Seattle mourns CID activist, TV producer Matt Chan

Chan, a former KCTS board member and producer on the show “Hoarders,” was a champion for the Chinatown-International District and politicians of color.

A portrait of Matt Chan

Matt Chan (Cascade PBS file photo)

Northwest Asian Weekly originally published this story.

Matt Chan, a prominent community activist in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District (CID), passed away on Saturday, March 30, at the age of 71 after battling kidney cancer. His death has left a profound impact on those who knew him, with friends and colleagues expressing their grief and highlighting his significant contributions.

Chan, a native of Portland, Oregon, rose to prominence through his remarkable career in television, spanning over four decades. He made his mark as the creator of the widely acclaimed reality show Hoarders. His journey in the television industry began in Seattle at KING 5, moving on to KPIX-TV in San Francisco, where he met his beloved wife, Gei Chan, a California native.

Retiring from television did not dampen Chan’s passion for storytelling. He dedicated his talents to producing a short documentary shedding light on the tragic murder of Donnie Chin, which garnered attention at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival and drew the interest of local politicians. Additionally, Chan played a pivotal role in producing political advertisements for candidates of color, including Seattle City Councilmember Tanya Woo, King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, State Sen. Joe Nguyen and Port of Seattle Commissioners Toshiko Hasegawa and Sam Cho.

Anita Woo, the mother of Tanya Woo, told Northwest Asian Weekly, “Tanya is where she is today because of Matt Chan. He laid the groundwork for her to run for Seattle City Council and then won the appointment for the vacant seat. He produced all her campaign videos, and strategized everything.”

Alongside Woo, Chan led the fight against the homeless mega-shelter in SoDo. He also wrote commentaries about the negative impact of homeless encampments in the CID. Additionally,
Chan dedicated his time to producing videos for several nonprofit organizations, including the Wing Luke Museum, and volunteered for the CID Block Watch before his illness.

The news of Chan’s passing also reverberated through social media, with veteran journalist Enrique Cerna paying tribute to his best friend’s legacy. Cerna fondly recalled their enduring friendship, forged during their time at KING 5.

“Matty was bold, brash, smart, creative, and confident,” Cerna wrote on Facebook. “He cared deeply about his community and used his storytelling skills to advocate for causes close to his heart.”

Lori Matsukawa, a retired KING 5 anchor, echoed similar sentiments, describing Chan as a “creative communicator” and “powerful community activist” whose loss has left a profound void.

Chan also was on the Board of Directors of KCTS-TV, which is now known as Cascade PBS, from 2013 to 2017.

King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay reflected on Chan’s mentorship and friendship, highlighting his unwavering support in empowering voices from marginalized communities.

Community members, including Patty Fong and Teresita Batayola, president and CEO of International Community Health Services, mourned the loss of Chan, recognizing his impact on the community and beyond.

Services are expected to be announced this week.

The Northwest Asian Weekly originally published this story on March 30, 2024. Cascade PBS added information on Chan’s tenure on the KCTS-TV Board of Directors.

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