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🚇 Why a new train station in the C-ID could endanger its residents

👀 Your view

We do our best each week to cover as many things in the city as we possibly can, but often there’s a community member who’s better equipped to do that job than we are. That’s where a “Your view” comes in — it gives our readers with different lived experiences the space to share why a certain topic is important to them and allows the rest of us to learn something new or see an existing issue in a different light.

Today, we’re hearing from Cookie Trout, a Marketing Associate from the Wing Luke Museum who’s talking about the problems with a proposed new train station in the Chinatown-International District (C-ID) for current and future generations of residents in the neighborhood.

The below is written by Cookie and does not reflect the views of The Evergrey. 

The view from my desk at the Wing Luke Museum [in the C-ID] is unique and absolutely precious to me. I can see community members walking from Little Saigon, where I get my weekly (sometimes tri-weekly) vegan banh mi; I can see coworkers coming back from bubble tea breaks and chatting with construction workers on the corner; I can see people making the most of hard situations like houselessness under I-5 and volunteers who help clean up and offer translation services; I can see the historic building housing Szechuan Noodle Bowl juxtaposed with new luxury apartments in the background. The view from my desk is just a small window of a community that is irreplaceable, and I cannot stand the thought of it being threatened in this or any future generation.

This last week, I haven’t slept more than four hours a night because something is seriously threatening my community.

In January, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was released for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions Project (WSBLE) which includes a proposal for a new train station in the C-ID.

This 2000-page DEIS clearly does not recognize the disproportionately negative and cumulative impacts that [this project] would compound for this historically neglected neighborhood. The project draft concludes that the construction phase is the only source of negative impact to the C-ID neighborhood, but this false statement has not been backed up with adequate research on how it puts the short term or long term health, housing of, and future of the neighborhood at risk. It fails to hold Sound Transit accountable for the way past development has harmed communities of color and will do so in the future.

As awareness of the DEIS has grown, so has the amount of reasons proponents say we should accept this development. Here are a few of my opinions to address those:

🚇 “Public transportation development is good for achieving climate change goals.”

Opinion #1: This issue is not about opposing public transportation nor is it just about the construction affecting the neighborhood in the short term. It’s about development being in harmony with public health and specifically the public health of those who surround said development in the long term. New train stations need ventilation for tunnels, and in the DEIS, those ventilation points — aka a release of polluted air — disproportionately affect this community. The DEIS does not account for the long-term health of C-ID residents  and especially children.

🚇 “Be mad at cars, not trains.”

Opinion #2: At this time, while the Environmental Impact Statement is still in draft form, I believe that there is reasonable cause to ask for options that don’t require the displacement of people. The development of public transit can both grow and center the needs of communities most impacted, especially the historically marginalized.

🚇 “It has to happen somewhere.”

Opinion #3: Accessible, equitable, and efficient public transportation development is absolutely necessary; however, equitable development is only possible with decision-making made with clear accountability to the communities most impacted and at risk for negative impact via health, home, and livelihood. The options outlined in the DEIS aren’t the only options. They’re just the cheapest.

This project is just another proposal in a long line of historically neglectful and systemically racist development.

But this last week, I haven’t slept more than four hours a night because the neighborhood has felt newly mobilized to start working together. We are no longer waiting for some unknown activist savior — we’re already here. That sense of dread I have felt about the future of the C-ID has rapidly changed into one of hope. The energy here is urgent and angry and loving all at once.

We ask those from outside the community to keep watching for the Final Environmental Impact Statement and to keep an eye on City Council, which meets on May 17; the Sound Transit System Expansion Committee Meeting on June 9; and the full Sound Transit Board meeting on June 23.

We also ask those from outside the committee to encourage Sound Transit to explore options for development that put the people here in better focus. Please consider lending your voice on behalf of this community like no other, for there will never be another like it.

If you want to learn more about the history of this topic and the position of other leaders in the C-ID, we (The Evergrey here) recommend this Crosscut article.

Have a response, comment or question of your own about this piece and the C-ID’s upcoming project? Have a local topic you want to address through a “your view?” Reply to this email or send us a note at [email protected]