July 30, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 31

Dr. Wes

Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Other times, what you got gets snatched

By Dr. Wes Browning

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A company called Extell Development got tax breaks and permission to build higher by agreeing that 55 out of 219 apartments in their new luxury high-rise would be for low-income renters. They also got permission to make the low-income renters use a separate back door, so the decent normal rich renters wouldn’t have to pass them on the way in.

I’ll guess that the affordable units are also on separate floors and that elevators from the poor entrance only go to those floors. If that’s not the case in this instance, I’m sure the next company to get this deal will make sure that happens.

Here in Seattle we’ve always had some of this. When a shelter or a drop-in center in Seattle has been proposed for a downtown location, the neighboring businesses and residents demand alley entrances so that they are spared as much as possible the sight of poor people on proper sidewalks and in proper entrances.

The neighbors would like it even better if the poors had to approach the location by way of a long tunnel entered at some distant abandoned lot in SODO and so would never be seen anywhere downtown. Having alley entrances is seen as the more humane alternative to forcing poors into long subterranean passageways.

Shelter and drop-in centers realize that alley entrances are a good deal compared to no entrances at all, which would also be proposed.

“Seriously,” neighbors would say, “why can’t you build your shelter, but not let anyone in? That’d be fine.”

As more and more of Seattle is rebuilt along the lines of the South Lake Union development, and turned into a wonderland campus for high-tech corporations and their well-paid professionals, we can expect more segregation of rich and poor. Is this a good thing?

I say yes. It’s great. Rich people ruin my life. Please don’t make me use the same facilities they use.

I want poor entrances and poor stores and poor parts of the city set aside for me and my fellow poors. I want Piggly Wigglies and Woolworths and Doghouses and Sears-es. You richies give us those back and I promise never to go near any of you. I’ll stay out of your richy-rich restaurants and department stores.

I’ll gladly stay out of South Lake Union. I’ll never horn in on your rides on the SLUT.

Just give me a good old-fashioned ghetto where I can be poor in peace. I only want what the rich want, to be with my own kind.

Years ago we saw the destruction of SROs — Single Resident Occupancy units. Cheap market-rate housing was torn down everywhere to make room for high-priced developments. The result was the high-priced developments got built, but their rich occupants were immediately surrounded by all the poors flushed out by destroying the SROs.

So you see the problem? The SROs were the ghettoes that the rich wanted all along. But at the time they didn’t know what they had. Now that they see just how many poors there are and that they won’t go away, they want the separate entrances and separate facilities.

Armed with this new insight, that not only do they not want to see poor people, but also that poor people are just happy as tickled pigs to live anywhere at all, maybe the rich people will see straight to carving out some part of town and rebuilding the SROs that they stupidly tore down.

It’s not that rich people are bad people. I’m just saying I miss the good times of the good old days when you could walk one end of town to the other without having to get out of a rich person’s sight.

If we all work together we can bring back those good times, when rich and poor were rid of each other.  Separate, but equally apart.

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