They were looking to protect their in-home daycare businesses, but, in the process, a group of 10 East African women may have won far more than their own right to return to Yesler Terrace after the Seattle Housing Authority redevelops the old housing project starting in 2011 or later.
In a unanimous vote on July 20, SHA's Board of Commissioners passed a nine-point resolution guaranteeing that the women and their families have the right to return to the redeveloped Yesler Terrace -- a change from earlier resolution wording that only afforded them the "opportunity" to return. In a final amendment the women insisted on before the vote, wording was also changed to make it clear that the housing authority can only renege on the guarantee if their families get evicted from the interim housing to which they will move during construction.
"That's big," says Kristin O'Donnell, a member of the Yesler Terrace Community Council, because the housing authority "can't not extend that [guarantee] to everybody else" when the redevelopment begins.
The daycare providers have been asking the housing authority what would happen with their businesses since planning began two years ago on redeveloping the 30-acre First Hill site, which is currently home to more than 1,000 low-income residents living in 561 public-housing units. The housing authority plans to replace the 561 units in a mixed-income redevelopment that will cost upwards of $250 million and include more than 4,000 public and private apartments and condos when finished.
A citizens committee advising on the plans adopted a set of "Definitions & Guiding Principles" in 2007 that already gave residents the right to return, but the resolution, which was developed with the help of SHA Commissioners John Little and Kollin Min, puts it in writing for the daycare providers.
The resolution also guarantees that SHA will provide the daycare operators with comparable housing units during and after construction, pay any relocation costs owed under the law and compensate the businesses for any loss of income due to the redevelopment.