to CCEJ for all their work in helping to bring this together

For an excellent article on the history and important role that Yesler Terrace has played in our city since the 1940's, Click here: piece by Trevor Griffey for Historic Seattle.   Also see Nicole Brodeur's June 13th Column.  Or Click here to see Stuart Eskanazi's piece in last weeks Seattle Times  Or Click here for Seattle Times editorial

Housing Losses at the Other HOPE VI Projects in Seattle Tell the Tale - We will not allow this to happen at Yesler Terrace!

Take a look the amount of public housing the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) has demolished since 1997 due to their HOPE VI redevelopments and how few of these units have been replaced.  The cost of replacing 1000 units of low income housing would be in the order of $100 million.  This was an irreplaceable resource destroyed by SHA. 

For a photo portrayal of what's gone wrong with HOPE VI in Seattle click here

SHA response

For Rainier Vista Consent Decree

SHA's Hope VI Projects – Public

Housing Losses and Costs













On-Site Before Hope VI

On-Site After HOPE VI


Public Housing Losses at each site

Projected (not final)   cost of each project

1. High Point





$155 million

2. Roxbury Village





$40 million

3. Rainier Vista





$130 million

4. Holly Park





$180 million






$505 million

* SHA says there will be 466 “low Income” units on site at High Point after HOPE VI but 100 of these are for seniors only and do not serve families or other public housing residents and they are units built with funds already earmarked for Seattle and region and would have been built anyway


** SHA says that there were 210 low income units on site before HOPE VI – Only 60 were “public housing” units serving families – all but 15 were removed from the site


*** SHA claims 410 will be replaced but 100 of their replacement units are for frail elderly and do not serve public housing residents especially families and they are being built with funds already committed to the region so would have been built anyway


**** At Holly Park SHA says that 530 will be replaced on site but 130 of that total are units that  serve only seniors, and are being built with funding already earmarked and committed to the region so would have been built anyay




SHA claims they have provided a sufficient number of “off-site” units to replace these 1035 lost on site.  But their “off-site” replacement plan is not a real replacement plan.  It’s simply a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

All but about 10-15% of the cost of SHA off-site replacement units came from existing finite sources including federal Sect. 8 or 202 funds, State Housing Trust Funds, County sources, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits already earmarked for Seattle.  In other words, funds already available that would have been used in the area anyway to expand our supply – to meet a growing unmet need – were instead used to provide HOPE VI replacement units.  Any way you cut that, it means the area still saw a net loss of about 1000 very low income units

Actual cost much greater – add at least 20 percent to total - Does not count cost of off-site replacement housing units

Please pass the following resolution and join the Coalition to Save Yesler Terrace:

We hereby pass the following resolution giving our support to public housing residents at Yesler Terrace and expressing our commitment to become an active member of the Coalition to Save Yesler Terrace, and further; upon approval of this resolution, our organization will send and make public a formal letter to City Councilmembers, the Mayor, and the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) calling on all these parties at this time to commit publicly to no net loss of the 582 public housing units currently on site at Yesler Terrace serving households at or below 30 percent of area median income.  In order to guarantee at least a comparable number of units for large and small households with children at Yesler Terrace, our letter also will call on all the parties at this time to guarantee no net loss of units of a certain size and quality serving very low income families so that, for example, if a large family unit that is ground-related is removed, it shall be replaced with a unit comparable in size that also is ground-related.  Our letter shall also say that in regards to whatever future plans they choose to implement for modernization, renovation, or redevelopment of this historic 582-unit public housing project, the City and SHA should also entertain only those options that reflect a maximum amount of resident participation in development of those plans. 

Call 632-0668 our organization or the Community Coalition for Environmental Justice 720-0285 for more information or speakers for your group:

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Labor, Housing, Senior, SHA tenants, and Church Groups Respond to Councilmembers' Allegations & Sybil Bailey Appointment to SHA Board  (Sept. '06)

- Open letter (below) to City Council responds to Housing Committee's charges leveled at groups airing their concerns about this SHA board appointment. 
"As activists representing significant constituencies and from groups with long track records speaking out against discrimination, and for diversity, affirmative action, equality, and economic justice in all its forms, we strongly object to these accusations" - especially the charge by Councilmember Clark that "race and gender" was behind the concerns we have raised about Ms. Bailey's candidacy.
For more information contact:  KL Shannon at 250-5412, Bette Reid 523-8685, John Fox 632-0668, Bill Kirlin-Hackett  cell (425) 442-5418  or other signatories:
Below you will find a letter from representatives of numerous organizations including church, labor, senior, and housing groups regarding the controversial appointment of Sybil Bailey to the SHA board.  It is now being forwarded to all members of the City Council who will vote on this matter this coming Tues. 2PM Sept 5th in Full Council.  The letter not only airs concerns about the Bailey appointment, it also responds to the manner in which three councilmembers (Sally Clark, Tom Rasmussen. & Richer McIver) at a recent Housing Committee Meeting maligned us and our organizations for raising these concerns.

Instead of examining all the concerns and specific issues we raised, including numerous SHA tenants who have direct experience with Ms. Bailey, these three councilmembers accused us of “sour grapes,” mounting "personal attacks" "smearing her good name" and we were dismissed as "constant critics".  As to our concern about the lack of a fair process from the Mayor – it was dismissed out of hand by Councilmember Rasmussen.  The Mayor promised us a meeting - then backed out at the last minute and we never did get input we asked for contrary to Councilmember Rasmussen's claim. Worst of all, at one point, Councilmember Clark suggested that "race and gender" was behind our criticism of Ms. Bailey who is a black woman. 

As individuals and coming from organizations that have devoted their very existence and decades of work to overcoming poverty, racism and inequality in all its forms we must respond strongly to such baseless allegations.  Our letter below speaks to these accusations and to the issue of Ms. Bailey's lack of qualifications for the SHA  appointment.  Please note signatories listed below as well.
Open Letter to City Councilmembers:

August 30, 2006

Re:  Council action on the appointment of Sybil Bailey to the board of the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA)

Dear Councilmembers:

We are writing to raise concerns about the recent unanimous vote (Councilmembers Clark, McIver, and Rasmussen) in the Housing Committee supporting the appointment of Sybil Bailey to the board of the Seattle Housing Authority. 

Over nine month ago, we came together as concerned individuals and as representatives of labor, church, housing, senior and resident organizations to try and ensure a fair and open process for selection of future appointees to the SHA board.  It was hoped that unlike some other recent board appointments, this time around the Mayor's nominee would truly reflect a high degree of input and honest consideration of stakeholder concerns especially and including input from the resident community. Above all, we wanted to help ensure appointment of the most qualified candidate - someone who was not simply a political or patronage appointment - but someone who was willing and able to roll up their sleeves and hold SHA to its mission of serving the poorest of the poor and guaranteeing livable wages and decent working conditions for its employees.

We also wanted to make sure - since this was a resident appointment - that the person selected would draw broad support from the resident community and be a clear and independent voice on their behalf.  A meeting was sought directly with the Mayor to try and obtain assurances from him that he shared our goals.  Unfortunately, after he made a commitment to meet with us he canceled it.  Nevertheless, we went ahead in good faith and on the basis of his staff’s assurances, interviewed and submitted names of qualified candidates and encouraged others to do the same. Later we learned the Mayor had a strong list of candidates, not just our recommendations, all eminently qualified to represent resident interests on the board. 

It was for these reasons that we were especially dismayed when we learned that the Mayor had leaped over all these qualified candidates and selected Sybil Bailey - already given consideration and rejected for a board appointment in 1998.  At that time, Ms. Bailey was SHA's handpicked choice.  But after being interviewed by the Mayor's office, and by a coalition of labor, housing, and resident groups, and by Councilmember Steinbrueck her candidacy was withdrawn because it was determined that she was not qualified and did not command broad support from the resident community. 

In light of these circumstances, this current selection of Ms. Bailey by the Mayor and now the Housing Committee does not in any way suggest or reflect the open and fair process we were working so hard to achieve.  In letters and testimony before Councilman Rasmussen's committee many of us raised this issue and other legitimate concerns about the process and Ms. Bailey's lack of qualification for the job.  Residents - at potential risk to their tenancy – and with experience working directly with her got up before the committee and offered thoughtful criticism of her more recent record citing specific examples of a counterproductive role she played in important resident affairs.

But what was especially troubling to us was the manner in which members of the Housing Committee and the Mayor's office responded to our concerns.  Good people may differ over Ms. Bailey's role and whether she is or is not qualified but instead of telling us why they thought she was qualified, all three members of the Council's Housing Committee decided to level baseless accusations at those of us opposing her candidacy.  We were accused of “sour grapes” mounting "personal attacks" "smearing her good name" and dismissed as "constant critics".  As to our concern about the lack of a fair process from the Mayor – it was dismissed out of hand by Councilmember Rasmussen.  At one point, Councilmember Clark suggested that "race and gender" was behind our criticism of Ms. Bailey who is a black woman.

As activists representing significant constituencies and from groups with long track records speaking out against discrimination, and for diversity, affirmative action, equality, and economic justice in all its forms, we strongly object to these accusations.

In the end, the Housing Committee addressed only two of the many questions that were raised in testimony before the committee about Ms. Bailey's qualifications - the Mayor's selection process and what her stance was on the '98 SHA legislation.  The Committee never examined any of the critical concerns many SHA tenants raised about Ms. Bailey's actions as president of RAC. These include allegedly making bylaw changes to the organization without a vote, racking up a $4000 debt and then suspending RAC meetings for 3 years w/o any apparent authority to do so, amending RAC by-laws without proper notice to exclude non-highrise tenants, and promoting a signage policy that was opposed broadly by tenants and later struck down by the courts as an unconstitutional infringement of free speech.

The Council continues to treat the process of SHA board appointments as if they were ratifying an appointment to a non-essential advisory board with no real power. This is an appointment to a board with authority over nearly all that's left of this city's low income housing stock.  The citizens of Seattle are entitled to an honest and open process from the Mayor with each board selection.  And any candidate nominated for positions on the board should be subject to close scrutiny especially from the resident community since this is a resident appointment. Instead of taking seriously their role, the council seems perfectly content to fill the SHA board with the Mayor's patronage appointments and those who simply will rubber stamp SHA staff decisions. None of us should be discouraged from sharing real concerns and their experiences about the candidate nor should they or we be so vilified for doing so.

Signatories: (Where affiliation is noted, those individuals have signed on behalf of their organization):
Maureen Bo
Will Parry
Allen Cohen
(Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans)

Juan Bocanegra
Every Workers Movement (EWM)

Verlene Jones
A. Philip Randolph Institute Seattle Chapter and Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Council

KL Shannon 
Yalonda Sinde 
Kate Villereal

Shannon Halme
OPEIU Local 8
(represents SHA employees)

Joe Martin
John V. Fox
(Seattle Displacement Coalition)

Paul Benz
(Lutheran Public Policy Office)

Carolee Colter
(Friends of Rainier Vista)

Kristin O'Donnell
(Yesler Terrace Community Council Executive Committee)
& SHA residents

Lynn Serada
Rick Harrison
(SHA Public Housing Highrise Tenants)


Jean Anderson, President
Senior Housing Advocates II

Bill Kirlin-Hackett
Sally Kinney
(Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness)

Elana Dix
(SAGE - Seattle Alliance for Good Jobs and Housing for Everyone

Bette Jo Reid
SHA Senior Housing Resident Activist & SHA resident


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