Monday, March 31, 2014

When Will Gentrification Include Diversity Instead of Excluding It?

Posted by Debby Yoder, SEATTLE, WA -- On the south side of Seattle rests Columbia City, a neighborhood the locals like to call “the most ethnically diverse zip code in the country”. There are still more than 50 languages spoken and businesses that reflect such diversity. Historically, Columbia City has been home to Seattle’s marginalized: first the Italians, then Japanese, African American, Filipino, Latino, Vietnamese and East Africans.

Currently, Columbia City hosts a weekly international farmer’s market. There’s also a Beat Walk, where shops and restaurants host musicians and open their doors to let the sounds fill the street. What was once a garbage dump has been turned into a beautiful 57-acre public park. Nearby is the Northwest African American Museum where the current exhibit details the history of African American baseball in the state of Washington.

Unfortunately, while this neighborhood has historically absorbed waves of new residents without much contest, the most recent redevelopment has been challenging and mirrors gentrification taking place in places like Brooklyn, NY. Lower-income housing has been replaced by mixed- or high-income homes. Residents have been displaced and businesses have closed because they lost their customers or been unable to afford higher rents. Many more new complexes that will certainly alter the character of the neighborhood are planned. With Lake Washington nearby and the views of Mount Rainier and Mount Hood, the Rainier Valley is being recognized as a very desirable place to live. But Columbia City has survived all these years by embracing its cultural heritage while welcoming new residents and their cultures into the community without displacing others. This new trend in redevelopment may simply destroy this wonderful neighborhood forever. Why don’t developers think about such consequences?

Debby Yoder is a Contributor to Social Shutter as well as a student at Georgia State University majoring in Sociology. She can be contacted at

1 comment:

  1. Found your article by googling "Columbia City gentrification" after learning that the Seward Park PCC is relocating to Columbia City. Can you direct me to any local resources/activists working on these issues? Thanks for writing this piece.