Atlanta Council Cmte Approves Gentrification Plan for English Avenue
(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta City Councilmembers Natalyn Archibong (District 5), Dustin Hillis (District 9), Marci Overstreet (District 11), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), and Matt Westmoreland (Post 2-at-large) voted in favor of legislation that will result in the unmitigated gentrification of Atlanta’s English Avenue neighborhood.
With no debate and only one question, the Committee voted in favor of the land use change sought by the developer in order to accommodate the proposed Westside Yards development, ignoring the pleas of community members.
Described as a “catalytic” development, the Echo A, LLC project would bring some 650 high-end apartments, forty townhomes, a 120 room hotel, and retail and commercial development to a neighborhood that low-income Atlantans have called home for decades.
Neighborhood Unit Planning Unit L voted at its June 2018 meeting, attended by Atlanta Progressive News, to ask for a 30 day hold so that community members could work on a Community Benefits Agreement.
However, Jessica Lavandier, an Assistant Director of the City’s Planning Department misrepresented the NPU L vote to the Committee, stating that the NPU L adjourned without taking action – which is true of the May 2018 meeting but not the June meeting.
When asked by the Committee whether NPU L sought a 30 day extension, Lavandier said that vote was taken after they adjourned – as it to suggest it was not an official action of the NPU. In fact, they took that vote at the duly called June 2018 meeting.
At the Public Hearing on Monday, June 25, and at today’s June 26 Community Development Cmte Meeting, several residents pled for the land use change not to be approved.
The development is expected to cause land values to increase, rents to increase, and property taxes to increase; as well as to spur further development in English Avenue, which will further perpetuate the same effects. All this will make it difficult, if not impossible, for low-income people to live in English Avenue.
Already community members report that senior citizens are being displaced due to steep rent increases at the Magnolia Park Apartments in neighboring Vine City.
“The question of the day is whether low-wealth and poor people have the right to direct, to control, or to even have a voice in their own community,” State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta) said.
Because the development falls within the Westside Overlay District, the City’s Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning requirements apply.
However, these requirements are weak, and allow the developer to provide units at the income level of 80 percent of the Area Median Income – this means that even the “affordable” units will cost over 1,000 dollars per month. And even that affordability will expire in twenty years, per State law.
The incomes of many of the current residents of English Avenue is in the 0 to 30 percent AMI bracket, or the 30 to 50 percent AMI bracket, and residents are seeking a Community Benefits Agreement that would provide units that are affordable at that level.
APN’s News Editor–the present writer–has been working with Rep. Thomas and a work group of residents that she has established around this development to discuss options to achieve that level of affordability through a CBA as well as City policy.
With the 2017 Municipal Elections in recent memory, Atlanta City Councilmembers have been talking a good game about affordable housing in Atlanta, and about mitigating gentrification through public policy.
And yet, the Council has rarely seen a high-end development they could not support – whether Ponce City Market, the Mercedes Benz Stadium, the redevelopment of Turner Field, Atlanta Underground. And today is no exception.
As previously reported by APN, a group of members of the English Avenue Neighborhood Association, unhappy with the 2017 association elections, formed their own English Avenue Neighborhood Association and stole the identity of the original group.
Despite their knowledge of this dispute, the Planning Department also misrepresented the situation by stating at the Public Hearing that the “English Avenue Neighborhood Association” was in support of the development, without even stating at the very least that there was a dispute as to who was the rightful EANA.
Joan Vernon, the so-called President of the imposter EANA, unilaterally drafted a CBA for the development, without the participation of NPU L or the rightful EANA.
The CBA only calls for a pittance of affordable housing that is out of reach of the incomes of most current English Avenue residents, as well as vague promises by the developer to make an effort to provide jobs to English Avenue residents.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 27, the Zoning Committee will consider the zoning change sought by the developer.
And on Monday, July 02, the Full Council will consider both the zoning and land use changes.
By supporting this proposal, Atlanta City Councilmembers have shown their willingness to not only support unmitigated gentrification so soon after getting elected on promises of affordable housing and mixed-income communities, but to deprive low-income residents of the opportunity to even have a voice in the community, by ratifying the disempowerment of both NPU L and the true EANA.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2018)(