Dear Friends of Little Saigon and community members of the Chinatown-International District,
I want to thank all of you for your continued hard work to ensure that one of our most vibrant and culturally rich neighborhoods remains so in our rapidly changing city. Members of your community have made valuable contributions to the Little Saigon Landmark project, the Mayor’s Emergency Task Force on Unsheltered Homeless, the Chinatown-International District Public Safety Task Force, Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan 2035, and the Equitable Development Initiative to name only a few of the more recent examples.
I understand the frustration created by the impacts of development, increased public safety concerns, and affordability challenges within the city, including the challenges dealing with the historic and current relationship with the City. Recent events, including the Womxn’s March in January, have added to these pressures and I recognize that the community is feeling particularly burdened at this juncture. My staff and I remain committed to working in partnership with you towards finding solutions to all of the challenges that have arisen, both recently and in the past.
In this time when immigrant and refugee communities are feeling under attack and unsupported at the national level, it is understandably distressing to feel as if your municipal government has not done enough to mitigate the challenges your community has faced. But I assure you, as I have assured this city and country, Seattle is a place where everyone should feel safe and welcome, where inclusion and equity are some of our highest values. Our immigrant and refugee communities are integral to the life of this city and I assure you that preserving and supporting the Chinatown-International District as a thriving community is of the utmost importance to me.
Recently, I have heard from many of you about the decision to locate the new Navigation Center at the Pearl Warren building in Little Saigon. As you know, Seattle is experiencing unprecedented growth that has taken our city to new heights, as well as worsened the homelessness crisis across the city. That crisis impacts thousands of individuals living on our streets, but also surrounding communities like yours. My administration will continue working with you to ensure that we are addressing your concerns while best serving people in need. The decision to site a facility like the Navigation Center is never an easy one, but given limited options and a unique situation with the Pearl Warren building, the City felt this would allow services to reach people in need the quickest. The building has housed a shelter for homeless adults for the past eight years and the new 24/7 model, which also allows people to bring in partners, pets and possessions, will help more people move indoors. This means many people who otherwise wouldn’t have a place to go may finally have a suitable alternative to a doorway, an encampment or a vehicle. Additionally, the new Navigation Center will have increased staffing and security.
Given the sensitivity around securing this facility, the community outreach process was also unusual. While I understand the first meeting about this facility was scheduled with short notice, we are committed to having additional public conversations to ensure that the community has adequate information and that City departments and Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC), the operator of the Navigation Center, hear your concerns and find solutions to address them. This will be an ongoing dialogue between many partners, and I believe it will bring us together to help address this crisis, as we are doing in many other neighborhoods around the city that have felt the burden of authorized encampments. We are also committed to producing an impact study one year after the Navigation Center opens so that we can assess both the outcomes of the individuals the facility will serve, but also any community impacts. We commit to engaging you as partners as we continually assess and improve the ways we offer services and shelter to people living outside.
Keeping the area clean, safe and vibrant is a priority for Friends of Little Saigon, as it is for the City. The model for running the Navigation Center requires staff on site 24 hours a day so that any issues that arise can be handled immediately. In addition, I have asked our Public Utilities staff to provide enhanced cleanup in Little Saigon as part of the City’s efforts to remove trash and debris throughout the city. That should begin in the next three weeks. We are also bringing on 200 new officers in the Seattle Police Department, which will enable us to increase our patrols throughout neighborhoods across the City, including Little Saigon and the entire Chinatown-International District, as I know you have long requested. Funded by the City, we are working in partnership with the Chinatown-International District community to hire a Public Safety Coordinator to work directly for the Chinatown-International District Public Safety Task Force Steering Committee.
As we work to address many of the challenges our city, and your communities face, I promise to work in partnership with you to ensure your voices are heard and needs are met. As you know, Ben Han, with the Department of Neighborhoods, will act as a key community liaison in coordination with our other City departments. I encourage you to continue working with him to connect with us on the many ways the City intersects with your neighborhood. I have made it clear to City departments that a better relationship and better engagement with the Chinatown-International District and Little Saigon is a top priority of mine.
My staff will follow up shortly with details of additional public conversations and information on the Navigation Center.
Thank you again for the work and life you bring to our city. I look forward to our continued partnership.
Edward B. Murray
Mayor of Seattle