Taking the first step into the International District/Chinatown community gave me a somewhat peaceful and calm atmosphere. It differs from the Chinatown in our city of San Francisco in terms of population density. In contrast to the dense population in SF Chinatown's, we see less people on the streets of Seattle's Chinatown. Our tour was given by a non-profit organization named SCIDpda, starting at the Hing Hay Park, which some of us saw as Portsmouth Square at the first sight. Although it is not as crowded as Portsmouth Square, Hing Hay Park serves as a community hub for the Chinese community. Next we were lead to the International Children Park, where we saw the open space designated for children and other age groups to utilize. The park to me was fairly big and had adequate space for many people to use. Besides the children playground, my favorite spot within the park is the resting area. The designs of the chairs and umbrella shade struck my eyes at the first sight. I hope to bring some of these ideas and apply similar concepts to the designs of our open space facilities and infrastructures in San Francisco. As we walk along the Chinatown streets, we saw that many of the buildings are similar to the building style in SF: a mix-used of business and commercial buildings. In fact, throughout the city of Seattle most of the buildings were built this way in order to conserve space. The final stop for our tour was an alleyway called the Canton Alley, one of the three alleyways in Seattle. Once a very lively space, this alley consists of many shops and small businesses that sell a variety of accessories and many other merchandises. Today, there are many dumpsters in the alley, which is one of the main usage besides a short cut for people to walk through in Chinatown.
After the tour, Ching, our tour guide lead us into the work office. In the conference room, she gave us a presentation of how their organization work collaboratively with many other different organizations and programs to do city and urban planning. There are three main departments in SCIDpda, and they are property development and management, senior services, and community development. From the presentation, I learned the original design of the International Children Park, in which the center of it was a design of the "yin yang" image with grass and the hard ground. Although it was a nice design, people saw it as a design that took up too much space in the park. Therefore, the redesign and reconstruction of the grass land later on created more open space for people. Throughout the planning process, many organizations worked together to collect ideas and opinions from the public in order to do street design and city planning. One of the most important aspect of urban planning is to have the favor of the majority of the public. A city can maintain its sustainability when the public enjoys the city space!
Overall, today was a very tiring yet fun day! Besides from the tour and presentation, we also had a somewhat DIY buffet style Thai lunch. Later in the day, we also had a fun time exploring the central public library in Seattle which is 11 floors tall! We then headed back to Chinatown to meet with the youth group WILD, which stands for Wilderness Inner-City Leadership Development. Similar to our youth program, the WILD youth are engaged in the community and also interacts with many senior residents living in and around the area. One thing that I found special about their program is that they have many camping trips throughout the year, and that they would bring seniors to camp with them. However, the seniors don't stay overnight with the youth. Besides from that, we also had a great time playing games and getting to know each other through our conversations. It was a nice experience that we had the opportunity to share our own stories and listen to the stories of others. I learned a lot about the history and community building and organizing of the Chinatown in Seattle, and I hope to bring some of their ideas and concepts back to San Francisco to strive for a better community!
- Shirley Tsang