Data compiled by the Downtown Seattle Association—a group that has been outspoken in favor of city council member Tim Burgess' proposal to crack down on aggressive panhandling—contradicts Real Change director Tim Harris' suggestion, made at a public forum earlier this week, that downtown is made up mostly of "the affluent" who want to protect their "cathedrals of consumption" from "the dirt poor." Harris said, "If you’re rich living downtown, no matter how many moats you have, [being asked for money] is going to be unsettling.”

However, the average income downtown is actually substantially lower than in the city as a whole. Downtown residents make a median income of $35,806 per household, compared to $57,476 in Seattle as a whole. Rent for nonsubsidized apartments ($1,218 on average) is slightly higher than the citywide average ($1,146); however, 44 percent of the subsidized housing in the city is located in the center city, and 84 percent of the people living downtown are renters.

Yes, there are rich people living downtown (although fewer than anticipated a few years ago—See: the failure of projects like The 1, Eighth and Seneca, etc.)—but far more of downtown's residents are poor. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Burgess' proposal—including the critique that it simply won't work, because panhandlers don't chase people down the street and yell when cops are present—but the claim that the issue is one of rich downtown residents against the poor simply doesn't hold up to scrutiny.