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TWTC: Developments on Atlanta’s Beltline

Rhonda and I have gotten to talking, and it turns out that despite living on opposite sides of the country, our neighborhoods have a lot in common. She lives in the Bayview area of San Francisco, CA and I’m living in Edgewood, just east of downtown in Atlanta, GA.

We thought it would make for a cool project to talk about the ups and downs of trying to live sustainably in our different cities.

This week, we’re taking a look at development and how it’s affecting our areas. Later on this week, Rhonda is going to do a brief overview of the planned redevelopment project for Bayview, specifically focusing on the 4000 page Environmental Impact Report.

Here in Atlanta, I’m digging in to see how the economy is affecting development of the 22-mile Beltline and taking a look at what the candidates in our upcoming December 1st runoff election have to say about the proposed system of light rail, trails, and planned development.

The Funding
Despite relying on about $1.7 billion in funding from real estate taxes, officials are sounding hopeful about the Beltline’s future, even after the housing crash. Luz Borrero, the city’s deputy chief operating officer said:

There is no doubt that we are going through a temporary period of time where we will need to reassess. But we believe that ultimately the project will have the funding it needs to deliver successfully on each one of its elements.

Ethan Davidson, a spokesman for the Beltline, said that the Beltline’s initial plan was designed to withstand economic ups and downs.

It sounds like the Beltline will need to look for other funding sources now that property taxes are down. In reassessing the situation, some parts of the project’s time line may get pushed back, but nothing official has been released yet. It’s heartening to see that there are projects still in progress.

The Candidates
According to the AJC Political Insider, here are what the two runoff candidates have to say about the Beltline:

Councilwoman Mary Norwood: Said she’ll consider another bond referendum to fund sidewalk improvements. Norwood also spoke of a system of jitneys and trams to help residents get to transit on the Beltline if they don’t live close to it.

Former state senator Kasim Reed: Said he’d consider issuing bonds to pay for sidewalk improvements and push for allowing residents to vote whether they want to create a 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects.

There was some discussion about Reed’s one percent sales tax idea at the Beltline Mayoral Form back in September According to Ken Edelstein at Atlanta Unsheltered, “if a regional sales tax for transit, which he’s been pushing, is approved next year by the state Legislature, the Beltline could get the funding it needs to speed construction.”

Norwood has talked about finding funding for transit by trimming the budget in other places. She said she wants to find the cash by cutting wasteful spending in “that abyss that is our city government” and through “quality of life bonds.”

Edgewood’s neighborhood organization sent a list of questions to the runoff candidates, including this one about the Beltline: Do you feel that the beltline development is placing a proper priority for light rail in its plans? Do you think that more effort should be put into getting the light rail in sooner than currently scheduled? Please explain why.


I support building out the Beltline and I support light rail plans. Unfortunately, it is not likely that there will be any federal or state money available in the near future for any light rail projects.


I believe, and have repeatedly said publicly, we need to accelerate the transit component of the Beltline, lest we risk it remaining an unfulfilled promise 20 years from now. There is a chicken and egg type problem in that we cannot, for our neighborhoods’ sake, tolerate much more density in already developed areas without new transit, but public funds are short, which hinders the provision of transit without the density to pay for it. We must seek new investment options for the transit component, including from the state and private investors.

So what do you guys think? It’s sounding to me like Kasim Reed has a more specific plan and positive outlook about the Beltline, but maybe I’m reading this all wrong!

Image Credits:
Remixed image using Creative Commons photos from: m.john16 and paytonc