Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hurricane Katrina is not Only a Reality for New Orleans

I just received an e-mail from a community activist in Seattle’s Central District (or what has historically been the hub for Black Seattle) announcing an upcoming community meeting on the future of the Central District. Unlike the countless other community meetings I have attended, with regard to the changing tapestry of the Central District, this meeting will be one of the few times that representatives from the City of Seattle will be present to solicit citizen feedback about the impact that city policies (such as, the neighborhood plans) have had on this community. What becomes of this feedback, or what these officials choose to or not to do with this feedback is another issue. However, after reading this e-mail, I immediately reflected on my recent trip back to post-Katrina New Orleans—a region of my childhood. Like so many urban spaces, post-Katrina New Orleans is undergoing rapid growth and “redevelopment”. But, the question remains, redevelopment for whom?

As most of the world prepares to commemorate the four-year anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I would caution us to not focus too much on what is happening along the U.S. Gulf Coast. As I maneuver through Seattle’s Central District, I cannot help but see the rising of “flood waters” in a community whose Black identity and historical legacy is in danger of being engulfed by an urban growth machine that speaks a language of uplift, new urbanism and revitalization.

For Seattle’s communities of color, queer communities, poor communities, youth, women of color, and grassroots activists, we need to be present for this meeting and bare witness to how “Our” Central District has been transformed by what some would consider “progress”. Unlike many of Our brothers and sisters of post-Katrina New Orleans – who have been scattered or internally displaced to the four winds and barred from returning to their legal homes – we are able to be present and we are more capable of holding those in power accountable to Our communities’ needs.

Here is the e-mail I received:

Subject: Central Area, Pike/Pine and Capitol Hill Neighborhood Plan Status Report Meeting — How Is Your Neighborhood Doing?

Thursday, September 3, 6-8 PM at the Miller Community Center, 330 19th Ave. E.

Please join members of the Seattle Planning Commission and the Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee on Thursday, September 3 from 6 to 8 pm at the Miller Community Center for an important Central Area community meeting.These two citizen groups want to hear your thoughts. Come and tell us how the Central Area, Pike/Pine and Capitol Hill has changed since the creation of their Neighborhood Plans. Your comments and input at this meeting will help the City of Seattle complete a status report that will look at how well your neighborhood plan is achieving its goals and strategies.This meeting will provide an opportunity to learn about your neighborhood plan, the projects that have been implemented, and growth and changes that have occurred since your plan was written in the late 90's. We will explore issues such as growth, transportation, housing, economic development , basic utilities, neighborhood character, open space and parks, public services, public safety, and other issues.It would also be helpful to know your Neighborhood Plan and to bring it with you, so you can reference to them when needed.

So, here are the links to your Neighborhood Plans:
Central Area:


Capitol Hill:
You can review draft status reports on-line at:

The follow up series of meetings, tentatively scheduled for late October, will be an opportunity to review the final status report. To learn more information, please visit the Neighborhood Planning website at http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Planning/Neighborhood_Planning. With questions, please contact David Goldberg at (206) 615-1447 or davidw.goldberg@seattle.gov

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