Posts Tagged ‘English’

Little Saigon Asks the Mayor to Walk The Talk

In Cộng Đồng, Chính trị (Politics), LittleSaigon - Seattle on 2009/08/19 at 13:58

Below is the letter written by the Northwest Neighborhood Activists for Democracy & Social Justice responding to the essay Little Saigon takes a Walk with the Mayor by Quang Nguyen (WaVA Executive Director & International Examiner contributor, International Examiner, Vol. 36, no. 15, August 5-18, 2009, p. 5)

Latest News: Nickels concedes: ‘time for a new generation’

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Tale of Five Friends and Five Enemies

In Thế giới, Văn Chương on 2009/08/11 at 07:00

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Kinh cầu cho sự sống còn (Litany for Survival) – Audre Lorde

In Thế giới, Văn Chương on 2009/07/10 at 09:41

Đọc lại bài thơ của Audre Lorde, xin trích gởi một đoạn đến tất cả những ai còn ở trong cái rọ của bạo quyền.

Kinh cầu cho sự sống còn

Cho những ai trong chúng ta
người bị ám bởi nỗi sợ
như nếp nhăn mờ giữa lằn trán
học cái sợ ngay từ giòng sữa mẹ
chính vì vũ khí này
nỗi ảo tưởng tìm được chút an toàn
kẻ bạo quyền mong bịt miệng chúng ta

Cho tất cả chúng ta
giây phút này và chiến thắng này
vì chúng ta chưa từng được phép sống còn
Khi mặt trời mọc chúng ta sợ
mặt trời không ở lại
khi mặt trời lặn chúng ta sợ
không mọc nữa vào sáng hôm sau
khi bụng chúng ta no ta sợ
đầy bụng
khi bụng ta trống rỗng ta sợ
sẽ không bao giờ được ăn nữa
khi ta được yêu ta sợ tình yêu tan biến
khi ta cô đơn ta sợ tình yêu không bao giờ trở lại
và khi ta thốt lên lời, ta sợ
chẳng được nghe hoặc coi rẻ
nhưng khi ta câm lặng
ta vẫn ôm nỗi sợ

thế thì cứ nói
để luôn nhớ rằng
vì chúng ta chưa từng được phép sống còn

Audre Lorde (trích tập thơ “The Black Unicorn”)

A Litany for Survival

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive

Audre Lorde, from The Black Unicorn

The ghosts in the room & skeletons in the closet

In Cộng Đồng on 2009/06/08 at 05:20

Note: This essay was written as a response to a call for dialogue from Da Màu (Colored Skin)–an online Vietnamese Literature Magazine. As some of you might recall, the Multi-Art Show “F.O.B. II: Art Speaks / F.O.B. II: Nghệ Thuật Lên Tiếng” organized by the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) became too controversial with many public protests to remain open for the weekend of January 17, 2009 in Santa Ana (Orange County, California). Da Màu Magazine then invited people participate in a writing dialogue on January 30, 2009. So we engaged via the below essay from the lens on race, class, privilege, generational gap, oppression, and memory.

the dead haunt the living…

Michel de Certeau

There are many comments about the protestors. But it’s rather cavalier to conclude that “… angry protesters unwilling and incapable of dialogue” because that assumption is completely missing the point. The protesters do not care about arts. The protestors do not seek dialogue with VALAA. Their aim and motivation are purely political as has been in many protests in the past and would be in the future. Generally speaking, each dialogue has a purpose and invited participants. In this case, it turned out that the would-be participants didn’t agree with the agenda or format, so came the boycott and protest. For the protester’s purpose, the dialogue between Vietnamese Americans do not further any changes in Vietnam, nor address the wound of the past, or create any progress in the transnational political field. If there is any dialogue it should then come directly from the in-power who needs to willingly disavow their power and come to the table.

The protesters want the in-power to acknowledge the ghosts in the room and skeletons in the closet. [The ghosts in the room are dictatorship and oppression. The skeletons are crimes committed before, during, and after the war: from political assassination to mass civilian killing, from land reform executions to re-education camps]. Only then there would be productive results and things could move forward. Any other ways are merely promoted illusions of dialogue and reconciliation.

One often evokes the silent majority to be on their side. In the context of the Vietnamese American community, what silent majority one refers to? Who are they? The middle-class, the upper-class, the educated elites, the technocrats, the acculturated, or rather, assimilated. Most (almost all) of my friends belong to that group, including me. But definitely we’re not such a majority. There are “others”, invisible, marginalized, and not counted. They would never amount to a majority since they are invisible, no matter how many they are. The “so-called” silent majority chose not speak up and purportedly felt intolerable for being silenced by a vocal minority. But, it’s not so “intolerable” as one so thought. That intolerable is the bourgeois histrionic malaise. That silence is so tolerable as much as a comfort of a lie — an assuagement of self-deceit — in order to be safe in the middle of the herd, letting others on the margin vulnerable.

Such silence is not only tolerable but also justifiable. There is nothing to gain but much to lose so silence is the best prescription for the “so-called” majority. There is also an advantage for being in this “so-called” silent majority in order to judge the protests as “reactive”, “illogical”, “un-democratic”, and “uncivilized”, as well as the protesters fanatics and extremists. Being considered as losers and spoilers, the protesters are presumptuously viewed as the hindrance to a “normalized” situation, an unwelcome third party in a dialogue between the (self-)anointed. These protesters are not regarded as engaging participants, and at most, merely spectators. So then comes a view of a silent majority who supposedly support peaceful dialogue and participate in the discussion. Together with a mix of naivete and ignorance this “so-called” majority forgets the invisible majority who neither has the means to participate nor the language to speak. Who sets the agenda, who frames the question? Who decides what and how to participate? Who speaks? Why would the protesters have to be “peaceful” and “orderly” in their objection? The “progressive” intellectuals who were sitting-in, demonstrating, burning flags, blocking roads, defacing public properties once touted their acts as “civil disobedience”, but ironically now labeled the recent Vietnamese American protests as “fanatic” and “barbaric”!?

There are ghosts (the invisible ominous presence) which possessed objects, symbols, space, and place. The red flag with yellow star and statue of Ho Chi Minh are such symbols/objects. Their presence evokes the invisible manifestation of ghostly horror of deaths and sufferings. More than the swastika which represents the Nazi party, a forgone regime no longer exists, the red flag with yellow star represents the continuing suffering, humiliation, and oppression, then, now, and ongoing. Regardless how those symbols and objects morphed or disguised into educational tools, communicative art or commercial items, they remain possessed. The protesters screamed out to the ghosts at which others turn a blind eye and ignore. Such disregard is often achieved by forgetting, by excluding, and by craftily framing. In contrast, the protesters want to dig out the skeletons in the closet, hidden and buried for many years without acknowledgment.

Very often people curse the hungry ghosts who possessed an area and demanded payment. Metaphorically and materially. In Vietnam, they are the local gangsters, often supplanted by local police, traffic police, and special police. People give bribes so the hungry ghosts don’t raise hell. People avoid them at all cost in order to keep on living but ultimately one wants to rid them permanently. There is an aura of ominous and imminent danger in their ghostly presence that evokes fear and abhorrence in the living regardless of how well the hungry ghosts are dressed and sophistically presented. The evil spirits in disguise as “reform” and “progress” have offered pacts to global hungry bidders. Who could take advantage but the privileges’, many are self-claimed “liberal progressive”. One could be very progressive in the mainstream framework but exploitative and internalized neo-colonialist in the faraway third world countries—those political identities are not mutually exclusive. Many have unwittingly (or rather strategically) abetted in making blood pacts, facilitating the red capital mixed with new found capital abroad in order to wash out the blood stains. Old money, new money. Old elites, new elites. Blood are also mixed to create an elixir for eternal power and privileges. One doesn’t have to look far to see. The daughter of current PM Nguyen Tan Dung married the son of an ex-RVN deputy minister. America, the land of opportunity no longer offers quick rich whereas the ancestral homeland bestows a much fertile ground for wealthy repatriates to exploit. They hid under the façade of heart-tugging call to rebuild Vietnam.

The privileged Vietnamese Americans have power of language, media, access, security, and capital accumulation on their side for expressing their thoughts and feelings, even if only in the confine of an ethnic enclave. Moreover, they set the agenda, frame the discussion, speaking on other behalf while the wounded just react based on their feelings in deep-seated experiences. Even in this “open” forum in the public space, I still doubt that any of the invisibles (even if not surreal or imagined) have a voice. Who speaks then?

Vi Nhân

Vietnamese Translated Version: Hồn ma và xương khô

Dialogue: “Where Strengths & Truths of Little Saigon Seattle Come From?”

In Cộng Đồng, LittleSaigon - Seattle on 2009/05/07 at 16:16

Letter to Supporters of April 4, 2009 Dialogue: “Where Strengths and Truths of Little Saigon Seattle Come From?”

April 4th, 2009 Dialogue - Little Saigon Seattle

April 4th, 2009 Dialogue - Little Saigon Seattle

Tue, 05 May 2009


Panelists of April 4, 2009 Dialogue: “Where Strengths and Truths of Little Saigon Seattle Come From?”

Vietnamese Americans of Seattle and vicinities

Supporters of Northwest Neighborhood Activists for Democracy & Social Justice

Hi all,

First of all, on behalf of the Little Saigon activists, we deeply appreciate your continuous support and action. As promised, here are the latest info about Little Saigon Seattle in the International District.

The huge-scaled and out-of-charactered Dearborn Mall Project (at Goodwill site) were CANCELLED officially last Friday, April 24th, 2009, resulting after the three-day intense discussions with many City Council members from April 21st to 23rd. Below is the Seattle Times article.

These discussions with City Council were initiated by the Neighborhood Activist for Democracy & Social Justice – Northwest Region together with CARD – Community Alliance for Responsible Development [right after the April 4th grassroots dialogue conducted with the Vietnamese community at Columbia Library, and its news & video have been posted on You-Tube and many internet links].

To be exact, our discussions with the City Council were about:

(1) our firm commitment to preserve the cultural characteristics and political identity of Little Saigon;

(2) our concerns of the lack of civic participation of Vietnamese merchants and the majority during the planning process; and

(3) our critical feedback on urban development issues which were related to Sage and WaVA (Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce) non-transparent conducts.

This project failure proved the community strength–when we collectively believe in unity and integrity AND not allowing any paralysis due to indifference, ignorance and fear.

Again, thank you very much for your effort!


quynh-tram & hieu nguyen


(1) As mentioned in previous correspondences, the mantra that “this project was a done deal” was the attempt to mislead the intelligent mass! Also, the news (in Vietnamese) and some You-Tube videos regarding the April 4 grassroots dialogue have been posted at the below–among so many Internet links:

ALL the video segments of the April 4 Dialogue are at the below link:ệng,+Little+Saigon+Seattle&aq=f

(2) In the last paragraph of the below Seattle Times article, “another group of opponents” was addressed without mentioning names. As you already knew, the two well-known groups who secretively signed the deal with the developers are Sage and WaVA. Although their attempt to mislead/misrepresent the community without consent was failed, the two groups still insisted that they created “a groundbreaking model for making development accountable to community stakeholders”! What kind of “accountability” would you think in this case?

$300M project at Seattle Goodwill site canceled

By Emily Heffter – Seattle Times staff reporter”

Personal testimony at the Hearing on Rezoning

In Cộng Đồng, LittleSaigon - Seattle on 2008/09/22 at 17:08

September 22, 2008

Hearing Examiner

700 5th Ave, Suite 4000

PO Box 94729

Seattle, WA 98124-4729


Public Testimony on the Dearborn Project—a proposal for 1400 South Dearborn Street by Darell Vange, Ravenhurst Development, Application Number 3001242

Madam Examiner and Council Members:

My name is Quynh-Tram H. Nguyen, and beside me is my husband, Hieu Nguyen. We are currently residents of Seattle. We have been the engaged community members and organizers in different residences from Orange County, California, to Olympia and Seattle. Since 1982, my husband had served on the board of the Vietnamese Mutual Association of Olympia, the Thurston County Refugee Center, and as the school principal of the Hung Vuong—a Vietnamese Language School in Olympia. I myself had worked as licensed family psychotherapist for 6 years serving a diverse population of Caucasian, Vietnamese, Latino, and other South East Asian origins. Before becoming a Seattle resident, I also served as the Co-Chair of a non-profit organization named Vietnamese American Human Services Association (VAHSA). In addition, since 1994 I have been a grassroots activist within the Asian community where I has followed my passion for empowering and advocating for women and children. I am currently pursuing my doctoral study at the University of Washington. My teaching/research focuses on the intersection of Performance Studies and Community Development of the Vietnamese diaspora. Finally yet importantly, we are both currently peace activist and regular volunteers at the Vietnamese Senior Association of Seattle.

Today, we are making a public statement regarding the Dearborn Project. We have been interested in the development of its proposal since 2006. Eventually, we have intensively engaged with other Vietnamese Americans and neighborhood activists about this “so-called development” project since the beginning of this year. We are concerning about the Vietnamese Americans’—especially the impacted merchants’—lack of thorough understanding of this Dearborn project with complex procedures and processes. We also believe that they did not have enough opportunities to understand and provide their own input about the negative impacts of the Dearborn project. Certainly, there is little decent public engagement for the Vietnamese community regarding an extensive review process about the project. Therefore, we urge you to (1) consider the serious impacts of the project and to ensure it is adequately conditioned in your recommendation to the City Council; (2) not to approve the rezone because of impacts due to the inconsistency with the City Comprehensive plan; and (3) ensure the rezone recommendation be brought back to Department of Planning and Development (DPD) so that more adequate and complete analyses and recommendations could be made before it goes to the City Council.

We are very concerned about the causes and psychological consequences of gentrification due to this huge mall project scale and scope. We examine through different means on how this rezoning project would affect the Vietnamese merchants as well as residents in and beyond Little Saigon area. Attached is a copy of our research with all the highlighted media pieces of a three-year period. These articles demonstrated the majority of legitimate opinions and concerns against gentrification until very recently. In spite of lack of public assistance, we have worked constantly to educate ourselves and then attempted to inform the Vietnamese about these urban development issues. Why do we care, you would ask? We care because displacement is a serious phenomenon that we never desire for anyone to experience again. In fact, both I and my husband (as the majority of Vietnamese Americans) were displaced within our own country due to the war impacts and before the Vietnam War was over, and subsequently displaced from Vietnam to stay in the limbo state within Southeast Asia refugee camps prior to our migration to the United States. We were called the “boat people” finally coming to America with our empty hand and yet enormous hope for freedom of expression and better livelihood.

As the US citizens, we are eager in contributing to our new homeland while sustaining and nurturing our four-thousand-year cultural roots. Wherever we resettle, we consciously seek Little Saigon to come and connect with others in various ways. There is no doubt that Little Saigon made us feel home. We cultivate this symbolic home through everyday memories and collective engagement in our new adaptation. Overall, Little Saigon demonstrates how its unique life benefits diverse groups of individuals: refugees with limited English gain employment, Vietnamese elders find comfort, and “Americanized” immigrants and their children connect with ancestral culture. The non-Vietnamese neighborhood residents also expressed to us their appreciation toward Little Saigon of Seattle for having their basic needs (i.e. groceries) met at modest prices. Furthermore, in Little Saigon visitors are welcomed as customers to encounter qualities formerly experienced only through travel to other countries.

Our sense of belonging is often strengthened through Little Saigon’s tangible senses of taste, smell, sound, and sight not readily available anywhere else. It is a place where we can interact as a visible majority and openly practice cultural activities. Little Saigon is often regarded as a new form of urban village that offers an extended family where the lonely refugees, even if briefly, can be accepted. It allows all the engaged (regardless of social sector and ethnicity) to perceive the unique cultural character that the Vietnamese, as the minority group members, contribute to the US and provide the City of Seattle with substantial tax revenues. In other words, this area adjacent to the Seattle Chinatown affords us and many other Vietnamese a well recognized public identity and a sense of “being in the right place”—in spite of the perpetuation of stereotypes, erosion of ethnic boundaries and persistent forms of specialized crime that threaten the areas’ success and yield negative perceptions of the areas’ ethnic groups.

Due to such attachment to the Little Saigon of Seattle, we have made effort to organize public awareness gatherings regarding its current predicament. In addition, we utilized a street theater event on June 13, 2008, to raise communal attention on the impacts of the Dearborn project. As the result, attached to this public testimony is our postcard sample that we used to collect more than 500 signatures mostly signed by the Vietnamese Americans. The number of signatures is not a huge but significant one. It does strongly indicate that these signers are courageous. If you understand the impacts of their historical trauma, you would understand the weight of each signature. One signature could represent hundred of signatures. Because of many political upheavals and abusive governments in Vietnam as well as their subsequent displacement trauma, the Vietnamese Americans have become very cautious in providing any signatures. The signatures on these postcard show the acts of concerned citizens who care very much about Little Saigon. They took risks to confirm their opposition of not having a voice in the process. All of these postcard signatures will be forwarding to the Seattle Department of Transportation within a couple of weeks as our recommendation for better and thorough analyses prior to any City action.

To obtain a basic understanding of the merchants’ needs and wants, we ourselves conducted a preliminary survey with them in the Little Saigon of Seattle. Almost all the merchants are renters. They shared that they are not aware, being informed, or even mis-informed about the impacts and/or the remedial benefits declared in the Dearborn Agreement with the developers. Being caught with daily survival and deal with many barriers (such as language, class, technological skill, waves of migration, etc.) have prevented them to involve in this public review process in order to advocate for themselves and protect their rights. The expressions were often conveyed to us are the following: many fears of intimidation, lots of confusion and apathy, and/or being very skeptical toward the offering benefits as the developer’s true concerns about their possible plight of displacement. They could not imagine how life would become if the project is approved without any consideration for justice. Attached to our public testimony is the list of the merchants we have talked to during this preliminary survey.

In fact, the merchants’ real concerns are increasing rent, loss of customers due to congested traffic , and erasing their cultural space . Moreover, 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 mall will overwhelm the “little” Saigon, squeeze the neighborhood, and displace them. This encroachment and resulting displacement will not have just the negative economic impact. The displacement would cause a psychological health impact , particularly to the seniors, who grounded in Little Saigon as their home away from homeland. The area already is sufficiently zoned for retail. Those shopping districts should be allowed to develop organically and not induced to face an intervened competition due to this newly created super-size commercial district.

The DPD did not outreach sufficiently to a wide Vietnamese community on the negative impacts. The outreach has been oriented to elite group participation. In other words, the elaborate hierarchical representative structures have not achieved a sense of empowering or inclusion for less involved residents and ethnic communities. Moreover, the PDP did not have a systematic analysis of health consequences from effects on multi-layered factors such as displacement; land use density, design, and diversity; and public infrastructure.

In sum, we urge the Hearing Examiner not approve the rezone because of the serious impacts to the neighborhoods, and they are inconsistent with the City Comprehensive plan for the following reasons:

(1) Incompatibility with Neighborhood Character. This out-of-scale and out-of-character urban super-regional mall with major national retail chains as the major commercial mix right next to a tiny Little Saigon will overwhelm the Vietnamese cultural and public space. We therefore believe that this project is incompatible in scope, scale and nature with the existing fabric of the Little Saigon/International District, which is composed of small ethnically owned businesses. Moreover, the project is incompatible with the future vision for the ID community, as expressed through the ID’s participation in the Livable South Downtown planning process.

(2) Traffic Impacts. Increased congestion to the area will add to the existing problems of traffic and parking, especially in the Little Saigon area, which could result in a loss of local and regional patronage to the area’s businesses. Majority of Little Saigon patrons are out-of-area Vietnamese residents yet converge to the Little Saigon area to do shopping and business and attending cultural events. They will not bother to come when traffic getting worse.

(3) Overflow Parking. The overflow parking will influence tremendously the already crowded Little Saigon. The city paid research already indicated that business in Little Saigon has been negatively impacted since the implementation of Safeco Field and the Quest Field. Business is down during game days, particularly on weekend.

(4) Insufficient Outreach. There is not sufficient outreach to the Vietnamese merchants and other engaged citizens in the Little Saigon area. They are either completely not informed or mis-informed on the impacts and remedial benefits. (please see the attached survey and relevant testimonies)

We are submitting signatures of all individuals and organization representatives who agreed with our above reasons—explained in previous public meeting and now in this public testimony. Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully yours,

Quynh-Tram H. Nguyen & Hieu Nguyen


Public Testimony re Dearborn Project by Prof. Lynne Manzo

In Cộng Đồng, LittleSaigon - Seattle on 2008/09/22 at 11:00

Public Testimony

on the

Dearborn Project

provided by

Lynne C. Manzo, PhD

Environmental Psychologist

September 22, 2008

My name is Dr. Lynne Manzo. I am a resident of Seattle and I am an Environmental Psychologist. While I am also a professor at the University of Washington, I am testifying today in my capacity as an environmental psychologist and a private citizen.  My particular area of expertise is in the lived experience of place – this includes the study of place identity, sense of place and sense of community, and those dimensions of the physical environment that make a place more desirable and livable.

Today, I am making a statement in response to the City of Seattle Analysis and Recommendation of the Director of the Department of Planning and Development” on Application Number 3001242, a proposal for 1400 South Dearborn Street by Darell Vange, Ravenhurst Development. My comments also refer to the project designs for “Dearborn Street,” “Design Review Board #8” dated July 24, 2007.

In its recommendation, the Dept of Planning and Development has not fully defined or explored the project impacts nor has it completely conditioned the project to address impacts as they are required to do by the Municipal Code.  A project of this magnitude should be carefully and fully examined. I therefore respectfully urge the Hearing Examiner and the City Council not to approve the proposed Dearborn Project until further investigation is made into the following areas and steps are taken to better address these issues in the design:

I. Impact on Cultural Vitality of Surrounding Communities

  • Greater consideration of the neighborhood context, and the impact of the development on the community from a socio-cultural perspective and on its cultural vitality is essential. This includes examining the effects of the development on the place identity, and sense of place of the adjacent communities as cultural landscapes.
  • Census data and other research show that the surrounding communities, composed mainly of immigrants and ethnic minorities (see Figures 1-5), have unique needs and concerns, including the need for culturally-specific and appropriate goods and services and there is no evidence for the adequate consideration or provision of this in the current proposal.
  • The site of the proposed development lies immediately south of “Little Saigon” or the western portion of the Chinatown-International District.  This district is a critical ethnic enclave which has historically served to mitigate negative psychological impacts of the displacement of refugees and immigrants, has provided alternative and culturally appropriate economic structures for immigrants and has facilitated the preservation of cultural traditions (Mazumdar et al, 2000).  Research other Little Saigons in California shows that a culturally-sensitive built architectural environment is critical for fostering community identity and immigrant adaptation (Mazumdar et al, 2000).
  • Figure * shows the percentage of foreign-born residents in the area surrounding the site, and Figure * shows the . The above-mentioned findings on immigrant adaptation, certainly apply to Seattle’s Chinatown-International District and Jackson Place neighborhoods, both of which are occupied by foreign born residents. The development as proposed does not take this reality into account in any demonstrable way.
  • Research also demonstrates particularly strong concerns among local residents, business owners and community leaders that neighborhood revitalization efforts reflect the fabric of the area as a cultural landscape.  (see especially Abramson, Manzo and Hou, 2006). This development does not reflect the local cultural landscape in any measurable way.
  • The proposal states that provisions would be made for “neighborhood-oriented shops” (Analysis & Recommendation of the Director of DPD for APPLICATION NO. MUP 3001242 p 3) yet what this means exactly is not made clear. There is no provision or mechanism in place that would ensure that local small-business owners would gain these smaller retail spaces, rather than other generic chain stores.  A Sunglass Hut is rather different from, and serves a different clientele than, a Vietnamese resident-owned small appliance shop, for example.
  • Census data and the site’s proximity to the Yesler Terrace public housing development demonstrate a need for affordable goods and services. Research shows that the poor fare badly in the big-box economy (Mitchell, 2006). In contrast to the popular idea that such stores offer more affordable products, a 2005 Consumer Reports study indicates that independent shops can offer better prices than their large chain counterparts. This supports findings from a 2003 Consumer Reports study that independent pharmacists provided a higher level of health care and personal attention than that offered by chain drugstores.
  • Impact on low-income immigrant communities – Research reveals that small business owners can thrive in ethnic enclaves which offer mini-economies that facilitate economic integration into the host country (Portes & Manning, 1986). The introduction of chain superstores may threaten these local mini-economies.
  • Based on the research data cited above, it is evident that culturally considerate and economically appropriate neighborhood developments are a matter of social and environmental justice.

II. Impact on Community Identity and Sense of Community

  • Put info from Hummon here:  Research on Community Identity indicates that it is `grounded in both social integration and environmental experience’ and “appears to build particularly on the personal meanings of life experiences and the public images of local culture” (Hummon, 1992, p. 262). The current proposal
  • The City of Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan for Managing Growth 2004-2024 states the following goals:

“Create strong and successful commercial and mixed-use areas that encourage business creation, expansion and vitality by allowing for a mix of business activities, while maintaining compatibility with the neighborhood-serving character of business districts, and the character of surrounding areas.”  (p 62 – LUG17)

“Prioritize the preservation, improvement and expansion of existing commercial areas over the creation of new business districts.” (p 62 – LU103).

The scale of the proposed project, particularly its reliance on national and international retain chains, currently stands in contrast to these stated goals (See Section III below for details of research demonstrating this)

III.  Impact of the Scale of the Project – Human Experience of the Streetscape

  • Further examination of the appropriateness of the scale of the project for the surrounding community, based on empirical evidence (research) on environmental perception and the need for human-scale streetscapes.
  • The project contains 696,000 square feet of retail.  The majority of that retail space is dedicated to stores that are 17,000 square feet or larger. The Target store alone is almost 170,000 square feet – a size close to all the existing retail in Little Saigon combined.  A project of this scale is completely out of character and scale for this neighborhood.
  • Scientific evidence on environmental perception and the pedestrian experience of the streetscape indicates that large, monolithic projects are more readily perceived as insular and disconnected to the larger community (Gratz & Mintz, 1998; Jacobs, 1995; Project for Public Spaces; 2000)
  • The proposed project includes 72,000 sq. ft. of structured plazas, private sidewalks, and private streets, and while it is stated that these are both internal to the site and open to the public, the design plans show that many more are internally oriented to the site.  For example, elevated walkways and seating areas that do not connect well to the street and consequently a smooth flow of pedestrian movement. Moreover, those spaces that are open to the public are either not well placed or do not include the valuable amenities that decades of environmental psychology research on public spaces suggests is needed for successful urban public space (Whyte, 1980; Project for Public Spaces, 2000; Carr et al, 1992).
  • Plop n’ Drop – Research indicates that larger-scale development projects such as the proposed Dearborn project that are built all at once, face greater challenges in fitting into the neighborhood context than the more organic development of Main Streets that evolve over time and are revitalized, and that reflect a strategy that some scholars have  called “urban husbandry.”  (Gratz & Mintz, 1998).
  • Human Activity – Formal, written Design Review Board priorities include a concern that “New Development should be sited and designed to encourage human activity on the street.” (Analysis & Recommendation of the Director of DPD for APPLICATION NO. MUP 3001242 p 5).  More can be done in the current proposal to ensure that human activity on the street is encouraged, not the least of which involves curtailing the further accommodation of vehicular traffic. As the Design Commission has previously noted, it is important for the proposed project not to “degrade the pedestrian experience.”
  • Design in Relation to Human Activity on the Street – On the one hand, the Review Board approved transparency requirements along Rainier Avenue, recommending that there be “an accompanying condition that the areas lacking transparency be treated with high quality architectural materials.” On the other hand, the Board also approved the “departure from the prohibition against placing a loading dock along the Rainier Ave.” These recommendations seem somewhat contradictory; increased vehicular traffic at the loading docks will diminish transparency, even if below grade. Moreover, it is not clear how green walls and different façade textures will facilitate transparency.
  • Human Scale – The Design Review Board also states that “The design of new buildings should incorporate architectural features, elements and details to achieve a good human scale.”  (Analysis & Recommendation of the Director of DPD for APPLICATION NO. MUP 3001242 p 5).  However, the current proposal allows for design elements that are decidedly not to human scale. For example, signs for the anchor superstores are allowed to be720 square feet and 250 square feet, a scale that is clearly not pedestrian or human oriented but geared to vehicular traffic, particularly on nearby highways.  Not only is this not to human scale it is evident that such signs and stores are clearly not catering to the local neighborhood market.
  • People-Oriented Open Space Guidelines – Research based open space guidelines call for sittable space, (Whyte, 1980; Marcus and Francis, 1990) openness to the surrounding context MORE HERE…. [check the ped walkway mentioned in Analysis & Recommendation of the Director of DPD for APPLICATION NO. MUP 3001242 p 9]

Based on the above data, I remand the recommendation back to the Department of Planning and Development so that a more adequate and complete analysis and recommendation can be made before this proposal goes to Council.


Literature for the Public Hearing

on the

Dearborn Project


Provided by

Lynne C. Manzo, PhD

Environmental Psychologist

September 22, 2008



List of Figures

Figure 1

Racial breakdown in the Chinatown-International District as compared to the remainder of Washington State reflecting the majority presence of ethnic minorities in the area near the Dearborn site

Figure 2

Map of foreign-born Asians in and around the Dearborn site, including Chinatown-International District and Jackson Place

Figure 3

Percent Asian Population in and around Dearborn site, including Chinatown-International District and Jackson Place neighborhoods

Figure 4.

Ancestry of Asian Population in and around the Dearborn Site

Figure 5

Years of Entry for the Foreign-born Population of the International District

Illustrating that many residents are recent immigrants.

Figure 6

Percent of Households with No Earnings in 1999

Demonstrating Extent of Low Income Households in Vicinity of Dearborn Project Site

Figure 7

Percentage of Families Below the Poverty Level