EDITORIAL: Four myths about the International District


Efforts are underway to keep litter and graffiti off of C–ID streets. (Photo by Han Bui/NWAW)

Chinatown–International District comes with its set of myths, but behind the assumptions is a neighborhood that is both vibrant and historic. Here are four myths about the ID, and the reality behind them.

Myth One: Chinatown is dirty

The International District (ID) gets a bad rap for being a little grungy, but dirty it is not. Community organizations and members have focused on keeping the district clean and tidy for the people who live and visit the neighborhood.

In May, over 300 community members volunteered a part of their Saturday to help clean up litter as part of the 15th Annual Chinatown–ID Spring Clean hosted by the Chinatown–International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA) and the Seattle Chinatown–International District Public Development Authority (SCIDpda).

The CIDBIA has also partnered with CleanScapes to provide daily graffiti removal services to the neighborhood, and in April the ID was enrolled in the City of Seattle’s Clear Alleys Program, which aims to reduce the amount of litter in the city’s alleys.


Police cruisers and officers on bike or foot are common sights in the International District. (Photo by Charles Lam/NWAW)

Myth Two: Chinatown is unsafe

In July of 2012, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) announced its new patrol plans centered on crime “hot spots” in the city at the pagoda in Hing Hay Park, considered at the time to be a major hot spot. However, through increased officer foot patrols and efforts by the community, crime in the neighborhood is dropping and, as of last December, the park is no longer considered a hot spot, according to the SPD. It still sees regular patrols by police officers.

In 2012, police reports in the ID dropped nearly 12 percent, despite training seniors in the area to call 911 more often (more calls usually translate to higher crime statistics), outpacing crime drops in the rest of the city of Seattle.

Myth Three: Chinatown is all restaurants

While Chinatown has the highest density of restaurants in the city, there’s plenty to do that doesn’t involve food.

The Wing Luke Museum received an affiliated area designation from the National Park Service earlier this year and is one of the best chronicles of the Asian-American experience in existence.

The ID community also hosts three annual festivals a year — The Lunar New Year Festival in late January or early February, Dragonfest in July, and the Seattle Night Market in the late summer. The festivals feature music and dance performances, arts and crafts, and cultural demonstrations.

The ID also hosts several unexpected attractions as well. The Seattle Pinball Museum is located in the heart of the ID and features over 50 pinball museums from the 60s onward. If you feel like a little motion, Seattle’s most-loved break dance team, the Massive Monkees, host their studio, the Beacon, in the ID, offering nightly classes and after school programs.


Hing Hay Park (Photo by Han Bui/NWAW)

Myth Four: Chinatown is old

While many buildings in the ID are historic, some of which have been standing for over a century, Chinatown is also home its fair share of new development. Yesler Terrace, the oldest housing project in the city, is being renovated, with one 83-unit and one 90-unit apartment building planned for construction. InterIm is also building a new 96-unit apartment building at the corner of S. Main St. and 5th Ave. S. with apartments for low-income individuals and families.

The parks are growing as well. Hing Hay park is slated for expansion as the International Station post office is set to move to a new space in the neighborhood.

Finally, transit into and out of the ID is getting an expansion, with two ID stops on the First Hill streetcar line planned.

For a long time, the ID has been a gateway to the rest of Seattle with its easy access to Seattle’s stadiums, I-5 and I-90, and First Hill and Capitol Hill, but it’s quickly becoming a destination in its own right. The district has some of the best restaurants in the city, and plenty of unexpected attractions for visitors who take the time to find them. Spend some time in the International District; you’ll be surprised what you find. (end)

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