If they want to win hearts and minds (and stomachs) the easy way, Occupy Seattle might want to think about targeting this development at 1650 E Olive Way. They’re going to do it the hard way. On Friday, the group says it is turning its attention from the ports back to Capitol Hill with a rally and march against gentrification and to save the “community center” at 10th and Union.
Here is the message sent to CHS via Facebook about the planned rally:
On Friday December 16th, there will be a rally at 5:15 outside of Seattle Central Community College to highlight the issue of for-profit development and gentrification in the neighborhood.
It will be followed by a march to the 10th and Union Warehouse at 6 pm. The plans for demolition of this warehouse will be taking place within a month. The 10th and Union area will make way for a 20% affordable or 80% unaffordable 79 unit, 6 story apartment complex over ground floor retail.
According to the Multi-Family Tax Exemption Plan, developers will be exempt from paying property taxes for 12 years if 20-30% of their units are set aside as “affordable” at rents between $850-1100/month. Unfortunately, “affordable” caters to individuals who earn at least 65% of the Seattle median income. Most tenants in Seattle earn 55% of the median income, which means the rents are priced hundreds of dollars above what most people and especially low-income people can afford. In short, these are not affordable rents. Furthermore, who really suffers at the hand of these tax exemptions? At the rate developers are participating in the program, by 2013, the Multi-Family Tax Exemption will cost taxpayers 150 million dollars. Ultimately, our tax dollars are subsidizing apartments that are unaffordable for the majority of people in Seattle, allowing developers to make huge profits at taxpayers expense, and neglecting those who are truly in need of low-income housing.
This warehouse has also recently served as a site of contest. On December 3rd, around 4 a.m., fourteen participants of Occupy Seattle were arrested in the warehouse at 10th and Union during an action to reclaim public space. In the face of the recent slew of closures and cuts to libraries, community centers, and other public spaces, they sought to restore the warehouse, formerly the Union Cultural Center, to its use as a “supportive educational space for teaching, sharing and creating vibrant culture”.
This protest is to further mobilize the community in a fight for public spaces as well as a halt to the unaffordable developments taking place. This is a fight for community over capital.
The group has also posted about the effort here with a call to “Save the Community Center.”
At first blush, the empty 10th and Union converted warehouse might not be your first candidate for saving. We reported on the building’s impending demolition here. As the Occupy statements report, the developer does indeed plan to take advantage of the affordable housing tax credit. “We don’t have any significant changes to speak of, other than that we will be keeping 20% of the residential units rent affordable, as part of a program that the city is offering to selected new multifamily projects,” a representative for developer Seawest told us in June about the project being revived after sitting in planning stage for five years.
Seawest acquired the land in 2005 for $2.7 million, according to King County Records. DPD records indicate the planned construction is budgeted at nearly $12 million.
The 36,000 square-foot, 1904 warehouse has recently been home to wine business Cork House, which lasted one year in the space, the Museum of the Mysteries, which left last fall, Black Label Spirits, which was gone from the space before it started, and the Capoeira and Brazilian dance infused Union Cultural Center. While the Union Cultural space was lively, it was not a community center on par with something like the Miller Community Center. It was a gathering space, however, and the kind of place that is typically squeezed out as development spreads through a neighborhood.
On the night of Friday, December 2 following a judge’s decision to uphold a move to ban the group’s camp from the Seattle Central campus, a group of Occupy protesters, anarchists and the curious broke into the building and took the space over. In the early hours of Saturday morning, 16 people were arrested in a SWAT raid to clear the squat.
It’s not clear how many people will participate in Friday’s rally. Occupy organizers have claimed more than 700 people participated in this week’s Seattle port protest as Seattle Police cracked down using percussion grenades to disperse the protesters. Last Friday, most of the Occupy Camp was cleaned up and moved out as SCCC’s deadline arrived for an emergency rule banning camping. A few straggler tents remain.
The protest also comes as the city digest’s a planning commission report that shows that it is increasingly difficult for people to afford housing in Seattle:
Significantly, the study found that although only about a third (35 percent) of all households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, about two-thirds of those who are very low-income (making 50 percent or less of the area’s median income, or about $29,500 for one person) or low-income (making up to 80 percent of median, or about $47,000 for one person) spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.