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Red Light the Gulch: AFSC Atlanta rallies against development

AFSC’s Atlanta Economic Justice Program and supporters gather at City Hall to demand more say in the city’s Gulch agreement. Photo: Atlanta / AFSC

On the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., organized labor joined community groups on the steps of Atlanta’s City Hall to appeal to the mayor and other city leaders who often invoke the name of Dr. King but pursue policies and projects which continue to widen the gap between the rich and poor in Atlanta.

On the steps was an expanded Redlight the Gulch Coalition. In addition to its several community groups, the crowd was joined by a number of labor unions including the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 77, the Laborers International Union of America, Local 515, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, Local 33, the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, Local 136, Unite Here, and Teamsters local 728.

The proposed Gulch development would be a major loss to our communities in Atlanta: a portion of downtown Atlanta would essentially be sold to Los Angeles-based billionaire developers CIM who are known for predatory practices. The public would lose at least $1.9 billion in taxes, only to receive $100 million at most back in benefits. There would also be zero public ownership of the new development. The city has felt our pressure and made a few changes to the deal, but it’s not enough. We need to apply pressure now more than ever.

Our communities can no longer survive the approach to development that sees our city leaders cutting billion-dollar welfare checks to the super rich to develop luxury developments with little to no affordable housing, community benefits, or workforce agreements. The money the city spends on the Gulch isn’t Monopoly money—it’s real, and public funds are being diverted from other public needs in order to help rich developers build a city within a city.

Should the Gulch scheme succeed, CIM will own the sidewalks and the streets. Where is that money coming from? A very large chunk (over $500 million) will come from a Tax Allocation District (TAD) that would otherwise go to already struggling public schools in Atlanta. The cruel irony is that communities that are being displaced are being forced to pay for their own gentrification through projects like the Gulch.

What adds insult to injury is that when Atlanta’s current mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, was running for office, she committed to support legally binding community benefits agreements between developers and the communities, but has not made good on her statements.

The current City of Atlanta’s Gulch proposals do not include: community benefits agreements; community workforce agreements; real affordable housing; anti-displacement policies; certified apprenticeship programs; and community planning processes.

The Gulch development is simply not in the interest of city residents, communities and taxpayers. This remains true under the current revised deal depsite the office of the mayor’s attempts to disguise what the project would cost residents.

In November 2018, in a midnight vote, the Atlanta City Council approved nearly $1.9 billion in public subsidies for the Gulch, pushing the project through with little public input. Depsite significant concerns from residents, the city moved forward with multiple ordinances authorizing the allocation of massive amounts of tax revenue for the development.

We must continue to speak out to against this project which will not benefit the public. We’re stronger than ever in the fight against unjust development and displacement. Will you stand with us? Learn more here:

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