Real Change will celebrate its move to Pioneer Square tonight with a rally at Occidental Park at 5:00 p.m., featuring guest speakers, snacks, and open house tours of its new office on 1st and S Main Street. Tim Harris, executive director of Real Change—a local advocacy newspaper that employs over 400 low-income and homeless vendors per month selling papers—says the rally is in response to the Pioneer Square Community Association's repeated attempts to block the organization's move, and most recently, its legal appeal to overturn the Pioneer Square Historic Preservation Board's decision to allow Real Change into the neighborhood.
"We wouldn’t be holding this rally if it wasn’t for the PSCA," says Harris. "We want to get across that this is a powerful organization with a lot of friends."
In their appeal (.pdf), the PSCA claims that the Real Change office doesn't comply with land-use rules in historic Pioneer Square, as it is not a retail space.
But Harris says that the PSCA is out of touch with business owners in the area. On Saturday, Real Change board members canvased 23 businesses in Pioneer Square. They introduced themselves and ask for permission to hang flyers advertising Monday night's rally in their windows. Out of the 23 businesses, only one declined, "and he was friendly," says Harris. "We suspected, and confirmed, that the PSCA doesn't represent the majority of businesses."
PSCA interim director Leslie Smith could not be reached for comment.
Harris adds that the tone of tonight's rally will be upbeat and positive. "We're giving the whole pending appeal thing its due by largely ignoring it," he says. "Tonight is going to be a celebration of our work and our arrival in Pioneer square." Although Harris says the appeal is more a nuisance than anything, Real Change is taking it seriously. They'll be represented by Clayton P. Graham, a prominent land-use attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, when PSCA's appeal goes before the hearing examiner on June 15.
Speakers tonight include: Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata; Bill Block, the director for the Committee to End Homelessness; Paola Maranan, executive director of the Children's Alliance; and Pramila Jayapal, executive director of One America, among 15 or so other community leaders.
"We anticipate a great turnout," says Harris, who urges supporters of Real Change to head down after work. "We have an amazing network of support in Seattle. Our message will be in the turnout; the PSCA should take note."
UPDATE: Smith sent an email stating that "As this issue is under appeal; PSCA does not have a comment at this time. Thanks."