by Myani Guetta-Gilbert and Giulia Pasciuto
On Election Day, Puget Sound residents will have the opportunity to say YES to a truly regional transportation system.
Sound Transit Proposition 1 on your November ballot is an essential investment in a full-scale, regional public transportation system. Proposition 1 also includes policy measures that put our region on track to make sure that transit communities are inclusive, affordable, and more equitable than ever before.
As a public transit investment, Proposition 1 will link Everett, Tacoma, Ballard and West Seattle and will connect people in those places to the jobs, schools, crucial services, and cultural institutions that give us a high quality of life. With Prop 1, we will reduce transportation pollution, which has disproportionate health impacts for communities of color and low-income residents. By passing this measure we will give people more options to get out of traffic so that people can spend more time with their families. Prop 1 will also create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs. Alone, these results are impressive; however Prop 1 goes further by with its affordable housing policies, ensuring that communities of color and low-income communities directly benefit.
As an organization rooted in social and racial justice, we at Puget Sound Sage believe that passing Proposition 1 will deliver outcomes for workers, low-income residents, and communities of color. For the first time ever, Proposition 1 demonstrates true recognition of and commitment to equitable transit oriented development. What does this mean? Equitable transit oriented development prioritizes investments in public transit and in the surrounding neighborhoods that offer affordable housing, ensure good jobs, preserve culturally relevant businesses and services, and prioritize development without displacement. According to our community research, through partnership with Got Green, residents of the Rainier Valley prioritized affordable housing and accessible transit as the two most important things they need to thrive in place.
Thanks to our strong coalition of affordable housing advocates and community-based organizations, equitable transit oriented development will be on the ballot this November.
At least 80 percent of Sound Transit’s surplus property will be prioritized for affordable housing. If you’ve ridden the light rail through the Rainier Valley, you’ve more than likely noticed empty properties surrounded by chain link fences. These parcels were acquired by Sound Transit to stage construction of the original LINK light rail, but are now no longer useful and are therefore deemed ‘surplus’. If we work together to pass Proposition 1 on November 8th, Sound Transit will be required to make 80% of those parcels, and any new surplus property they acquire, available for the development of affordable housing. No other city, regional or state transportation agency has such a high requirement. Sound Transit will also be required to make a $20 million investment in a fund that will help non-profit affordable housing developers and community partners acquire privately owned property near transit stations to ensure that we have affordable transit communities.
We know that housing is only a piece of what makes transit communities equitable, good jobs are an integral piece of the puzzle, too. When Sound Transit disposes of surplus property the agency will be required to evaluate the development proposals to assess job quality standards and opportunities for small businesses.
Communities in the Rainier Valley during Sound Transit’s three-year planning process made a strong argument for building a light rail station at Graham Street. Nestled between Columbia City and Othello light rail stations, Graham Street is a crucial cultural hub, housing the Filipino Community of Seattle, the Chua Co Lam Buddhist Temple, Makkah Islamic School, and Aki Kurose Middle School. The inclusion of Graham Street Station in the final Sound Transit plan recognizes and builds upon the strength of the surrounding cultural institutions and community. Through community leadership and advocacy, the city of Seattle has already allocated $10 million from the Move Seattle Levy to help ensure that the project gets built.
After the election, through a community visioning process that prioritizes communities of color and low-income residents, paired with intentional land acquisition for community controlled and inspired development, we believe that the transit community at Graham Street will serve as a model for equitable development throughout the region.
Proposition 1 poses a once in a generation opportunity to connect our region through transit and to get equitable transit oriented development right, and that is why we are voting yes on Sound Transit Regional Proposition 1 on November 8th.
Myani Guetta-Gilbert is the Coalition Organizer and Giulia Pasciuto is a Research and Policy Analyst at Puget Sound Sage. Puget Sound Sage’s mission is to build communities where all families thrive. Using a combination of research, policy, leadership development, and civic engagement, Puget Sound Sage is creating equitable and sustainable solutions for some of the region’s most pressing problems.