Peter Perrin, who sold the old Red Apple/Wash Board building to New Seasons, took the money and bought the old Ladd's Meat Building (1 block away) for the astounding price of $650,000, and is planning to install a Starbucks in the space (with the help of local developer and Starbucks-siter, Urban Works). A Starbucks would only take up part of the property; Perrin apparently wants to rent the other portion to a "take-out place", which could likely be a Subway, since Urban Works also sites for them. |
Perrin is charging $2 per square foot for the space, which is more than twice what people are paying right across the street. This will inevitably inspire other landlords in the vicinity to hike their own rents, which will threaten some of the small local businesses that give the neighborhood its character.
In the Perrin case, the connection between New Seasons and corporate intrusion is direct. Money from a sale was used for a purchase, and the purchase will be leased to a business that will directly gain from the presence of the New Seasons. That is, the location is a good one for Starbucks in large part because of the coming New Seasons.
Around the corner, the circle-jerk of "development" continues, at the intersection of 21st and Clinton. A new, three story residential building is being built on the north side of Clinton, in a 40x100 foot lot. Jammed incongruously into this tiny space and pushed out to the sidewalk, its hulk and massing interrupts the flow of the streetscape. Its architectural style is typically post-modern paperdoll pretense (a bay window attempts to add an "old fashioned" touch to its otherwise flat front) and insults the actually old fashioned buildings nearby. The rents are not expected to be low or middling; rather, they will be the higher rates that New Seasons customers can afford. Oddly, the entirely residential purpose of the building is allowed by its commercial zoning designation at a higher rate than a typical residential zoning designation for the neighborhood would.
Across the street, in a 100x100 foot lot, a developer wants to mimic this little monstrosity with a similar structure, though this one might contain retail on the first level. Plans for this building might entail making it even taller than its neighbor across the street, which will begin to turn the corner into a dark, hemmed-in space lacking in the sunlight it now currently enjoys when it's clear out.
The same developer wants to build in another lot on the same block, this one on the 21st and Taggart corner. That site is currently zoned residential and could legally hold two small single family homes or one duplex. The developer wants it rezoned commercial so he can build -- guess what? -- higher density housing like the stuff on Clinton. (Again, this switch from residential to commercial for the purpose of building more residential! This is the kind of thing that makes zoning so difficult for regular citizens to understand.)
What will the rents be like in these two developments? Will they be low enough for a new local start-up to move in, or for the renters displaced by the moving of a duplex on Division by New Seasons to live? Or so high that only another chain like Starbucks or some expensive NW 23rd style boutique can pay, or the sort of people who spend their money in those places? i, and many others, suspect the latter. And it is clear from watching all this that developers are seeing the New Seasons going in and it's money they're smelling, not organic produce and Frosted Flakes.
Interestingly, many of the folks who saw no problem with "friendliest store in town" New Seasons setting up shop are not happy about the Starbucks or the other developments. Now they're crying foul, but its too late. The slide has begun, faster than most of us feared, and there's no stopping it now. It is the nature of the system to perpetuate itself in this way. The trade-off of neighborhood-sustaining, community building businesses for rent-hiking, corporate developments is the general pattern in the United States right now. i've seen it all over the country, from South Minneapolis to Boston's North End and its inner ring suburbs to San Francisco's Mission and everywhere else. It is heart-breaking to watch, and it makes me pissed as hell.
Mayor Katz pointed out in an email to one local activist who was protesting the Starbucks, that the City can't do anything about a Starbucks because a property owner can do anything they want with their property. That's true, and that's what needs to stop. Peter Perrin does indeed have the right to waltz into my neighborhood, buy and sell a couple properties for some quick money, and in so doing inextricably change the character and liveability of that neighborhood, quite possibly driving out the places i work and hang out. It is that right that we must now attack. It is a very real distinction between a home-owner who wants to build an addition or put an extra bedroom above the garage for grandma or turn their roof into a garden and a business that has the power to raise rents and throw people out of their livelihoods with the choices it makes. Corporate personhood, as enshrined by the Supreme Court, has become a real thing in many peoples' heads, due to decades of corporate propaganda, and many people are now so brainwashed that they actually don't see the distinction between the rights of individual people and the rights of individual corporations anymore.
Will the Starbucks or the high priced development be stopped? Will the Red and Black and Mirador survive gentrification? Will People's Co-op remain viable with New Seasons six blocks away? the answers to these questions are probably, No, No and No. New Seasons will spawn more "development", Starbucks will raise rents, the new folks moving in will shop at the shiny corporate store, not at the comfy co-op, and in a few years, community will have been exchanged for corporatism. A few people will cling on here or there, but with all the old places to shop and hang out gone, and their friends moved away, they will probably choose to move sooner or later. Yet another real place will have been lost to the ravages of capitalism and greed.
Historians will be able to trace the death blows back to New Seasons, which by that time will have been sold to a national corporate chain and won't even be local anymore. (The inside word suggests this possibility strongly, and one source at Wild Oats when it was still Nature's claims that New Seasons president Brian Rohter tried to sell the chain to Natures already, a couple years back.) Hopefully, the people who welcomed it for the "more choices" they were hoping it would bring won't choke on a piece of free range chicken and will live to see the errors of their shallow desires.
This isn't about where you buy your coffee (or whether you drink it) or about who's got the best price on apples. This is about whether or not the few ought to be able to control the many. In this SE Portland neighborhood right now, the few -- led by the inspiration of New Seasons -- are moving in to control the many in a big way. Things will never be the same, and they sure won't be better. Welcome to the "free market", where you're always "free" to get fucked over by the rich. What's "free" about a system where you have to pay to play, and if you don't have the money, then you have no control over your neighborhood or life?
We are living in what is clearly a "teachable moment". The gentrifying effects of New Seasons are hitting this neighborhood very quickly, and their source is quite evident. Now is the time to speak up, and educate people about capitalism and its nature. If enough people got upset, the Starbucks could definitely be stopped, and the developments forced to scale back; people, can after all, do anything if they just set their mind to it. Laws don't matter. Laws can be changed, if enough pressure is put to bear. Whether or not enough people will rise to this occasion is a whole 'nother question, though, and i'm afraid the answer is probably "No". Fear is the order of the day, and that's what keeps us all enslaved. It's easier to ask for bigger cages and longer chains than it is to imagine how to live life unshackled.