Atlanta Council affirms halt on building permits near Westside Park

A rendering of Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry. Credit: CITY OF ATLANTA

A rendering of Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry. Credit: CITY OF ATLANTA

The Atlanta City Council on Monday affirmed Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' six-month moratorium on new construction permits in neighborhoods surrounding the Westside Park — then went further.

The legislation unanimously approved requires a plan to provide the neighborhoods south of the park with vehicle access, an overall transportation plan for the neighborhoods and prioritizing the development of affordable housing on land the city owns.

Current plans only call for pedestrian access to the park’s southern border, sparking complaints that the city was favoring wealthier neighborhoods to the north.

The legislation mandates that the city identify a portion of public land inside the park or within a half-mile radius of it for a multi-family housing complex where half of the units are reserved for people earning 50 percent of the area’s median income — an amount equal to roughly $32,250.

It does not specify how many overall units would be in the development.

The legislation also seeks to update the city’s affordable housing plan so that it identifies funds to keep residents from being displaced and a way to encourage more grocery stores because the neighborhoods of Grove Park and Rockdale are considered food deserts.

It exempts construction permits for owner-occupied homes.

For years, city officials have promised a new multi-million dollar park that would benefit one of the city’s most impoverished areas.

But now a coalition of residents argue that the park is destroying the community it is supposed to help. There are reports of rents doubling and real estate taxes rising dramatically, forcing longtime "legacy" Atlanta residents out of their west side neighborhoods.

The outcry prompted Bottoms’ executive order last month prohibiting new construction permits in Grove Park and Rockdale.

Several residents told the council that the six-month moratorium represented a defining moment in the city’s history.

Grove Park resident Joann Hardy said she appreciated the moratorium, but she predicted that the park would displace so many people that it would become an oversized homeless camp.

“You all are trying put us out of our homes,” Hardy said. “You all are supposed to be making history, not repeating history.”

Others echoed that sentiment.

“There is a low-income housing crisis all over America where low income residents are being pushed out of the city’s core into the outskirts where there are less amenities and services for them,” said Justin Giboney, co-founder of City Roots ATL, an anti-displacement advocacy organization. “We want to make sure that this doesn’t happen in Atlanta.”