As Paul mentioned on Friday, some residents of Pioneer Square are getting prickly about Real Change—which publishes a weekly advocacy newspaper that street vendors sell for $1—moving to the neighborhood on May 1. The New Pioneer Square Blog complains that the newspaper's offices would make Pioneer Square "a one stop shop for most of Seattle’s homeless," and call for a Good Neighbor Agreement, typically an onerous set of rules for troubled businesses. One commenter adds that "we already have *too many* homeless services in our neighborhood." Indeed, the neighborhood is home to the Union Gospel Mission and a host of social-service organizations.

But Real Change director Tim Harris says the restrictions are uncalled for. "Our experience in Belltown has been entirely positive," Harris says. Real Change has never been asked to sign such an agreement because it's already a good neighbor and because it's not a social-service agency contracted with the city. Harris adds that he's looked over similar agreements, "but I don't see anything in there that we're not already doing."

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  • Seattle Daily Photo via Flickr
Harris notes that Real Change keeps the sidewalk in front of their office clean and there's little noise and no fighting between vendors waiting in line for papers. Throughout the city, "vendors act as a hedge between panhandlers and the public," because they're working, Harris says, not asking for handouts. The organization shuts down between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., so the newspaper's office has virtually no impact on nightlife.

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Harris says the move will be a boon to Pioneer Square. "Our vendors are the working-class poor, and just like everyone else, they're going to spend the money that they make... at pizza and sandwich shops and other businesses that meet their needs," Harris says. Forty percent of the Real Change vendors live in low-income housing; they're not homeless.

Real Change will be moving into their new space on 1st Avenue and Main Street, kitty-corner to the current Elliott Bay Bookstore location. The new office will have roughly 50 percent more space than their Belltown office to accommodate classes, meetings, and a weekly vendor queue that stretches out the front door and down the block of their current location. The number of vendors Real Change serves has doubled from 200 to 400 in the past three years.