• The Big O

Sawant leads charge to save Central District Institutions


After decades of service to students, working families and senior citizens in the Seattle-metropolitan area, Seattle city councilwoman, Kshama Sawant is moving to secure the Central Area Senior Center (CASC) and Byrd Barr Place (BBP) for the public good – as these facilities and their programs are at risk of losing their operations and locations.

Councilwoman Sawant is hosting a press conference on Tuesday April 23 at 1:30pm on the first floor of Seattle City Hall, followed by a 2pm public meeting with the City Council Equitable Development Committee, where the discussion will cover how the community can achieve property transfers of both the Central Area Senior Center and Byrd Barr Place in perpetuity. At this time, the properties remain under supervision of the city. In the fall of 2018, the Seattle City Council adopted Resolution 31856, which called for Mayor Jenny Durkan to transfer both properties to community non-profits by March 2019. The deadline has passed, without Mayor Durkan’s approval – now community members are demanding action.

Central Area Senior Center

Action from the Mayor is being called for, because the programs and the building which houses them are action-based. Both The CASC and BBP, has served the working class families, low-income people and especially senior-citizens with essential services for decades. Beginning in 1964, BBP (located at the intersection of 18th and Cherry) was part of the Central Area Motivation Program and offers programs such a volunteer operated food bank, personal finance workshops, financial assistance for renters facing eviction and energy assistance programs, among other community aids.

Byrd Barr Place

The CASC (located at 30th Ave. in Leschi) is known in the community as a bustling epicenter of activity for seniors, offering exercise programs, computer classes, guitar lessons, games, language lessons, arts and crafts and recreational trips. Also, providing food five days a week through the house kitchen is another vital service – especially for those who cannot prepare food for themselves.

Each group has documented their capacity to manage these properties and programs, and communicated this information to the city. A vital concern for BPP is the stakes of a $1,455,000 grant, which could be lost if BPP does not gain ownership or a long-term lease on their operational facility by June 2019. The community is apparently aware of the high-stakes at hand. On Monday April 15, 2019 approximately 150 seniors attended a meeting at the CASC, expressing ‘dismay’ and concern at the delay of Mayor Durkan’s office to transfer these properties, which would empower CASC and BPP in maintaining services for the community. Both properties happen to be located in what is considered prime real estate areas, reportedly targeted by for-profit developers, the likes of which have purchased, occupied and redeveloped segments of Seattle with new and expensive buildings, popularly considered part of the impetus of a surge in gentrification, in the past several years – the tech real-estate boom being one example.

At press-time, there is no word on the cause of delay from Mayor Durkan’s office on why the property transfer has not yet been approved and processed – and contact from the Mayor’s office is reportedly forthcoming. However Councilwoman Sawant encourages the community to attend Tuesday’s press conference and council meeting to be further informed and speak their clout. “Let’s together demand that the Mayor move forward without any further delay in defending Byrd Barr and The Central.”

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