Yesler Terrace Re-Development

Creating a hill climb between Yesler Terrace and Little Saigon neighborhoods will provide a safe and direct route for pedestrians.  Easy access to and from Little Saigon allows more people in the surrounding neighborhoods, Yesler Terrace and First Hill, to enjoy all the unique restaurants and small businesses in our community.  The Seattle Housing Authority is working to finalize the design and to develop programs or activities that will attract people to use the hill climb.

They are looking for community feedback about the project!  Learn more about the hill climb plans, design and current progress on the flyer below.  Then let SHA know what you think! Give your feed back to Kathlyn Paananen at

10th Ave Hill Climb- English

10th Ave Hill Climb-Vietnamese



Update: Seattle City Council has approved the Seattle Housing Authority’s Redevelopment Proposal of Yesler Terrace on Tuesday September 4, 2012.

Through our community voice, FLS and many community members were able to push the Seattle City Council to approve a resolution that states:

“The City of Seattle, including the Office of Housing, the Office of Economic Development, and the Department of Planning and Development, and the Seattle Housing Authority, will work with the Friends of Little Saigon and other community members in Little Saigon to explore the feasibility of developing a mixed-use project that may include low-income housing, affordable commercial space, and a Vietnamese cultural center.” (more info here


Wednesday August 8, 5:30 pm | Seattle City Council Public Hearing in the City Council Chamber, 2nd floor of City Hall, 600 4th Avenue

We need your voice! This public hearing will be the last chance for the public to voice our opinions about the Yesler Terrace Redevelopment project. FLS invites you to join our efforts to support more sensible development.



For Vietnamese, please click here!

Click here to watch the video about the community effort!

BACKGROUND: Seattle’s Little Saigon is a social, cultural, and economic hub for over 70,000 people of Vietnamese descent in the Puget Sound area. This neighborhood was rejuvenated about 30 years ago when the first wave of Vietnamese refugees opened up shops and restaurants in an area that was mostly abandoned to urban decay and neglect. Over the course of a decade, these hardworking entrepreneurs built up a vibrant business district without much if any investment from the City of Seattle. Besides being a vibrant business district, Little Saigon serves as a symbolic center for South Vietnam’s resistance against communist oppression.

Recently, the City has made zoning changes that could threaten the very existence of this neighborhood. First, the Livable South Downtown rezoning, passed by the City Council in 2011, increased heights in Little Saigon up to 15-story level buildings (150 ft.). Now, the proposed redevelopment of the Seattle Housing Authority’s (SHA) 30-acre property at Yesler Terrace could have buildings rise as high as 30-stories. This is a particularly drastic increase in zoning considering the current height limit is 3-story level buildings.

Economics dictates that increasing the height limit of a property will correspondingly increase its value. Being right next door to Little Saigon, the drastic upzoning of Yesler Terrace will directly impact property values and therefore the rents for small businesses. Just about all vibrant small business districts in Seattle have height limits at or below 65 feet or 6 stories; for example Capitol Hill, Madison Valley, Fremont, Wallingford, Ballard, Queen Anne and Columbia City. Yet the Mayor and City Council is fine with upzoning Little Saigon to 15-story level buildings and they are about to allow Yesler Terrace to be upzoned to 30-stories?

We support a reasonable and gradual increase in density. This means gradual increases in zoning and development potential so that small businesses can adapt to market forces instead of being torn apart by them. The redevelopment of Yesler Terrace has the potential for being a great example of how equitable transit oriented development should be done. The current proposal by SHA and the Mayor does not lead us down that path.

Finally, noticeably absent in SHA’s Yesler Terrace redevelopment proposal is the lack of investment in Little Saigon. Arguably, this neighborhood will be the most impacted by this redevelopment. A redevelopment of this scale and scope MUST incorporate investments in all of its immediately surrounding neighborhoods, especially the ones that would bear the brunt of the impact from this drastic rezone.

SAVE LITTLE SAIGON PETITION: We, the undersigned, call on the Seattle City Council to support us on the following initiatives:
1. Build a mixed-use development in Little Saigon that will serve as an anchor for the community. This development would include: a cultural center, affordable senior housing, and affordable small business space. SHA to contribute the parcel in Yesler Terrace or Little Saigon. 
2. Percentage of proceeds from sale of Yesler Terrace to market-rate developers to fund open space and infrastructure improvements in Little Saigon. 
3. SHA to include Little Saigon in future grant funding requests such as the HUD Choice Neighborhood program. 
4. Allow free co-usage of parking on the weekend in the new Yesler Terrace developments for the first 5 years by neighborhood businesses. 
5. Identify funding sources for small business technical assistance that includes neighborhood marketing, small business trainings, and new business attraction. 
6. Refine SHA’s proposal to that of a medium-density redevelopment where the height is limited to 85 feet, to be ideal for fostering a lively and diverse mixed-income community, supporting environmentally-friendly objectives, and remain relatively affordable for small businesses. 
Community priorities presented at Little Saigon 2020: Taking Action event, click here to view full presentation:


Join us for this community gathering on Saturday March 31, 2012 and take action for the changes that are happening in our community!


UPDATE: The Seattle Housing Authority’s proposal to rezone Yesler Terrace was released last month and the community had until March 19, 2012 to give comments. Here is a link to the Seattle Department of Planning & Development’s (DPD) website.

Here are FLS’s main concerns:
  • The proposed rezoning is too drastic and will cause displacement in the surrounding neighborhoods
  • Increase heights from 35′ to 300′ is too drastic
  • A medium-density approach is ideal for fostering strong, vibrant, and human-scale communities
  • Height limit should be capped at 85′ except in Blocks 7 and 8 (those that are adjacent to Harborview Medical Center)
  • We can grow thriving neighborhoods without resorting to building a forest of high-rises. Look at Capitol Hill.
  • Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Berlin are examples of world-class cities that are wonderfully livable and have medium-density
  • SHA and DPD have not done an adequate job assessing the socioeconomic impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods such as Little Saigon
  • A drastic upzoning will result in a proportionally drastic increase property values which will impact affordability for small businesses.
  • SHA must provide adequate mitigation for impacts to the adjacent neighborhoods
  • For each unit of low-income housing that is destroyed, SHA must have one already built for that resident to move in.

FLS has written and sent in a letter about the concerns above, please click here for the full letter and details.


ABOUT: Yesler Terrace is located on the southernmost part of First Hill, along Yesler Way immediately east of downtown Seattle. It is known to be one of the first public housing developments in Seattle for low-income residents, built in 1941. Now 70 years old, much of the infrastructure is failing and is in need of extensive maintenance. Administered by the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), in 2004 it was decided that Yesler Terrace needed a huge makeover.

Even though SHA promises the current residents that they will have subsidized housing and a more sustainable community, there are many issues about the redevelopment that the surrounding community is concerned with. SHA has come together with the community to form a Citizen’s Review Committee to give feedback on the process. FLS has been an active member within the committee to ensure that the concerns of the community are met, especially for the displacement of Little Saigon.

Check out these articles for other discussions and details:

From the Stranger:

The Bittersweet Future of Yesler Terrace

From the International Examiner:

Yesler Terrace Re-Development Will Have No Impact on the ID?

Yesler Terrace and SHA Are On the Wrong Track

For more information about Yesler Terrace and the SHA redevelopment plans, check out their website at



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