At a small park near his church, the Rev. Robert Jeffrey Sr. sees a likelihood for Seattle to just take a step towards righting many years of housing discrimination and gentrification in the historically Black Central District.

Jeffrey’s New Hope Missionary Baptist Church as soon as owned a close by plot of land in what is now the Spruce Street Mini Park. In 1969, as Seattle planned to make the park, the church bought the land relatively than facial area the likelihood of the town seizing it by eminent area. Then and now, church leaders claimed they were being pressured into the sale.

Today, Jeffrey is pushing the metropolis to return the house or spend its present value toward the church’s housing projects. 


“Valuable land was taken from the church and from other citizens on this block and in this group. What we want right now is to begin the method of quantifying the harm performed,” Jeffrey claimed throughout a news convention at the church Wednesday.

The contact to return the land follows a calendar year of racial justice protests and renewed calls to deal with discrimination, racial prosperity gaps and reparations.

A pioneering coverage in Evanston, Illinois, for instance, will offer housing grants to Black people whose ancestors were impacted by redlining and other techniques. In Seattle, the city claimed final calendar year it would transfer 3 Central District qualities to Black-led organizations, such as the previous Fireplace Station 6, wherever Africatown Community Land Trust options a center to support Black-owned firms. 

The land New Hope offered is undoubtedly really worth considerably additional today than the $34,000 the town compensated the church in the 1960s.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has not specifically addressed no matter if she would support transferring the land.

Spokesperson Kamaria Hightower said in a statement the city has been “evaluating the preceding metropolis ordinances, federal and nearby restrictions on the residence, and funding chances in order to work in partnership with New Hope on new affordable housing in the local community.”

Constraints from that time limited future sale and use of the land with out condition or federal approval, according to the mayor’s business office. Seattle legislation also bars the transfer of park lands except if the city retains a public listening to and finds that the transfer is vital. 

Metropolis Councilmember Kshama Sawant took up the church’s call Wednesday, saying she programs to introduce a resolution that would apologize for harm and advocate for more reasonably priced-housing funding for the church.

Boosting economical-housing funds would be “a continuation of the methods we want to tackle the consequences of the racist insurance policies like redlining, urban renewal, Weed and Seed and of program the ongoing mounting housing costs faced by renters in our town,” Sawant said. (Federal “Weed and Seed” operations purported to “weed out” folks committing crimes although “seeding” neighborhoods with social expert services and ended up controversial in Seattle.)

Record of displacement

For the reason that of guidelines that prevented Black people from owning properties somewhere else in the city, Seattle’s Central District was extended a hub for the city’s Black community.

In the 1950s and ’60s, Seattle and other towns undertook “urban renewal” tasks, promising to revitalize neighborhoods but ultimately displacing people. Around the church, an city renewal job in the Yesler-Atlantic community displaced far more than 400 family members, the wide bulk of them people today of coloration, according to an evaluation by scientists at ​​the College of Richmond. 

“People known as it city renewal. We referred to as it Black elimination,” longtime group activist Eddie Rye Jr. claimed at the church Wednesday. “It was a pretty profitable venture because we have been taken off.”

In 1969, the city notified the church it wished to invest in the church’s parking whole lot, drawing objections from the church, according to city documents from the time provided by the Seattle Municipal Archives. 

The church experienced acquired the ton in the to start with put mainly because the metropolis needed parking place, then-Rev. C.E. Williams wrote in a June 1969 letter supplied by the archives. Promoting the assets “would deny us ample parking, and quit instruction developing for our church,” he wrote.

The threat of the city getting the land loomed, even though the church and city disputed the aspects.

“I have four gentlemen who will testify that we have been informed that the city was powerless to condemn other property to receive it for an exchange, but that ours could be condemned if we refused the supply the city was producing,” Williams wrote to the metropolis. “In the interest of development we acknowledged the offer you.” 

A metropolis memo from the time delivered by the Seattle Municipal Archives said that “under the regulations of eminent domain the city could purchase this residence for park needs, and the church was so informed” but “at no time throughout any conference with Reverend Williams was a menace of condemnation manufactured in the perception of ‘or else.’”

Jeffrey says four nearby home owners were being also pressured to provide their properties for the park. 

The metropolis compensated the church $34,000 for its land.

Currently, King County does not checklist an formal assessed value for the park. Jeffrey estimates it could be really worth several million dollars, but programs to have the land appraised. 

“The New Hope Church has been denied the opportunity to advantage from the increasing land values in a single of the quickest increasing metropolitan areas in the nation,” said Aisaya Corbray with the Very low Revenue Housing Institute, which is functioning with the church to system a nearby housing enhancement.

Calls for affordable housing

Apart from the park land, the church is hoping for town resources to build an 86-unit very affordable housing enhancement on diverse land nearby. The metropolis will announce its upcoming spherical of economical housing cash this tumble.

Metropolis leaders past thirty day period approved laws letting larger sized reasonably priced housing buildings on church-owned lands than would or else be authorized by zoning. 

In the Central District, the consequences of displacement keep on being. The community is only about 15% Black, compared to virtually 75% in 1970. In Seattle as a total, the share of Black inhabitants is at its lowest level in 50 yrs, The Seattle Moments described very last year.

Across the Seattle metro place, about two-thirds of white individuals possess residences as opposed with considerably less than one-3rd of Black men and women. Redfin estimates that in the area masking the Central District, Madrona and Leschi, the median household final thirty day period sold for $879,000.

Jeffrey calls for an influx of reasonably priced rental housing and probabilities for possession.

“What they have finished is destabilize a neighborhood and take away prosperity,” he mentioned. “And when you take absent wealth, you don’t substitute wealth just by putting people today in apartment buildings. You exchange prosperity by supplying people today prospects to personal properties once more.”