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Event Details — Distinguished Speaker Series: City of Seattle neighborhoods director Stella Chao

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As part of Houston Tomorrow's Distinguished Speaker series, on Tuesday, July 21, Stella Chao, Director of the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) for the City of Seattle, will talk about her department’s successful work to bring government closer to city residents by giving them a central role in planning for the growth of their communities, empowering residents to improve their neighborhoods by providing tools, education, and support, and bringing more of Seattle’s underrepresented citizens into the process of civic discourse, planning, and action.

DON deals with planning, neighborhood protection, historic preservation, community outreach, and citizens’ assistance at the neighborhood level. The department has done extensive work to create vibrant, safe and healthy neighborhoods in Seattle.

In 1995 the City of Seattle developed a Neighborhood Planning program to encourage community involvement in guiding growth in Seattle’s urban villages and centers. Based on public input and vision, the Neighborhood Planning Office assisted community members in developing and writing 38 neighborhood plans that have served as blueprints for how different Seattle neighborhoods should grow. Neighborhood Planning is the cornerstone of Seattle's Comprehensive Plan, a larger tool for guiding policy decisions about growth. DON assumed the role of supporting the Neighborhood Planning process in 2003.

A recent issue of Neighborhood News, a DON publication that reports on issues and progress in improving Seattle’s 38 neighborhoods, states:

“Of the 2,358 projects identified in the plans, more than 87 percent have been finished or are under way. A recent survey of Seattle residents found that 93 percent said neighborhood plans had improved their communities.

The resources to carry out the neighborhood plans have come from a variety of sources, most notably from the voters themselves, who have approved the levies and bond issues that are financing the neighborhood plan projects and making our neighborhoods stronger.”

Transportation, parks and community centers, housing, and libraries were some of the key areas residents identified as having the greatest impact on quality of life in their neighborhoods. Transportation was the single largest category of projects, with an emphasis on transit, biking, and pedestrian safety, and their importance for creating economically and socially vital local business districts. Some neighborhood projects have been incorporated into city-wide plans for improved transit and street safety.

In 2008 the Seattle City Council passed legislation authorizing DON and the Department of Planning & Development to work with communities to begin updating neighborhood plans.

(Download a pdf [5.8MB] presentation from Seattle's recent Neighborhood Plan Update Community Workshops.)

DON oversees a number of departments (Historic Preservation, Neighborhood Planning, Office for Education) and a wide variety of community-building programs such as P-Patch Community Gardens, which provides garden plots, gardening education, and access to fresh, affordable, organic produce to all citizens of Seattle, with an emphasis on low-income and immigrant populations and youth, and a highly successful Neighborhood Matching Fund program to provide financial support to self-help and volunteer-based neighborhood projects.

Chao, a long-time community leader in Seattle, served as Executive Director of the International District Housing Alliance, a nonprofit focused on serving the housing, literacy, and financial needs of poor Asian immigrants in the Seattle area. She also founded Wilderness Inner-City Leadership Development, a youth environmental group that exposes teenagers from poor families to the outdoors and helps them develop leadership skills, and she has worked with elderly residents to brainstorm community projects, such as improving pedestrian safety and indoor air quality.

She has been Director of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods since January 2007.

Distinguished Speaker Funding
Anchorage Foundation of Texas

This event is sponsored by: Blueprint Houston, Anchorage Foundation of Texas, and Houston Council Member Peter Brown

Reception sponsorship opportunities are available for this and all Distinguished Speaker Series events. Contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you are interested.

Tues, July 21, 2009
Pre-talk reception at 6:30 pm - Talk begins at 7 pm
United Way Community Resource Center
50 Waugh Dr (@ Feagan) map.
Free, with free parking.

RSVP to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

When

July 21, 2009
7:00PM for 2 hrs

Where

United Way Community Resource Center

Cost

$free

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