Government Accountability Project Asheville

LATEST UPDATE

GAP Report for 6/10/24 (updated)

The Asheville City School Board met Monday, June 10th, at 5 pm at 85 Mountain Street in Asheville. You can watch a recording of the meeting online here. You can see the agenda here.

The Community Reparations Commission met Monday, June 10th, from 6:30 to 8 pm. Meeting materials are available here. This meeting can be watched at the City’s YouTube page.

The Asheville City Council meets this Tuesday, June 11th, at 5 pm. You can attend the meeting at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Banquet Hall at 87 Haywood Street in Asheville. You can watch the meeting online at this link.The full agenda for the meeting is here.

URGENT

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PROBLEMATIC

  • 0 Items

CONCERNS

  • 1 Item

POSITIVE

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EMAIL TEMPLATES

Use our prepared email template to take action on this week’s item.

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Things of concern, more information needed

Asheville City School Board Meeting – consideration of an easement to facilitate a bike trail adjacent to Asheville Middle School (easement draft)

Update (6/11/24): This item was pulled from the agenda at the start of the meeting on 6/10/24. We will provide further updates on next steps when we receive additional information. We are no longer suggesting that folks email the School Board using the template below.

The situation we reported on last week remains largely unchanged: AVL Unpaved, a partnership between Asheville on Bikes, Pisgah Area SORBA, and Connect Buncombe, is petitioning for an easement from Asheville City Schools on some property adjacent to the Middle School. They want to build bike trails near the school, as explained in this memo: “These trails will provide access to nature and recreation opportunities for our residents and will be especially beneficial to the Asheville Middle School after-school bike program. Having natural surface trails close to campus provides an opportunity that is otherwise infeasible, as the transport of students and bikes to other trails in the afternoons has proven to be too difficult.” You can see the proposed bike trail map here and read the current proposed draft of the easement here. We posted much of this information last week in advance of a School Board Work Session; now the matter is coming up for a vote at the School Board Meeting tonight.

In general, we are in favor of increased biking opportunities for young people, and especially for young Black and Latine people. However, local community members have serious concerns about this plan because of its close proximity to the houses on Charles and Timothy Street. This is a historically Black neighborhood that is experiencing gentrification – Black folks currently make up approximately 50% of the households. These residents worry that building these trails so close to their homes will lead to further gentrification and displacement.

We think their concerns are valid. The Charles and Timothy Street area has been designated as vulnerable to gentrification in the City’s Missing Middle Housing Study, and there is a lot of evidence from other parts of the country that links the building of bike trails and other urban greenways to increased gentrification. (You can read more about this phenomenon in these two articles: Why Greenway Parks Cause Greater Gentrification and What Bike Lanes Taught Me About Racism.)

We reported on this issue last Monday and Thursday (you can read our original report here and the report back here.) Here were our concluding thoughts in the report back last week, which we think are still pertinent.

We don’t know, and would suggest that no one involved in this process can know, answers to the following questions:

  • Will building a bike path behind Charles Street exacerbate the challenges that the neighborhood is already experiencing regarding crime in the area (as local residents fear)?
  • Will it improve these issues (as AVL Unpaved leader Mike Sule suggests)?
  • Will building a greenway exacerbate the gentrification and displacement problems in the neighborhood, or is it merely a reflection of gentrification that’s already occurred?

Given that these questions are not immediately answerable, we would suggest that the most racially equitable path forward is for City officials to give greater weight to the preferences and concerns of those most proximate to a proposed development (residents of Charles and Timothy Street).. This is especially true because of the history of marginalization here: Black folks in the South French Broad neighborhood, like those in other parts of the City, have consistently had their needs deprioritized or ignored so that some project that promised a supposed greater good – such as the urban renewal projects of the last century – could move forward. When can we expect that trend to begin to reverse in the direction of racial justice?

Things to do

Update (6/11/24): As noted above, we are no longer suggesting that folks email the School Board using the template below.

If you haven’t already, you can email the Asheville City School Board (or feel free to send a second email, if you feel called to do so.) You might ask them to prioritize the concerns of local residents in their deliberations over whether to grant this easement to AVL Unpaved. It seems possible to build bike trails that the children can use without extending them into the Charles and Timothy Street area, which could put that neighborhood at risk of further gentrification.

We have prepared an email template below that you can use to contact the Asheville City School Board.

EMAIL TEMPLATE TEXT

Update (6/11/24): As noted above, we are no longer suggesting that folks email the School Board using the template below.

You can send an email to the Asheville City School Board by filling out the form below. Our email tool will send an individually addressed email to each recipient, and enable us to track how many emails were sent overall in the campaign. If you prefer to write your own email, you can copy and paste (and adapt) our template text. We ask that you send us a copy (cc: or bcc:, your choice) at info@gapavl.org so we can better track how many emails were sent.

To: george.sieburg@acsgmail.net, amy.ray@acsgmail.net, james.carter@acsgmail.net, liza.kelly@acsgmail.net, rebecca.strimer@acsgmail.net, sarah.thornburg@acsgmail.net, jesse.warren@acsgmail.net

CC: or BCC: info@gapavl.org

Subject: Neighborhood concerns about Bacoate easement

Dear Members of the Asheville City School Board,

I’m writing out of concern regarding the proposed construction of bike paths adjacent to the Charles and Timothy Street neighborhood, which is tied to the easement request you’ve received from AVL Unpaved for land adjacent to Asheville Middle School. While I appreciate the need for students to have access to bike paths, there is evidence that establishing bike paths and other greenways can lead to greater gentrification and displacement in vulnerable areas, which is an understandable concern for this historically Black community. I encourage you to propose that these developers put together a new bike path plan – one that doesn’t put this neighborhood at risk.

Thanks for your leadership,

LAST WEEK’S UPDATE

GAP Report for 6/3/24

The Buncombe County Commission meets this Tuesday, June 4th, 2024 at 5 pm. You can attend the meeting at 200 College Street, Room 326 in downtown Asheville. You can watch the meeting online via Buncombe County's Facebook page. The full agenda is here. The Community...

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