In an escalating campaign, Leslie Smith, interim executive director of the Pioneer Square Community Association, fired off a strongly worded letter to Mayor Mike McGinn yesterday afternoon calling on him to block Real Change from moving into the neighborhood on May 1. The association argues that Real Change, which publishes a weekly advocacy newspaper low-income and homeless individuals sell for $1, would bring a bad element to an already burdened area.
"There are heightened concerns within the neighborhood that representatives of this organization have not approached the Pioneer Square Community Association nor have they conducted any outreach within the District," Smith wrote to the mayor, city council, and the Seattle Police Department. Citing the neighborhood plan, she said that the city should place a "moratorium" on allowing more homeless services in Pioneer Square. "We urge you to respect and support our position on this matter."
"We would like to work with your office on this issue by setting up a meeting with Real Change, MaKensay Real Estate and our neighborhood organization to provide assistance to Real Change to find other suitable offices outside the District," Smith continued.
Needless to say, Real Change is trying to counter this attack (we touched on the issue yesterday).
"We never anticipated that this would be a controversial move, but we’re not interested in whether they like it or not," Real Change director Tim Harris says in response to the letter's call to conduct outreach before the move. "We’re happy to work with them but at the moment they’re simply being hostile." He says the neighborhood association's concerns (that Pioneer Square is being forced to accept yet another human services group) are unfounded because, "We're not a human services organization." The group doesn't receive city funding—a criterion to be a service agency, he says—but instead operates as a business. "The city has limited leverage here," he adds.
As of this morning, the mayor's office was unaware of the letter. Smith has yet to return calls for comment.
Full letter after the jump.
Dear Mayor McGinn:
Thank you again for taking the time to tour Pioneer Square on March 18th. Pioneer Square community members were encouraged by your comments and perceptions of the opportunities and issues facing our neighborhood. We look forward to working with your office on an ongoing basis to help revitalize the District.
As we discussed, Pioneer Square has been a generous host to numerous social service providers in our community. However, the neighborhood is extremely under resourced and a “fair share” saturation point of services was exceeded years ago. This fact has been acknowledged and a moratorium on new or additional services has been in effect since 1998 with the publication of the Neighborhood Plan. Unfortunately, Pioneer Square finds it must defend this position time and time again.
Presently, Real Change is planning to relocate to the Historic District. There are heightened concerns within the neighborhood that representatives of this organization have not approached the Pioneer Square Community Association nor have they conducted any outreach within the District.
We realize there are enormous needs, especially in this economy, and further we recognize that many clients may not have any other resources at their disposal. We have strong relationships with service providers in our neighborhood who work with community members to address problems when they arise. That said; Pioneer Square’s economic vitality is impacted by the publics’ perception of safety issues which are exacerbated by line queuing for social service organizations.
The Office of Economic Development, with numerous community stakeholders, is conducting a review to find ways to revitalize this Historic District. In 2002, Urban Preservationist and Principal of PlaceEconomics, Donovan Rypkema, visited our community after the Mardi Gras reveling resulted in a murder the previous year.
At that time, several points were made by Rypkema that referenced street disorder and the neighborhood suffering significant negative perceptions regarding public safety. In December of 2009 Rypkema returned and reiterated the 2002 summary and questioned the lack of progress.
Within the past few years, the neighborhood was tapped to accept the expansion of existing service providers and to absorb the expansion of services at the Morrison Hotel during the construction of Fire Station #10’s Command Center. Legitimate assessments of the projects predicted long term, negative impacts in the neighborhood. As a result the overall perception of safety in the square has diminished.
The moratorium of the Neighborhood Plan needs to be upheld in this case. We feel it is imperative that service providers seek out other neighborhoods of Seattle that have not exceeded their “fair share” of services. We urge you to respect and support our position on this matter.
We would like to work with your office on this issue by setting up a meeting with Real Change, MaKensay Real Estate and our neighborhood organization to provide assistance to Real Change to find other suitable offices outside the District. As the proposed move of Real Change is on a fast track, we hope to hear from your offices as soon as possible.
Sincerely, Leslie G. Smith Interim Executive Director Pioneer Square Community Association