Comments from the Seattle Displacement Coalition and Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness responding to DPD’s recommendations for conditions for the Yesler Terrace Redevelopment Master Plan:

Date:  March 19, 2012

To DPD and OH Staff:

The largest and single most important remaining source of public housing in Seattle serving our city’s poorest households is the 28-acre 561-unit Yesler Terrace Garden Community owned and managed by Seattle Housing Authority (SHA). 

The Department of Planning and Development’s (DPD) draft recommendations, as currently written, would essentially sanction the destruction of Yesler Terrace.  What has served this city for 70 years – a still very viable “structurally sound” functioning community that’s helped lift out of poverty literally thousands of families - will give way to an upscale and high density office and condominium development serving primarily wealthy households and high end commercial uses.  Such a plan is far removed from SHA’s fundamental mission – to serve our city’s poorest households.   

In addition, the city’s draft recommendations are not even adequate to ensure 100 percent replacement of the 561 public housing units that will be removed on the current site (west of Boren where all but 50 units are now located).  Further these draft documents would allow SHA to tap tens of millions of existing limited city and state revenues, including state housing trust funds and local housing levy dollars to build the so called replacement units and other elements of the project.  Monies that are supposed to go for our city’s neediest will instead go towards a gentrification scheme that will cause massive displacement of those very groups.

The Departments draft recommendations, as written, will reward SHA with upzones and increased development capacity valued easily at over $200 million.  On top of that, millions more in city-controlled funding are authorized for the project, including $2.4 million in city funds (including housing levy dollars) for Phase I and as much as $30 million (including more levy dollars) for all phases.  In addition, this draft agreement allows SHA’s non-profit “partners” to tap millions more in state housing trust funds, MFTE tax breaks, Sec 8/202 senior and special needs housing revenues for construction of the replacement units.

Any portion of the so called replacement units or other aspects of this project financed from these finite existing sources simply is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul and sacrifices precious resources we need to expand our low income housing stock and address a backlog of other city needs.  Use of housing levy dollars would be especially egregious because it violates the voters trust.  They didn’t approve a housing levy only to see millions of those dollars wasted on “replacement housing” for units SHA will needlessly destroy. 

To top it off, after all these city giveaways, the draft agreement doesn’t even require SHA to guarantee “100 percent” replacement ON SITE of all 561 public housing units they’ll remove.  When the Council sets conditions (in return for these mountainous giveaways), nothing else associated with this project is more important.  Nothing else should take precedence when the council prioritizes features they want to condition for the site. 

The draft agreement requires only about 410 of the remaining 561 to be replaced on site. By allowing SHA to build any portion of replacement units off-site, it serves only to drive up the total pricetag for this project.  That’s because more existing Seattle housing levy, state, and other local dollars then would have to be tapped to pay the added cost of acquiring land off-site for those units.  SHA also forgoes use of whatever additional land/buildings it acquires for replacement units rather than units that expand our very low income stock. Other administrative and development costs also must be tacked on – extra costs not required when replacement units are built on the current site and west of Boren. 

(Note also that 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.)

The value of the development potential the City will be handing over to SHA when it rezones the property is easily adequate to cover the full cost of this project with enough left over to provide full and 100 percent replacement of public housing on the existing site.  No housing levy dollars or any other existing city or state sources is needed for this project to “pencil”. 

With that in mind, why hasn’t the city subjected SHA’s finances and the project’s budget to a higher level of scrutiny to determine the basis for their claim that the project does not “pencil” without tens of millions more in city outlays above the value of the rezones.  And if, indeed, this project does require these extraordinary additional outlays, why isn’t the City insisting on a redesigned project that does pay for itself and guarantees 100 percent PUBLIC HOUSING REPLACEMENT On the current site? 

Alternative sources of funding can also be found to cover any shortfall if indeed there is one.  SHA now holds an inventory of market rate housing developments, city-wide, of over 500 units.  By selling off some of these properties, it could easily raise more than enough to cover the $30 million they are asking the city to provide.  Further, SHA now holds over $50 million in excess funds just sitting in the State’s Investment Trust Account, and they realized a $20 million budget surplus last year.  Even if their current Yesler Terrace plan doesn’t “pencil”, SHA can afford to cover the $30 million in city funds they are seeking and include all 561 replacement units ON THE CURRENT SITE (West of Boren).

Why would we exempt the housing authority from levels of scrutiny given to sports arenas or any other big ticket city project?  If elements unrelated to SHA’s primary mission have been tacked on to the project’s budget and they drive budgets costs above expected revenues, then it is these elements - not low income housing and not our city dollars - that should be sacrificed, OR SHA SHOULD BE EXPECTED TO COVER FULL COSTS OF THAT DESIGN. 

Further, the city’s recommendations do not guarantee that either the units or the land under those units will remain in perpetuity as very low income units serving public eligible households whose incomes are at or below 30 percent of area median.  The land and the housing can essentially over time be privatized and converted to market rate.

The agreement also allows SHA to destroy units that serve the broad spectrum of public housing eligible households (especially families with kids) with units that serve exclusively seniors or special needs populations.  Waiting lists are years long for low income public housing eligible families already.  This project, without changes in conditions the city has authority to impose, will essentially be the death knell for public housing, drive waiting lists still higher and further contribute to our city’s shortage of housing serving our city’s poorest households especially people of color and families with kids.

As the last of our "garden communities," Yesler Terrace is an irreplaceable resource.  It is needed more than ever to address a resurgence of poverty and homelessness in our city, especially among families with children.  This should remain the primary purpose and use for this site.  If we are to redevelop and add density to the site at all it should be to maximize these low income uses.  Instead it has become an excuse to gentrify and destroy those uses and drain our precious limited local dollars.

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. 

Our specific recommendations:

In revised documents including the cooperative agreement and planned rezone ordinance we call on DPD and the City to require at a minimum the following (also see attached appendix offering specific language changes to the draft agreements to achieve these objectives identified below):

1)  SHA shall commit to 100% on-site replacement of all 561 public housing units being removed, and shall make available, to households at or below 30% of median income, a minimum of 561 of those units or 20% of the total constructed there, whichever is greater; and

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), 11th (unanimously), and the 34th District Democrats (by a large majority) have all approved resolutions endorsing the four bullet points listed above.  The Metropolitan Democratic Club also approved our resolution by a large majority while adding an additional condition to ensure the redevelopment occurs in phases so that residents may relocate on site as construction occurs. 


Please also review appendix for our recommendations for specific language change in the documents as well. 


John V. Fox

Seattle Displacement Coalition


Bill Kirlin-Hackett

Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness


Here also is a partial list of other groups and individuals endorsing the above recommendations:


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)

David Bloom

Dorsol Plants

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

Christopher Schultz

Joe Wall

Bill Bradburd

Robby Barnes

Sylvie Kashdan






Specific recommendations/comments to draft language:


* You’ve taken at least a couple of years to analyze and asses this and meet and talk with SHA.  Is it reasonable to believe that with your March 19th deadline since announcing your draft recommendations in Mid-Feb, that this gives the public and all affected parties ample opportunity to comment?  We question that


* Draft Recital I (see top of page 2 of draft Cooperative Agreement): Remove and or amend this language to read:
I. The Executive Director of SHA has requested a total City capital contribution of $30 million, in 2010 dollars, to support infrastructure, parks, affordable housing, and community facilities construction. The City is committed to exploring cooperative opportunities with SHA, but has not identified or committed funding for this project at this time purpose beyond commitments made in this Agreement. Any potential City contribution would be evaluated on the shared benefits to the City and on the City’s overall financial picture and ability to pay. 

* Has the City requested and reviewed SHA proformas and other financial material in order to determine whether there is a funding gap at all to warrant/justify such a substantial drain on the City's budget.  The Mayor just appointed an advisory committee and assigned staff to scrupulously examine the financial capability of private financiers asking for 200 million in public funds to help them build a new sports stadium – to examine whether we’re getting a fair return on that investment.  Why are we not subjecting SHA's plans to a higher and more extensive standard of review and a review that is transparent and accessible to the public? Who at City Hall has scrutinized SHA's budgets and proformas?  Do they really experience a shortfall associated with their preferred option given the financial windfall the City will hand to SHA and that will accompany these extreme high densities, office, condo, and retail space the city is intending to grant them for this project?  Why can’t the project internally subsidize all costs including full housing replacement on site?  And if SHA cannot afford this design and plan, then why aren't we insisting they consider or pursue other plans which do not cause such a shortfall that requires these excessive City outlays? 

* What are these sources and for what specific purposes would they be tapped...... is the city just going to give them a check for 30 million to do with however and for whatever purpose they see fit....  what level of detail do we the public get to see outlining all this. Is this necessitated by some kind of "required" match for the Housing Choice Application SHA has submitted (or will submit) to HUD? 


* In Phase I, according to the Cooperative Agreement it explicitly commits over $2.4 million in city dollars, including housing levy monies, for the redevelopment.  Delete this paragraph.  Where and how will these dollars be used specifically, especially housing levy dollars that were approved by voters expressly for the purposes of expanding our housing stock?  How can the city justify tapping levy or other limited housing dollars in this light?  Voters did not approve the housing levy to assist SHA in redevelopment plans that result in removal of our public housing stock.  Nor did they vote for a housing levy just to see significant portions of these funds or other finite housing resources go towards replacement of housing units that SHA needlessly destroys. 


*  Regarding SHA’s replacement housing requirements contained in the draft land use code amendments and cooperative agreement:


You’ve gone back and forth with SHA for months hearing what they are willing to do and NOT do vis a vis housing replacement requirements the city may be willing to impose.   It appears to us that your draft recommendations in this regard merely reflect their wishes and the limits of what SHA tells you they are willing to do.  Likewise, it appears to us that these draft documents singularly ignore all comments/concerns contained in DEIS and other documents and other prior comments from us and others in the community calling on the city to ensure true 1 for 1 replacement on site.   


Right now the code language, cooperative agreement and other documents/summaries etc allow SHA to replace housing for public housing eligible families with housing serving exclusive special needs populations and/or seniors.  The only mitigating factor is language requiring SHA to replace housing of a certain size with like housing of the same size. 


The community wants to make sure this land and the replacement units remain under public control in perpetuity and serving this very low income population of public housing eligible households.  The community wants to make sure that no existing limited sources of housing funding are drained such as levy or state trust fund dollars to pay for SHA’s replacement units.


SHA has considerable resources (including monies they could realize from sale of some of their now enormous market rate inventory, what they hold in the state’s investment trust account, or their recent annual budget surplus of $20 million).  They also have access to new state and federal resources, including considerable revenue generated and resulting from increased densities and uses on the site that will yield an enormous return for them. 


It is SHA that must be held responsible for replacement housing, not city taxpayers.  For that to happen, SHA must pay for the replacement housing tapping only it’s revenues and from these new sources.  Any drain on existing limited sources is merely a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul and takes away limited dollars we need to expand our housing stock (not aid SHA in a redevelopment plan that results in housing losses for our community). 

1. Amend draft YTMPC Ordinance to read:  (see page 11 of draft YTMPC amending 23.40.006 adding an F)

F. Relating to the MPC-YT zone, the City Council has authorized an agreement or development standards that establish clear requirements for replacement dwelling units "that guarantee one for one replacement of the removed low and extremely low income units at comparable price"

2.   Amend definition of what constitutes "replacement housing" to read:
 “Replacement housing” means the 561 new housing units that will replace the 561 public housing units demolished in the redevelopment of the Yesler Terrace site, occupied by "public housing eligible" households with incomes no higher than 30 percent of median income, as defined in Section 23.84A.025, at the time of initial occupancy by the household, subject to the term of affordability as set forth in 23.75.085.C.2.c.

3. Also amend C2a of draft ordinance page 45 bottom to read:
a. Affordability.
Units must be reserved in sufficient quantity to meet the affordable housing conditions in Table A for 23.75.085, as follows:
1) For replacement units, annual housing costs including rent and basic utilities shall be those allowed under the 1937 U. S. Housing Act and agreements with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and that serve public housing eligible households, to be verified by the Director of Housing.

4.  Regarding Phasing (continued on next page):




There is no language added to ensure that tiered or 'phased' development of the site won't result in the situation that occurred at Rainier Vista and High Point - large tracts of the site lying undeveloped and lengthy delays in construction of replacement units on site.......  there is a need for tables added to the ordinance and the cooperative agreement limiting the time between demolition removal of existing units and redevelopment.  This may require more tiers, more phases, preventing them from moving to next phase until redevelopment of prior phase is completed or well into construction....   For example, tier one requires 188 replacement units before they can proceed to tier 2.  language should be added saying that only 188 may be destroyed during tier one, or no more than 'x' number if not 188 something close to it.

(note the language here in the land use code amendments and planned action ordinance says 188 will be replaced in "tier one" yet in the cooperative agreement it only requires replacement of 98 in "phase I" - this doesn't jibe)

5.  Replacement "public" housing shall be units guaranteed in perpetuity (not 50 years) and retained or revert to public ownership if they are partnership units - amend language in draft and cooperative agreement to reflect this

c. Term of affordability. The affordable replacement housing shall serve only public housing income eligible households for a minimum of 50 years from the date when the affordable housing becomes available for occupancy as determined by the Director of Housing. If federal subsidies prove insufficient for the full 50 years, the Director of Housing may amend covenants regulating replacement housing and 60 percent of AMI housing to allow affordability limits up to 80 percent of AMI for sufficient units to cover operating deficits within a development.

6. The Draft Cooperative Agreement:

The following is a false statement: 
A. The Yesler Terrace public housing development, owned by SHA, is 70 years old and has reached the end of its useful life.

Appendices to EIS include documentation from SHA showing that the cost of renovating and modernization is much less than a tear down plan

Amend definition 1.15 see page 3 of draft Coop.Agreement to read:
1.15. “Replacement Housing” means the 561 extremely low-income housing units at Yesler Terrace that SHA commits to develop on site serving public housing eligible households as part of the Yesler Terrace Redevelopment.

Amend Section 3 "Housing Production Plan" of Coop Agreement and where necessary in other documents including the draft code changes in order to


Remove language limiting tenure of extremely low income units to term of 50 years.  Replace all language here to read that these replacement units and land under these units shall be retained at these rent levels in perpetuity and be retained in public ownership or revert to public ownership (should they be done in partnership with non-profits and if ever the term of these partnerships expire)

Substantially rewrite Section 3.1 in order to ensure that 561 replacement units  "serving public housing eligible households" are built on the current Yesler Terrace site West of Boren and that an additional 500 units serving extremely low income households (not necessarily for "public housing eligible but serving those at 30% of AMI or less") are included on the expanded site which includes properties east of Boren. 


Also amend this section to ensure that


“Any extremely low income housing built on site and done in partnership with the nonprofits is credited to SHA as "replacement housing" only in proportion to SHA's contribution to creation of these units and only when public housing eligible households are served by those "replacement units".  For example, if SHA provides land on site and vouchers to a non-profit and this contribution accounts for 40% of the cost of creating 100 units, SHA shall be credited with replacement of 40 of the 561 they are removing.  For these 40 units to be identified and counted as replacement units, they also must serve public housing eligible households and be built on the current site west of Boren. “


“When calculating SHA's contribution towards replacement housing, the Director of Housing will consider only those sources of funds SHA has generated thru its own means including proceeds from sale of land including proceeds of land sales at Yesler Terrace, "new" but not existing section 8 vouchers, capital contributions from other revenues internally generated by office, condo, and retail development planned for the site itself, and any other proceeds SHA has generated from sale of market rate development it now owns, and/or any identifiable new federal funding source explicitly earmarked for replacement public housing.  Any use of housing levy dollars, housing trust fund dollars, or other local, state and federal source already earmarked for Seattle and the region shall not be included or counted by the Director of OH's towards their replacement obligation.” 
Phasing to ensure when housing is removed that it is immediately replaced and within that phase of development. The cooperative agreement must be amended to ensure that if 188 units are replaced in "tier one" (or if 98 as the case may be - note again the conflict here between 98 in cooperative agreement and 188 stated in draft land use ordinance), then only that number of existing public housing shall be removed prior to SHA moving ahead with Tier two.  And explicitly state, that all other existing public housing units shall remain open and occupied and in good condition.  Likewise in later phases or tiers of the redevelopment, SHA shall remove only that number of units that they intend to replace in that tier prior to moving on to the next tier and that the new replacement units and remaining existing public housing units shall all be occupied before moving to the next phase (or tier)...... 

In order to achieve this, this para (See page 3-1 last para on page 5) in the draft cooperative agreement, must be amended to read:


In order to minimize the need to relocate residents away from the neighborhood,  all other existing public housing units, not removed and then replaced in a specific phase or tier of redevelopment shall remain open and occupied and in good condition at all times.  Likewise in later phases or tiers of the redevelopment, SHA shall remove only that number of units that they intend to replace in that tier and prior to moving on to the next tier and that the new replacement units built in prior phases and remaining existing public housing units shall be occupied before moving to the next phase (or tier)......  at least 281 500 of the public housing units existing at the time this Agreement is executed or replacement public housing units will be available for rent at all times. The City will not issue a master use permit for any development, other than a development including replacement public housing, if there are fewer than 281 500 units available for rent.  New housing SHA is building off the current site and east of Boren but within the expanded Yesler Terrace Redevelopment Area may serve only as "interim" public housing and may be counted towards that 500 but only in an amount equal to amounts of public housing removed during a given phase.”

Note this quote below contained in the cooperative agreement does not jibe with the following quote contained in the draft land use code changes
At least five of the eight blocks on the Yesler Terrace site west of Boren Avenue will each include a minimum of 50 replacement units. (see section 3-1 page 5 of cooperative agreement last para) This suggest SHA is bound only to replacement of 250 of the 561 that will be removed.

And then read this paragraph contained in the draft land use code (see page 46 line 16):
d. Location. Affordable housing must be located within the Yesler Terrace redevelopment area. No more than 140 of the replacement units shall be located east of Boren. When provided within a development permitted under a single MUP that includes residential units without income restrictions, the affordable housing shall generally be distributed throughout the development.

Alter both documents to ensure replacement on site that west of Boren 561 public housing replacement units will be created there.  Set up a more precise schedule as the City did for Holly Park outlining in more detail numbers of units to be removed in a particular phase and total numbers that will replace all those removed and in that phase before they may proceed to another phase

Finally, these housing replacement conditions not only must be included in the cooperative agreement they must be referenced specifically and attached as conditions for alley vacations, MUP, Land Use Code Amendments, Planned Action Ordinance and all other permit documents.  it also must be made clear for future applicants seeking use of this "Planned Action" tool now embedded in the code that full 1 for 1 replacement requirements at comparable price shall be required of all applicants, public or private. 






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