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Thread: Neighborhood Meetings

  1. #1
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Neighborhood Meetings

    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.
    Last edited by jresta; 21 Nov 2003 at 12:32 PM.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    So they're complaining about lack of parking but want to get rid of public transportation in an urban neighborhood.

    Sometimes you want to see what would happen if you said "don't worry, only whites will be allowed to live there" kind of like the WTO stunts you wrote about before. Some people's opposition might melt away. There are no angy smilies to really express my feelings toward these types of people but I'll try these . . .

  3. #3
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    One possible response would be for the planning agency to hold a facilitated neighborhood meeting with a moderator and a recorder using the standard "talk to the note pad format." Comments are recorded on the large pad and posted on the wall. People are less willing to make racist remarks when you record them, assemble them, and print them out.

    The results can then be placed in the record for the Planning Commission decision. It is interesting that facilitated meetings often lead to neighborhood consensus or at least the ability to categorize issues. If the meeting concludes that traffic and parking is an issue and also that bus service should be discontinued, the Planning Commission can evaluate the neighborhood concerns and conclude that the bus service is, in fact, an answer to neighborhood issues.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Re: Neighborhood Meetings

    Originally posted by jresta
    .........I can't comprehend it.
    Sorry Jresta, as maybe the lead socialist on this board, you should be all for community participation. Or do you only want public participation that favors your way of thinking?

    What you are seeing is not racism in the sense you implied. What you are experiencing, is LAYPEOPLE who have little working knowledge rightly concearned with thier neighborhood. I have run into this situation many times. Sometimes it is justified and sometimes it is not.

    The residents are edgy because they do not understand what is happening. If the proposal is already a done deal, the meeting was of no use any way. You can put a "meeting" or "neighborhood board" or some type of concoction out there for "public inclusion" but it does not work if they are not let in on the process. Sounds like there was little information given out. This makes it worse, fears are made worse and no increase in information is achieved. In most situations where there is a real public process, these issues can be handled with less fear and more optimism.

    It also sounds like a neighborhood in transition. This is where you would expect contentious issues to arrise because it is unsettled.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    That's a good idea. Unfortunately our district councilman - Frank DiCicco presided over the meeting.

    He also lives on 11th St. 2 blocks south of said Asian market.

    It doesn't sound like the whole thing bothers him too much and he more or less agreed with what i said but did it in that politician sort of way and he kept repeating "I can't promise you anything because up to this point these guys are totally within their rights. We have nothing until they ask for a variance."

    I'm writing him a letter now. Hopefully we can get some real sort of proactive dialogue going that involves a much larger part of the neighborhood and not just the 6 blocks surrounding the market.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Re: Re: Neighborhood Meetings

    Allow me to elaborate -

    Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia
    Sorry Jresta, as maybe the lead socialist on this board, you should be all for community participation. Or do you only want public participation that favors your way of thinking?
    I'm not a socialist or a communist so give it a rest. This wasn't my meeting. I live in the neighborhood and went as a resident. I am all for COMMUNITY participation. When 40% of the community is conspicously absent it's not a community meeting. The Neighborhood Association called the meeting, they know full well what's going on, they brought the site plans to the meeting, and until then they'd been keeping it under wraps and creating hysterics over it. In case I didn't make it clear - I wasn't invited to the meeting. The select group of neighbors was assembled because the invitations found their way to those mailboxes and not to others.


    What you are seeing is not racism in the sense you implied. What you are experiencing, is LAYPEOPLE who have little working knowledge rightly concearned with thier neighborhood. I have run into this situation many times. Sometimes it is justified and sometimes it is not.
    Any homeowner in south philly knows the zoning and building process better than i do. It's quite plain and simple, they don't want an expansion of Asian commerce in the neighborhood "permit parking only" or not. The Italian Market is the same distance from most of their houses and attracts far more visitors on the weekends but no complaints were heard. When "what good is that gonna do? none of 'em can read anyway." brings chuckles from the audience you can call it ignorance of planning issues if you want but i sounds like racism to me.


    The residents are edgy because they do not understand what is happening. If the proposal is already a done deal, the meeting was of no use any way. You can put a "meeting" or "neighborhood board" or some type of concoction out there for "public inclusion" but it does not work if they are not let in on the process. Sounds like there was little information given out. This makes it worse, fears are made worse and no increase in information is achieved. In most situations where there is a real public process, these issues can be handled with less fear and more optimism.
    Again, the residents understand what is happening, it was made quite clear. Wing-Phat is building 8 new stores and 8 new upstairs apartments on a pad site on their existing property but they're not adding new parking.

    The proposal is not a done deal because the final permits haven't been issued.

    A meeting wasn't "put out there" for public inclusion. Certain members of the public called the meeting and invited the district councilman to preside over it - they then cherry picked an audience. But you're right, when there is a real public process there is a lot less fear. Unfortunately, your understanding of WHO the public is, is quite different from that of my neighbors.

    It also sounds like a neighborhood in transition. This is where you would expect contentious issues to arrise because it is unsettled.
    This neighborhood has been in "transition" for 25 years. My girlfriend and I were warned by no fewer than 3 different people who grew up in the general vicinity that we should reconsider moving there because "it's not like it was when i grew up" (with a wink and a nod). It's one of the safest neighborhoods outside of center city. Another planner in this office just bought a place right off of 11th St. three blocks south of the plaza. She's Nigerian but she went to school in England so she has an english accent. She lives there with her younger brother and sister who go to school at Temple. After hearing her accent and realizing she was "OK" one of her new neighbors said to her on moving day "We didn't know what to think when they told us a black family was moving in." The neighborhood does have problems but i'm starting to believe that parking is the least of them.

    Mod note - quote tags added (Tranplanner)
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  7. #7
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    My suggestion was that a public "neighborhood meeting" can often bring a good solution when a less than public meeting has been held and gotten people stirred up. There will probably still be an angry public, but there is also the potential for project supporters to make an input to be sent to the decision makers. Then the neighborhood meeting results will reflect both sides.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Originally posted by Wulf9
    My suggestion was that a public "neighborhood meeting" can often bring a good solution when a less than public meeting has been held and gotten people stirred up. There will probably still be an angry public, but there is also the potential for project supporters to make an input to be sent to the decision makers. Then the neighborhood meeting results will reflect both sides.
    Yeah, it's an excellent idea. Last nights meeting was so intimidating and discouraging at the same time that it got pushed to the back of my mind . . . but it's one that has to be done and one I'll have to link arms with my neighbors/coworkers for.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Re: Re: Re: Neighborhood Meetings

    Originally posted by jresta
    When 40% of the community is conspicously absent it's not a community meeting.
    I dont mean to make light of what is obviously a horrible thing. but honestly, any neighborhood meeting I have ever had (whether hosted or attended) has been a raving success at a 40% attendance rate. My only experience with higher attendance rates is when the police dept. hosts a meeting cuz a sex offender is moving in. (for the record, it wasnt me).

    What happened is appalling. Sorry, bud.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
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    I don't believe she was talking actual percents but a representation of the neighborhood. She was saying that 40% of the neighborhood was not represented at that meeting.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Re: Re: Re: Re: Neighborhood Meetings

    Originally posted by Chet
    I dont mean to make light of what is obviously a horrible thing. but honestly, any neighborhood meeting I have ever had (whether hosted or attended) has been a raving success at a 40% attendance rate. My only experience with higher attendance rates is when the police dept. hosts a meeting cuz a sex offender is moving in. (for the record, it wasnt me).

    What happened is appalling. Sorry, bud.
    sorry, i wasn't trying to say that 60% of the neighborhood was at the meeting. There were only 50 people there. I was trying to say that 40% of the neighborhood was not represented. Normally an issue like parking doesn't necessitate "black representation" or "white representation" but given the adversarial nature of the meeting i think the rest of the community needed to be represented.

    According to the 2000 census, in the 5x8 block area surrounding the shopping center there are 7,070 people.
    Ethnically the neighborhood is 65% white (mostly italian with a few lebanese), 17% asian (almost exlusively vietnamese), 12% black (african-american), and 6% latino (mostly mexican).

    That population is by no means evenly distributed throughout that area but that's not to say it's completely segregated either.
    My problem is that invitations to the meeting only found their way to select mailboxes. I didn't realize what was going on until the meeting was almost over and the "next meeting" was being discussed.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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