Community building dinner with Hirabayashi Place residents, October 2019. Derek Lum is in top row, second from the left. Photo courtesy of InterIm CDA.

To help our community stand up to the daunting threats of gentrification and displacement, I, Derek Lum, was brought on as InterIm’s Equitable Development Policy Analyst. My work centers around advancing policies in a way that amplifies the voices and interests of our most vulnerable community members, and those most impacted by the threat of displacement, including low income, limited English speaking, immigrants, refugees, elders, and more.

I work on a variety of fronts including hosting neighborhood forums, facilitating neighborhood issue discussion groups for residents, encouraging residents to show up at gatherings and events related to displacement, challenging city leaders to produce housing and transportation plans which will work for our community, and connecting community members to opportunities to advocate for equitable solutions to neighborhood issues as they see fit.

These days, I’m attending many resident gatherings to build relationships and to understand people’s concerns and challenges to inform my work. Finally, I collaborate with partner organizations and allies to bring city, state, county, and federal solutions to issues impacting low income immigrants and refugee communities. Every aspect of my work is underpinned by the power of community organizing.

The rallying cry, “Humbows Not Hotdogs!” will forever be linked with the struggles of community activists led by InterIm and Bob Santos, fighting against the King Dome and for the future of the International District in the early 1970s.

In those days, the fight was against a new sports stadium and the associated threats of gentrification and displacement. They’d seen how the construction of new sports stadiums had wiped out other poor, inner city ethnic neighborhoods throughout the country. The King Dome was built, but the power of community organizing was ignited and InterIm went on to lead decades of organizing, advocacy, and development, to protect and revitalize the neighborhood, especially on behalf of its low income, elder, immigrant residents and small mom and pop business owners, who built the neighborhood. Thanks in part to our early community activists, the ID continues now as a vibrant cultural community, a real neighborhood, that supports a mix of residents including low income elders and families, and where new immigrants and refugees can find a welcoming first landing place.

Today, with Seattle’s rapid growth and booming economy, the ID’s location next to downtown and the regional transit hub, and lots of development potential resulting from upzones that allow taller buildings, the neighborhood is facing an unprecedented onslaught of large-scale speculative developments. It’s not one big project that we’re facing now, but lots of private individual developments, whose cumulative impacts threaten to wipe out the ID as we know it. These sorts of developments, driven by profit, and not by serving the community, fuel rising property values and rents that in turn push out low income residents, small mom and pop businesses, community organizations and cultural institutions, that are the heart and soul of the neighborhood.

InterIm is not against development, nor are we against market rate development. InterIm evaluates new developments through the lens of equitable development – development that ensures everyone participates in and benefits from the neighborhood’s growth, especially low-income residents, immigrants and refugees, communities of color, and other marginalized groups at risk of being left behind or displaced. InterIm seeks development outcomes that prevent residential, commercial, and cultural displacement; advance economic mobility, security, and opportunity for the community; support and acknowledge local history and culture; promote transportation mobility and connectivity; and enhance health and safety. InterIm seeks development processes that exemplify transparency and accountability to the community; address historic and current racial and social injustice; advance community self-determination; and preserve community dignity and culture.

As I proceed in my new role at InterIm, I welcome the opportunity to meet with those who share our concerns about displacement, and values around equitable development. If you are a low-income renter in the neighborhood, interested in being involved in community organizing, I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] See you around the neighborhood!

This content was sponsored by InterIm CDA.

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