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Letter to the Seattle PI editors – 09/3/08

In Cộng Đồng on 2008/09/03 at 15:45

Letter to the Seattle PI Editor – 9/3/2008

LITTLE SAIGON

Benefits agreement offers little for area merchants

This is regarding the Wednesday article “After 2 years, accord reached on Little Saigon project.”

For all the talks surrounding the Dearborn project, the coalition (DSCLN) and the developer (Ravenhurst Development) emphasize “assistance for Little Saigon merchants affected by the shopping mall” but there is nothing in the Community Benefits Agreement for them.

EXCERPT REBUTTAL COMMENT
– Allocation of $600,000 (present value of $420,000) paid over 12 years would fund a training program for Vietnamese entrepreneurs. – Such training program doesn’t do anything to help them. They have built Little Saigon from an abandoned area to a vibrant and unique commercial district without an iota of help from the such “economic development” promoted by the City. Has somebody asked the merchants on the needs? They need real and direct “rent relief”, not a nebulous program.
– Contribute $200,000 for a neighborhood traffic mitigation study. – The City of Seattle has at least 4 studies/projects/plans for the International District in the last 10-15 years. Nothing with substance has realized except some façade fix-up such as painting of the overpass columns and assistance to build an entrance. No need for another regurgitated study. They need concrete investment and improvement.
– Offer below-market rents on 5,000 square feet of space in the project to community nonprofits. – Few (if not none of) Vietnamese non-profit organizations could afford such “below-market” rents in the high-cost mall.
– Contribute $200,000 for the design of a community center in Little Saigon. – The developer would spare their high-priced architects to draw a design. It costs them almost nothing and community would get almost nothing (just a piece of paper).


I’ve conducted a survey of the small merchants in the Little Saigon, almost all are renters, not being informed or mis-informed about the impacts and the remedial benefits. Their concerns are increasing rent, loss of customers due to congested traffic, and effacing cultural space. Many Vietnamese in Seattle and surrounding cities (from Everett, Bellevue, Kent, Tacoma, Olympia, …) who converge to the Little Saigon as their public space have grave concern on loss of cultural history and identity. The out-of-scale, out-of-character shopping small will overwhelm the “little” Saigon, squeeze the neighborhood, and displace them just like gentrification effort in the Central district had displaced the African Americans.


Hieu Nguyen

Xẻ Cái Bánh Vẽ (Vietnamese Version)

Another letter to the Seattle PI editors – July 20, 2008

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