Residents of one of the most diverse low-income housing developments in Seattle face an uncertain future, and one church is encouraging a dialogue.
The Rainier Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation hosts "The Future of Yesler Terrace: A Forum and Panel Discussion" on Saturday, June 28 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Rainier UU Center, 835 Yesler Way, at the corner of Yesler and Broadway.
The event comes as the second round of the Citizen Review Committee meetings on Yesler Terrace redevelopment gets underway.
Rosemary Adang, of the Unitarian Universalists, says the church group has sponsored a series of workshops and this upcoming forum to help Yesler residents build a plan for the future.
"The Unitarian congregation is just trying to help the Yesler Terrace residents get what they feel they need," Adang said.
The Yesler Terrace Community Council is working in cooperation with the Unitarian congregation to sponsor the forum and panel discussion.
They say their purpose is to encourage dialogue between the key decision makers on the future of Yesler Terrace and the estimated 1,200 tenants.
Built in 1941, Yesler Terrace is considered by many to be an historic structure. Its resident community is comprised of 40 percent Asian-American households, 38 percent African Americans, 11 percent Whites and 3 percent Native Americans.
"It was developed as a model low-income housing complex, and it was the first housing complex that was interracial – way before it was legal," Adang said.
With large windows allowing natural light, yards, views and a community center, Yesler is a desirable location from anyone's standpoint. "It needs repairs, but it's a nice place to live, and the people who live there now still feel that way about it," Adang said.
This forum is the culmination of a months-long series of "civic engagement" workshops, in which Yesler Terrace tenants sat down with several different community groups and professional groups – public health activists, urban planners, advocates for tenant and immigrant rights, and community organizers.
These workshops, which were interpreted in five different languages, helped tenants come to grips with the plans for redeveloping the housing project and how best to negotiate with the Seattle Housing Authority for their own well being and that of their families.
The workshops also inspired several tenants, representing at least four different immigrant groups, to become appointed to seats on the Seattle Housing Authority's official Citizen Review Committee.
Adang said that, as Seattle city officials plan to sell off low income housing facilities for redevelopment as mixed use complexes, rumors are flying about what that can mean at Yesler Terrace.
"There's been talk of one-to-one replacement housing for the residents, but there's no guarantee," she said. Residents fear losing their community and receiving in exchange Section 8 housing vouchers that will scatter their friends and neighbors throughout the region.
"Which, given the history of Seattle, is how a family neighborhood is likely to turn into a lot of high rises," Adang said.
The June 28 forum will include a panel discussion involving Housing Authority Director Tom Tierney, City Councilperson Richard McIver (or his representative), staff of Senator Patty Murray and Jim McDermott (representing the federal interest in public housing).
Also expected are representatives of community organizations, and representatives from Yesler Terrace.
The program will include presentation of a list of priorities that tenants have developed for getting their needs met in the process and for building a healthy, sustainable community at Yesler Terrace.
For more information on the hearings call 206-725-2655 or 206-723-3792, or email [email protected], or mikewold @drizzle.com. The Rainier Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation website is http://rvuuc.org.