Preface - the are of concern is on the south side of Washington Ave. at 11th St. in South Philadelphia. North of Washington is the Bella Vista neighborhood where home prices are still on the rise and 4 bedroom 2,000 sq. ft. house can easily fetch $400,000. South of Washington home prices are about 50% less but climbing steadily. Washington Ave is a major arterial - 5 lanes. The intersection of 9th and Washington is the heart of the Italian Market. The Vietnamese Market (Wing-Phat Plaza) is more or less a strip mall fronting Washington between 11th and 12th. Traffic is atrocious on Saturdays and Sundays.
We had a neighborhood meeting last night. I wasn't actually invited but I found out because the mailman always puts my mail in my downstairs neighbors mailbox. I asked my co-worker and fellow planner if she was going (she lives a block down) - we agreed to meet there at 7. Neither of us knew much about what was going on other than people were concerned about parking and new stores or apartments going up in Wing-Phat Plaza.
The neighborhood is majority white but there is a sizeable black and vietnamese presence. When I walked into the meeting 5 minutes late everyone (about 50 people) was seated and facing the door. There were no asian faces in the room and one black woman.
What followed for the next hour was a thinly veiled haranguing of Asians and "these people" who came into our neighborhood.
"They're everywhere on the weekends".
"They can't drive, none of 'em, they hit my parked car twice already".
an older lady: "we should at least put a stop sign there on 11th St. [for people exiting the plaza]".
a middle-aged guy: "what good is that gonna do? none of 'em can read anyway."
a different guy: "I don't care about the damn commuters parking on Ellsworth St. I wan't to know what these god damn orientals or asians or whatever you want to call 'em are planning."
What they are planning is 8 new stores with upstairs apartments. It suburban parlance it would be a "pad site" but for us it's just infill and perfectly within the zoning regs. My neighbors have hired a lawyer to scour over the site plans and find anything they can to hold up or stop the project. The hubbub now focuses on parking. The new construction will result in no loss of parking but it won't add parking either.
The neighbors say it will make a bad parking situation worse. I suggested that the bad parking situation was because every household has 2 or 3 cars. A blank look came over the crowd(more aptly described as a mob). Later on someone recommended getting rid of the east/west bus that travels through our neighborhood.
I'm still in shock from the whole experience. I've lived in a lot of places and i've never seen such an overtly racist and reactionary crowd before. It's embarassing. They would honestly be happy if the Vietnamese abandoned their plaza and just left the thing there to rot. I can't comprehend it.