Dec 3, 2007

Goodwill Development: pros and cons

This is (I promise!) the final word on the Goodwill development controversy. See 1st and 2nd posting for more links/details. Recall that there is a neighborhood coalition opposing the present development plans for the Goodwill site and another neighborhood group that supports the development.

I initally suspected that the pro-development group was bogus, but now find it to be a genuine neighborhood effort. A long letter from that group is at the end of this message. But first, I have copied below the comments left by people voting in the survey.

Browse the websites, read the comments and the letter, and you'll know all you need to know to vote (by the 8th) on whether Miller Park should join the coalition opposing the Goodwill development.


Comments from the Survey:

(from René Soulard, MPNA co-founder, and local builder)
There are many reasons why we should support the Dearborn group. One they are a very active group that like us face many issues around developement, crime, street activity and general self improvement. They live there and know what they want and need, not what the city wants. The city is about to give away large portions of land that is currently city streets, your property! So that a private developer can use that land to make a Northgate like mall. He is offering too little in return for very valuable city property. I know this because I have attended some of the Dearborn and Jackson Place meetings. I have friends who live there and I am currently working on remodeling a house that looks right at the Goodwill site. I can tell you now if you think it is hard to get down Rainier and through the ID, just wait. Unless the city really uses its leverage, for public good, in vacating the streets for the project we are all going to suffer.
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Out of area. Out of expertise. This poll will not be representative anyway. Not a good precedent. Keep focused on neighborhood issues.
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I'm just outside the boundaries on 17th E and E John but am very focused on Miller Community Center and Playfield and all my friends that do live within the boundaries so I wanted to vote.
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Let's take time in our neighborhood.
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No, you should support the development. It is a good thing.
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Let's keep big-box retailers at bay. The planned development is likely to ruin an important, and culturally rich, set of current businesses in the area. The impact of traffic and parking in the immediate area represents a negative impact that those who live and work in the area shouldn't have to bear. The disadvantages to the community far out way the advantages, so the city should not support this project, as it runs counter to the urban village model that the city promotes.
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The international district is one of the primary retail/entertainment areas I go to. I feel we should voice our opinion on this.
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And here are some thoughts from a Capitol Hill blogger.
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A letter from the founder of the "Go Dearborn Street" group:

There are many reasons why we should support the Dearborn group. One they are a very active group that like us face many issues around developement, crime, street activity and general self improvement. They live there and know what they want and need, not what the city wants. The city is about to give away large portions of land that is currently city streets, your property! So that a private developer can use that land to make a Northgate like mall. He is offering too little in return for very valuable city property. I know this because I have attended some of the Dearborn and Jackson Place meetings. I have friends who live there and I am currently working on remodeling a house that looks right at the Goodwill site. I can tell you now if you think it is hard to get down Rainier and through the ID, just wait. Unless the city really uses its leverage, for puplic good, in vacating the streets for the project we are all going to suffer.


There are 5 of us who started godearbornstreet.com. You may recognize some of our names on the listserv. We know each other because we all live in Jackson Place, just blocks from the proposed development. The reason we came together is because we want to see a pedestrian friendly, mixed-use retail and housing project on that blighted lot – we are all HUGE fans of Goodwill and most importantly want to see their amazing new proposed building come into fruition. While we agree with some of the mission points the coalition is requesting of the project (such as ensuring the project adheres to green-build standards, includes ample locally owned businesses and remains sensitive to the Little Saigon Neighborhood), we have been dismayed at how the coalition has portrayed the project to the public (i.e.: the project is a massive Northgate mall, accusing the developer of not-negotiating, exaggerating claims of traffic calamities, and the big-box portion of the project perpetuating poverty and gentrification, etc, etc…).

We like the idea of a Target in the area, restaurants, a grocery store and amenities centrally located so we don’t have to drive all over the city and burbs - spewing excess carbon along the way! We don’t have access to these amenities within Seattle without having to travel all over the place. We like a mix of chain and locally owned businesses. Some chain stores would be beneficial in drawing in a customer base so mom & pops could benefit. We see benefits of a condensed urban living environment with a healthy mix of low-income housing located near major transportation hubs (though I personally wish there were more family-housing included). What better way to prevent sprawl and reduce reliance on cars than to have these things central and condensed!

The coalition has created a strong and infectious negative campaign against the current development. In addition to twisting facts and painting it as a massive sprawling mall (when really it’s 3 condensed city blocks), some of the requests they are asking of the developer are downright unreasonable. Some members within the coalition are using this opportunity to push their own agenda through. Take, for instance, SAGE. They are a huge force behind the coalition and are funded by unions. From what I glean, their mission is to unionize big-box & chain stores. While I don’t have anything against unions and think livable wages are great, SAGE wants to force the developers into signing a “Good Neighbor Agreement”. This agreement would hold the DEVELOPER legally responsible for insuring that the chain and big-box tenants adhere to living-wage and benefit standards (set by whom, SAGE?!). However, in the Community Benefits Agreement, SAGE says any locally-owned or small business would be exempt from providing the same benefits to their employees.

I’ve been scratching my head on this one for quite some time. Why is it now the developer’s responsibility to enforce working conditions on their tenants? Why would small business be exempt from this? Are their workers any less deserving of “living wage” benefits? How is it the developer can require one set of principals on some tenants and not on another?

I would think the pressure to change working conditions should fall on the store/”big-box” directly. Pressure Target directly, or better yet inform the pubic - encourage a boycott! I don’t understand their tactic…. Funny thing is, Target provides access to health benefits to all their employees, including part-timers. They have one of the best benefits package in their industry and have been lauded as a community-oriented company.

That is just one example of the unreasonable demands…

In addition, the coalition is touting the developer’s refusal to sign the “Community Benefits Agreement” as proof that they are not interested in working with the community. This is not true. The developer has made a concerted effort to include the community in the development of this project. They’ve made concessions and compromises all along the way to try and reach an agreement with the coalition. The developer can’t sign the agreement because it’s unreasonable…

I know I’m being quite critical of the coalition here. I’d like to emphasis that the role of the coalition was (and still is to some degree) absolutely essential to help shape the project and ensure the developers don’t have ”carte blanche” to do whatever they choose. The coalition helped add 100 additional low-income units to this project and put pressure on the developer to add more community benefits. But, many in our group feel they have been poor sports in the process by leading a negative and often misleading campaign. Many of their demands are just unreasonable.

I realize your community group is considering joining the coalition. I commend you for seeking out both sides of the story in order to gain a perspective. Many community groups have only heard from the coalition’s point of view and have joined the group based solely on what they have said without hearing from the developer or understanding the full range of the coalition’s mission. I wonder how many would have chosen not to join if they heard the whole story? Some have even recently dropped out.

The project isn’t perfect – its design isn’t going to please everyone, won’t be “green” enough for everyone and certainly won’t solve our world’s deeper problems. But I’d hate to NOT see this project happen because in the end the coalition wouldn’t compromise or meet the developers even half-way.

2.) We are not funded by the developer in any way. We started our group and website by our own accord. The DSCLN website has mentioned that we are working for the developers and some how scheming a front for them. That is absolutely untrue!! The only contact I get from the developers is when there are meeting dates or any significant news about the project that I could pass on to our listserve.

I’m sorry I have written so much here!

Thanks again for taking the time to hear both sides.

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You may contact the author (and the Go Dearborn Street group) at: info@godearbornstreet.com

You may contact the Dearborn Street Coaliton for Livable Neighborhoods via their Google group

1 comment:

seadevi said...

I voted No because I believe the project supports the goals of sustainable development. More here:
http://chtriangle.blogspot.com/2007/12/dearborngoodwill-project.html