A cropped image of a copy of a letter signed by members of the Little Saigon community sent to city officials regarding the location of the Navigation Center.

Update: As discussed in the public safety meeting on February 21, the City of Seattle is hosting a community meeting on February 28 around the Navigation Center set to go in Little Saigon.


When: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Location: Pearl Warren Building (proposed Nav Center site) 685-807 12th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144
The City will have devices available for real time translation in Vietnamese, Mandarin and Cantonese (about 15 sets each).

The following is a February 20, 2017 letter sent to Seattle city officials regarding the mayor’s recently announced Navigation Center location. The letter was signed by local businesses, organizations, and property owners in Little Saigon.

Dear City of Seattle Elected Officials & Directors,

We request a pause on the location of the new Navigation Center.

Since the news of the Navigation Center was disclosed, to our complete surprise, there has been an overwhelming outcry from the businesses and community members who work, shop, and visit Little Saigon. For many, this is the final straw. We are being neglected, ignored, and treated as second-class to every City sanctioned project and policy that reaches into the Little Saigon neighborhood. In recent years, examples have included:

  • Livable South Downtown Rezoning—Increased building heights in and around Little Saigon causing increased property values, rental rates, and spurred displacement pressures in the neighborhood.
  • First Hill Streetcar Construction—Closures during highest retail times (weekends and Lunar New Year) causing over 50% loss in revenue for small businesses as compared to the previous year.
  • Denny Substation Transmission Line—CID is identified as one of the top three neighborhoods where the transmission line will be constructed. Impact of construction still unknown.
  • Nickelsville on Dearborn—Lack of prior engagement about Nickelville being located in the neighborhood. Although community worked with Nickelsville on safety and sanitation work, communication was not transparent or consistent.
  • Seattle Womxn’s March—No prior engagement with neighborhood on designated route. Street closure occurred during Lunar New Year with impacts lasting longer and expanded further than what was expected.

Unanimously, our community of businesses, residents, organizers, and supporters agree that the decision to locate the Navigation Center in our neighborhood without any prior engagement is disrespectful, short-sighted, and antithetical to the values of racial equity that we expect from a “Sanctuary City.”

Over the last five years, Friends of Little Saigon and our community partners have worked in good faith with the City of Seattle to address gentrification and displacement of refugee and immigrant communities in the neighborhood. Some of these efforts have included:

  • Little Saigon Landmark: a project that will anchor the community and strengthen economic opportunity in Little Saigon.
  • Mayor’s Emergency Task Force on Unsheltered Homelessness: tasked with making recommendations to help people who are living on the streets find shelter.
  • Chinatown/International District Public Safety Task Force: response to safety and community concerns in light of Donnie Chin’s murder.
  • Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan 2035: provided feedback and advocacy on elements of the comprehensive plan including economic opportunity, community engagement, and neighborhood investments.
  • Equitable Development Initiative: address equity in our underserved communities and displacement as Seattle grows and develops.

With limited resources, we have worked to build a vibrant and diverse commercial district for Seattle residents, those visiting from the surrounding cities, and tourists. We continue to fight to preserve the integrity of Little Saigon’s cultural identity, to mitigate the negative consequences of the creeping gentrification, and to maintain economic viability for some of the most vulnerable immigrants and refugees that have come to call the Chinatown International District home.

However, time and time again our community is threatened by culturally in-sensitive policy-making and thoughtless community engagement. To put it bluntly, the City of Seattle officials and employees have not been following the Race and Social Justice Toolkit in their policy making, program planning, or community outreach and engagement with the Little Saigon community.  Our concerns and requests have not been addressed or taken into consideration.  As a result, we feel that our participation is merely a show, for our voices are not heard.

There is no doubt that there is a strong need to address homelessness throughout the City with so many vulnerable people living on the streets and who lack the appropriate resources. This is a very complex and resource intensive issue. We admire the City for taking on innovative strategies to address homelessness. However, these strategies should take into consideration not only the community you want to serve, but the community that currently exists. After hearing from our community members, Friends of Little Saigon does not support the Navigation Center being located in Little Saigon due to:

  • the lack of involvement and transparency in community outreach and engagement with the Little Saigon community.
  • the City’s lack of concern for economic, safety, and displacement impacts on the neighborhood.
  • the unaware and culturally insensitive approach to addressing issues among those most marginalized, including immigrant and refugees.

As a community advocate group for refugee and immigrant businesses and social service organizations in Little Saigon, Friends of Little Saigon is standing behind the community and supporting their effort to voice their collective concerns.  At this point, we request a pause to the ongoing work on the Navigation Center until the City of Seattle 1) have an inclusive community engagement plan with the Little Saigon community, 2) have heard from the community regarding their concerns and needs, and 3) have allocated the required resources to mitigate safety, health and financial impacts from the Navigation Center.

We want to be engaged and work with the City of Seattle, so we look forward to your prompt response.


Friends of Little Saigon – Quynh Pham, Theresa Reyna, Tam Nguyen, Tam Dinh, Sue Taoka, Tyler DuLam, Yenvy Pham, Jordan Yu, David Tran, Yen Lam Steward

Helping Link – Minh Duc Nguyen

Summit Sierra Public School – Malia Burns

Viet Wah Supermarket – Leeching Tran

Asian Plaza Redevelopment – Brian Chinn

Vietnamese American Community of Seattle & Sno-King County – Tung Tran

Tet In Seattle – Jefferey Vu, Steven Nguyen, Johnson Nguyen, Billy Nguyen

A public safety meeting will be held Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. in Little Saigon at the Summit Sierra Charter School (1025 S King St). Representatives from the City of Seattle will be there to talk about the Navigation Center planned to be located in Little Saigon.

For more opinions, click here

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