City Hall

Nick Licata, Longtime Yesler Terrace Dissident, Gives Thumbs Up

By Erica C. Barnett September 4, 2012

It's the end of an era: City council member Nick Licata, a longtime skeptic of plans to redevelop the Seattle Housing Authority's Yesler Terrace public-housing project into a dense, mixed-income development, gave a surprisingly stirring speech endorsing the project (which he called "the least bad plan available") this afternoon. The council voted unanimously to move forward with the redevelopment.

Noting that the proposal the council ultimately adopted includes significant protections for current residents—including a mandatory minimum number of three- and four-bedroom units, a requirement that at least 281 units be available on-site at any time during construction, and the ultimate replacement of all 561 apartments for very low-income residents on-site or nearby—Licata said, "This is not a plan that, if I had my druthers, I would have gone forward with," but added, "we have made, I believe, not minor changes [and] improvements."

And, addressing Yesler Terrace redevelopment opponents like the Seattle Displacement Coalition's John Fox (who testified that the proposal "does not come close to replacing those units either on site or off site") directly, Licata continued, "It has been said that the plan does not ensure replacement of [all] units either on site or off site.

The plan does ensure replacement" of all units, and explicitly gives all current residents the right to move back after redevelopment. The plan requires SHA to replace 420 of Yesler Terrace's 561 public housing units on-site; the rest will be replaced within a two-block radius (and, as Licata noted, closer to Bailey Gatzert Elementary School.)

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