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Why this SoDo business is giving up on Seattle, moving out

(City of Seattle)
LISTEN: Erin Goodman of the SODO BIA sees rising crime affecting businesses in the area

One SoDo business says it’s had enough of Seattle’s problems and is moving out of town. Owner Mark Benezra claims that other businesses in town feel the same way.

“I’m moving my business out of Seattle city limits, not only because of the homeless situation, but because of a variety of factors; definitely the tone and tenor of the city hasn’t helped the situation,” Benezra told the Dori Monson Show.

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The “tone and tenor” from Seattle officials, according to Benezra, is a toleration of the homeless problem and poor treatment of  local businesses. He’s witnessed the homeless issue get worse around his business, Buffalo Industries, located in SoDo since the 1940s.

“I haven’t seen the area look as bad as it looks currently, the homeless problem has become an issue,” he said. “Not just for us, but for all the surrounding businesses. We also own some other properties, as well, down here and it’s a constant problem.”

At Buffalo Industries, people often sneak into the loading dock area where heavy machinery is operating, Benezra said. They go through the trash and he says they frequently kick people out. They also find discarded syringes on the ground.

“We periodically have people defecating in our parking lot; that’s always not a good look,” he said.

Erin Goodman with the SoDo Business Improvement Area says it’s not just Buffalo Industries.

“We have heard in the last month … that while crime in the south precinct overall is down about 5 percent, crime in the SoDo District itself is up about 20 percent,” Goodman said. “This tracks with what we are hearing from businesses as well.”

Goodman says that about 45,000 people go to work in SoDo every day.

Seattle and SoDo business

When it comes to the city, Benezra says, they don’t get much of a response. What businesses do get, he says, are more taxes. Not to mention rumors of new legislation that will allow RVs to park for extended periods of time — RVs that often linger in front of their businesses.

“SoDo is dealing with this situation in numbers that other neighborhoods can’t even imagine,” Goodman said. “When I came into my position in 2014, we had about 75-100 RVs in SoDo. They did a count about a month ago – in SoDo and parts of Georgetown – there are over 350 RVs.”

Benezra said that SoDo businesses like his have told the city what they experience.

“I just feel that the city isn’t being very receptive to listening to what the business community is saying,” Benezra said. “It’s pushed from the top down, taxing us. And it’s not just about the money, it’s about the general feel that the city is pushing on the business community to solve the problems, and they are creating safety issues for us … it took a murder, I believe, underneath the viaduct, right across the street from our building to sweep out the hundred plus tents that were there. Now it looks really nice, and we aren’t having nearly the problems we were having with 120 tents there. But the problem remains.”

“One thing that I’d love to see is the city involving the business community more in some of these decisions and not looking at us as the enemy, but as part of the solution … we are not being invited to the dance,” he said. “Let us be involved, we can work together. The way it’s coming down now, it just feels like big brother is stepping on us.”

Goodman also said it feels like businesses are looked at as the “enemy.”

“SoDo employees come from all over the region. They represent every council district, they come from outside the city limits … they deserve to come and work in a safe and clean environment. We are not talking about something they don’t want to see. We are talking about having to walk and be harassed. Employees now have, as part of their job description, cleaning up needles.”

She says that her organization has had to provide classes to teach businesses how to dispose of found syringes.

Benezra says he’s in the process of moving Buffalo Industries out of Seattle. And he argues that it’s not just his business, or customers, that share his feelings.

“They are picking on the wrong people,” Benezra said. “… I just wonder about what people who are coming here to go on cruises think; when they come in town and see all the encampments off to the side of the freeway? Are they going to want to continue to travel here when they have to go through a lot of waste, and aggressive panhandling all over the city? People can make choices about where they want to travel as well. We are spending a lot of money on a new convention center … how likely are we to continue to have those conventions when our city, frankly, looks like a garbage dump?”

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