EDITORS: "County Prioritizes Artists Over Poor"!!! What a title, and what a pleasure for me, as an artist, to finally be part of an "elitist and dangerous social experiment" played out on the backs of the working poor ["Sweet-Art Deal," Allie Holly-Gottlieb, Feb 15]. Really Allie, here is what you need to know, since your common-sense meter seems to be broken: The artists moving into the [Jans Tashiro and Kaplan Buildings] WILL be members of the "working poor"--they have to be in order to meet the income requirements, like any other tenant moving into low-income housing. You know, even with this "exotic bohemian" lifestyle of mine, I still have to work. Artists are [part of the] workforce; however, if it's absolutely necessary, I'm willing to piss in the middle of Pioneer Square, if that's your [litmus] test to be counted as a [low-income] kind of guy down here.

No one is being displaced specifically to make room for artists as part of some Orwellian "social engineering" scheme. [The Jans Tashiro and Kaplan Buildings] were put up for competitive bid to create affordable housing, and the current tenants would have had to move regardless. [Artspace and the Pioneer Square Community Development Organization] won the contract to do the project because it was the best proposal put forward and was enthusiastically embraced by the Pioneer Square community. The losing bidder, the Low Income Housing Institute, needs to get over their loss and false sense of entitlement, and get on with life--instead of agitating folks such as yourself to write misleading stories about what is going on down here [in Pioneer Square].

It will all come out fine in the end. Artspace is going to build a really great project that will become a permanent home to 50 artists and their families who won't be engaged in street battles with the 1,000 (not "several hundred" as you claim) other low-income residents down here, because they'll be too busy working with the other "working poor."

Frank Worsham, artist/resident, Pioneer Square


ALLIE HOLLY-GOTTLIEB: Please tell me where you live. Instead of running us down for trying to save a handful of working-class artists in Pioneer Square who contribute so much diversity in our neighborhood, maybe we should start the "not in my neighborhood" dialogue. There is no other neighborhood in Seattle with as many lowest-income housing units, missions, shelters, and human services (and, as a result, the dysfunctional people they serve) than Pioneer Square. We are trying desperately to reach a balance in our delicate neighborhood. Our shelters do a fine job, and have for years. But when will every other neighborhood in Seattle take their share of the very poor homeless? When will the city council do the right things for our homeless [population], and not just do what keeps them popular at voting time? Then maybe you and others will join us in our efforts to save much-loved, much-needed artists. I agree that we need more low- to middle-income housing in downtown Seattle; some of us are working hard to make that happen.

Nancy Woodford, Pioneer Square resident


DEAR ALLIE: Your article upsets me on several levels. As an artist and arts advocate, I care about this city and its cultural vitality. I am aware that a city's health is expressed in many arenas, including its social services. But when you succumb to the temptation to hack out tired and misleading arguments (such as the ones in your article), you don't help me, you don't help artists, you don't help the needs of low-income housing services, and you don't help Seattle. You pretend it's an "artists versus the poor" issue, and that just isn't fair.

Cities need artists the way cities need parks, public transportation, restaurants, and yes, homeless shelters and low-income housing. What is happening is that it has become difficult for anyone to afford living here. What makes the situation with artist housing slightly different are factors that combine special space requirements and zoning codes, which make it particularly difficult for artists to find the kind of workable space necessary to do what they do. But perhaps this isn't new to you--hopefully in the course of your research, you talked to people on both sides of this issue: the Pioneer Square [Community Development Organization], King County, local advocates such as Allied Arts or ArtSpace Seattle, or maybe even Artspace Minneapolis, who have been doing this for years and understand the ramifications of reserving a small percentage of habitable workspace addressed to the particular needs of artists. Or perhaps not. Your cynical and offhand comment, "The case made for publicly funded artist housing is vague" suggests that you just never cared to understand it in the first place. It is hard to tell from your article what you know about this issue, although your bias is clear enough. Apparently, as an artist, I am a "bohemian" threat to a vital ecosystem in Pioneer Square, simply because I want to see a place where artists can afford to live and work without having to pay doubled rents, while at the same time I am a "bourgeois" threat because I attend council meetings in an effort to engage in civic discourse.

Let's get this straight: This is not a black-and-white issue. I believe in affordable housing and increased social services for all levels of need in our society. I also sympathize with the tenants of the [Jans Tashiro and Kaplan Buildings], who will be displaced. Having been displaced last year so the affordable live/work space I had been in for six years could be torn down for "development," I understand what it means. But, please, if you want to make a difference as a writer, don't grotesquely distort this issue.

Christian French, Seattle


EDITORS: Allie Holly-Gottlieb imagines that she's striking a blow against the New World Order by attacking artist housing in Pioneer Square. This is the "neighborhood's New World Order": so powerful, indeed, that [local] government is "willing to bow" to it by prioritizing "artists over poor." Holly-Gottlieb's artists don't qualify as part of an endangered downtown workforce, since surely none of them work as, say, waiters or temps to sustain their sculpting or painting. Nor can what they do as art be called, in her [opinion], "work." Her artists are "bourgeois residents," "bohemians" who walk on "red carpets."

Holly-Gottlieb's "neighborhood engineers" [sound like] something akin to Nazi eugenicists. But the folks she's referring to are the members of the Pioneer Square Planning Committee, who had the temerity to draft a Neighborhood Plan--an obvious act of "engineering"--in which they sought ways to keep some artists in a neighborhood that has lost about 250 studios in the last five years, a fact Holly-Gottlieb mentions only in passing. A guiding principle of the Neighborhood Plan is to "maintain the existing supply of low- and middle-income affordable housing, including mission and shelter beds." (Pioneer Square already has 90 percent of the homeless shelter beds in Seattle.) Nowhere does the Pioneer Square Neighborhood Plan express a desire to exclude "less attractive poor people," nor to gentrify, nor "to get its fuh-unky groove back"; it only wants to maintain the neighborhood's historic character in the face of powerful market forces. Central to that historic identity is the presence of artists: They took over run-down buildings on low-cost caretaker leases and put in water, electricity, [and other] improvements at their own expense. One by one, they've been kicked out for office space and luxury condos. That is why King County Executive Ron Sims endorsed the plan to turn [the Jans Tashiro and Kaplan Buildings] into artist housing. That is why the directors of the Downtown Emergency Service Center and the Compass Center endorsed [the plan] as well. They understood that artists had helped revive Pioneer Square and deserve to be a part of it.

There is not enough being done about housing for the very poor. But if this increasingly un-met need becomes the ultimate trump card that can be played so irresponsibly to block other worthy initiatives, then we are all in trouble.

Philip Wohlstetter, President, Allied Arts

ALLIE HOLLY-GOTTLIEB RESPONDS: Your attacks are persuasive. So, feeling repentant, I've decided to join you. Luckily, I may qualify for housing at the Jans Tashiro and Kaplan Buildings under Artspace's plan. I'm a musician (drummer) with a body of work and a need for space, and I earn less than 60 percent of Seattle and King County's median income level. As soon as my soundproofed Pioneer Square live/work space becomes available, I'll be happy to give up my apartment and the expensive practice space my band rents south of downtown. Together, we will take Pioneer Square back from the homeless oppressors, and restore artists' rightful dominion!

Allie Holly-Gottlieb, in solidarity