Downtown residents have been bombarded in recent days with four-page leaflets informing them of "important information regarding your neighborhood!" The big news, according to the flyers: "Plymouth Housing is proposing another government funded project in our neighborhood!"
Inside, the slick full-color flyer shows a map of social service agencies and low-income housing downtown, with the caption, “High Concentration of Low-Income Housing, Social Services, and Shelters Along the Third Avenue Corridor.”
The project in question is low-income housing (and is, indeed, partly government funded) for some of the most stable residents in Plymouth's other housing projects—people who don't need the kind of intensive services Plymouth provides at some of its other apartment buildings, Plymouth policy director Tara Connor says.
The flyers appear to be the work of the owners and employees of Swifty Printing, a print shop on the corner of Third and Virginia downtown. Contacted by phone, Swifty co-owner George Nikfard denied sending the flyers, but added, "The neighborhood is so dangerous. It's not really a safe place to come to work and walk."
Citing increasing drug problems downtown, Nikfard continued, "I don't hate people who are homeless. I think you should help people." But, Nikfard says, Plymouth could pay for far more units of housing—the proposed building would include 66 apartments—if it moved outside the center of downtown.
In an email, Lori Nikfard expressed similar concerns, saying additional housing for low-income people would only lead to more crime in the neighborhood. "I believe the City of Seattle does not have enough low income housing or services for the homeless. However, I do not think that not enough thought has been put into to the design of how we accomplish the goal to help the homeless.
"We did not oppose [previous low-income housing] projects" in the neighborhood, Lori Nikfard continued. "However, this is unfortunately how this location became a 'hot spot'" for crime. ... Our streets can not [bear] all this weight. ...
"I hope that the streets can be safe again with care and shelter being provided for and accountability for those eager to take the government funds to 'help' the homeless."
Plymouth's Connor says it's ironic that the Nikfards are opposing the group's housing development, given that it will actually replace a homeless day center run by Compass; if you believe homeless people are the problem (Connor, obviously, doesn't), surely stable low-income residents are an improvement. Noting that the new building will serve as a kind of "graduation" facility for people who don't need lots of services, Connor says, "They're already neighbors of everybody down there. ... [Opponents] are very misinformed."
Connor says Plymouth has been deluged with calls from agitated downtown residents wondering why they're being subjected to an anti-Plymouth leaflet campaign. "We're getting calls from people who are very annoyed by it," Connor says.