March 19, 2012Via Electronic SubmissionSeattle Housing AuthorityTom Tierney, Executive Directorttierney@seattlehousing.orgAnne Fiske ZunigaSenior Development Program Manager, Yesler TerraceAFZuniga@seattlehousing.orgCC: Seattle Department of Planning and Development Dave LaClergue, Land Use Planner II <firstname.lastname@example.org> Gary Johnson, Land Use Planner IV <email@example.com>Re: Yesler Terrace Public Housing Redevelopment PlanThe Yesler Terrace Redevelopment Plan is touted as a way to revitalize the oldest public housingproject in the city into a mixed-use/mixed-income development that will revitalize the YeslerTerrace area with new economic opportunity and vitality.Demographically, in many ways, Yesler Terrace community is a Seattle cultural landmark.Yesler Terrace is a unique Seattle community with over 1,100 residents from diverse race, ethnicand cultural backgrounds. Yesler Terrace is home to a much higher proportion of householdswith children than most Seattle communities, and with more persons per household. There aremany immigrant families that rely on Yesler Terrace for community and cultural contacts, asmultiple languages other than English are spoken there. It is inarguable that racial, ethnic, andeconomic composition of Yesler Terrace population is unique in many ways. (Yesler TerraceRedevelopment Fact Sheet July 2011; Yesler Terrace Background Report, Prepared for SeattleHousing Authority 2008)1. Prolonged “Temporary” Relocation = Permanent Displacement of Vulnerable YouthThe Yesler Terrace Plan’s redevelopment-induced “temporary” relocation is part of a 5-10 yearexisting unit replacement phase that, if prolonged, could result in a permanent displacement ofvulnerable Yesler Terrace youth and their families. A permanent displacement of housing, eitherintentionally or by default, would violate the Seattle Housing Authority’s affirmative duty,pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, to avoid discriminatory effects from using its HUD grantmoney in the Yesler Terrace redevelopment, and would likewise violate multiple other civilrights obligations (including, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of theRehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; See,HUD PIH Notice: PIH-2011-31/FHEO Notice: FHEO-2011-1 Issued June 13, 2011. ) by itspermanent displacement of certain racial/ethnic/national origin resident subgroups, youth andfamilies, and persons with disabilities.
This is why the lack of explicit housing rights safeguards and protections within the YeslerTerrace Redevelopment Plan (“the Plan”) presents such a threat of harm.2. Threats of Harm to Yesler Terrace Youth from the Redevelopment PlanThe most imminent threat of harm to Yesler Terrace Youth comes from: (i)lost educationalopportunities, (ii)increased housing insecurity, and (iii)lost access to family and communityservices. A. Lost Educational Opportunities for Yesler Terrace YouthAt the March 7, 2012, community meeting at Yesler Terrace Community Center, I addressed theSeattle Department of Planning and Development staff, as well as Seattle of Housing Authorityofficial and noted my concern that there seemed to be zero plan regarding the protection of theeducational opportunity of Yesler Terrace children. I noted the significance of the absence of anySchool officials or statements regarding the impact of the Yesler Terrace Plan on its school-agechildren. Simply, this is unacceptable. B. Increased Risk of Housing Insecurity /Homelessness for Yesler Terrace YouthA state study of Washington’s homeless youth found that generally homeless youth academicallyperformed worse than non-homeless youth, they achieved higher grades and performed better onWashington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) when they were able to stay in theiroriginal school. [WA State Department of Transportation, Homeless Student TransportationProject Evaluation(2006)- http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Research/Reports/600/665.1.htm]Likewise, youth experiencing housing insecurity and forced relocation face traumatic upheavalcomparable to that of homelessness, particularly young children.The Seattle School district is already required by law to have a homeless education liaison.According to Seattle Public Schools policy on Homeless Children and Youth (D-118):Students who are homeless and are new to Seattle Public Schools may attend any availableschool that non-homeless students who live in the same attendance area can attend;....Students who are homeless, or homeless students who move, may continue their education intheir school of origin with transportation provided. If homeless students move out of the SeattleSchool District, transportation costs will be negotiated with the resident district.”The children of displaced families from Yesler Terrace Plan’s forced relocation deserve no lessthan the same guarantee from the City and Seattle Schools of similar flexible assistance to ensureeducational continuity and that no lost educational opportunity will result.
C. Lost Community Support/Childcare Services For Vulnerable Youth and FamiliesThere should be no loss in community services due to forced “temporary” relocation. Theexpected prolonged nature of the forced relocation of Yesler Terrace residents (5-10 years) willstrain families that in many cases are already at the margins and rely on community services forchildcare and additional family supports, such as after-school and adult learning. The YeslerTerrace plan calls for up to 100 interim units, during the redevelopment process. These interimunits as well as any subsequent replacement units should have equal access to services andamenities equal to the current site and, ultimately, the redeveloped site.3. Guaranteed Right to Return for All Current Resident Families and their ChildrenThe ultimate threat of harm from the redevelopment plan is the lack of an explicit guaranteedright to return after forced relocation. All current Yesler Terrace public housing residents shouldbe assisted in their relocation to minimize difficulty, their guaranteed right to return toredeveloped units should be explicitly strengthened and clarified with no heightened re-screeningfor current residents to reoccupy redeveloped units, and Minimize Prolonged Relocation DisplacementAll public housing rental units affected by demolition or redevelopment should be replaced withnew or redeveloped public housing rental units on a one-for-one basis. In the interim, SeattleHousing Authority should diligently provide positive, supportive relocation services with anemphasis on relocation of displaced public housing households with vouchers assistance, ratherthan the forced transfer of vulnerable families and children to other unfamiliar, public housingsites. Ongoing Tracking of Relocated Current Residents, No "Lost" FamiliesThe City/Seattle Housing Authority should identify residents before displacement, and commit toongoing tracking surveys of where the displaced residents relocated to and their satisfaction withtheir interim housing. Frequents ongoing surveys of no later than every 6 months to displacedresidents within a pre-established schedule, up to and including the completion of theRedevelopment Plan’s replacement housing units. This will help determine those residents whochoose not to return to Yesler Terrace versus those that are unable to return due to otherintervening exclusionary conditions, such as heightened screening policies. No Heightened Unreasonable Re-Screening CriteriaThe Redevelopment Plan’s implementation calls for only current Yesler Terrace residents in“good standing” as eligible for returning to the redeveloped units. There should an explicitdefinition of good standing that does not allow for unreasonable or vague criteria to act as a barto their return. Nor should any current residents who are considered in compliance with currentSeattle Housing Authority policies be disqualified to reoccupy due to heightened standards, suchas credit histories.
4. Race/Ethnicity/National Origin/Disability, Families, and Youth Impact AssessmentThe City/Seattle Housing Authority needs to assess the Yesler Terrace Redevelopment Plan’sRace, Ethnicity, National Origin, Disability, Families, and Youth Impact at all stages of theYesler Terrace Redevelopment to ensure that the residents are not disenfranchised of their rightsto fair housing opportunities and civil rights. Such an impact assessment is necessary to ensuretransparency and accountability throughout the process.ConclusionThe primary goal of the Yesler Terrace Redevelopment Plan should be meeting the housingneeds of low income families. Failure to assess the racial and socioeconomic impact of theYesler Terrace Plan increases the likelihood of disproportionate discriminatory displacement andreductions in affordable housing opportunities. Youth and their affected families should be givenfull education and social services attention so that the social trauma of displacement is avoided.At a minimum, without implementation and adherence to the aforementioned safeguards, theimplementation of the Yesler Terrace Redevelopment Plan will likely violate the Fair HousingActs discriminatory effects standards, multiple other civil rights obligations, as well as the Fifthand Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Rights of existing Yesler Terrace residents unfairlyimpacted by redevelopment displacement.I appreciate your attention to these urgent matters.Sincerely, /s/Ernest Saadiq Morris, Esq.Director, Urban Youth Justice Initiativewww.UrbanYouthJustice.orgLaw Office: www.DefendMyRight.comP.O. Box 45637Seattle, WA 98145Tele/Fax: (888) 938- 7770CC: Ron English Acting General Counsel Seattle Public Schools firstname.lastname@example.org Dinah Ladd, Coordinator Homelessness Office Seattle Public Schools email@example.com