Just so you know, Solano Ave. is not a nest of reactionary right-wingers. Everyone knows that Berkeley's Republican population lives in caves in the Oakland Hills (AKA Tora Bora West). And I can understand their concerns about homeless people - a broad category that includes drunks, lunatics, and itinerant gutter punks - given that Berkeley's sidewalks are already overflowing with layabouts and their leavings. But, Goodwill is not what attracts the homeless. Berkeley itself is the attractant. I'd say it's well known on the street that places like Berkeley and San Francisco promise relatively easy living if all you want to do all day is get drunk and cage for change. Loitering and drunk-in-public laws simply have no meaning when progressives are in charge of every level of government, and even if the voters become disgusted, there are homeless advocates who somehow manage to carry a greater voice in city government than the voters and merchants who are degraded by the presence of the homeless.
Goodwill isn't getting a whole lot of it in Berkeley.
Solano Avenue merchants are trying to stop the nonprofit giant from opening a thrift store in the upscale commercial district, saying it would be a magnet for the homeless, noisy delivery trucks and bargain-hungry shoppers not likely to patronize the area's boutique baby stores and Persian rug shops.
"We need specialty stores that will draw people here, and that's not going to be Goodwill," said Anni Ayers Forcum, owner of a jewelry store on Solano Avenue.
Goodwill Industries of the East Bay began looking to open a store at 1831 Solano Ave. last summer and asked the city for an administrative use permit.
The permit is still pending, and Goodwill has not yet signed a lease for the storefront that was once occupied by a dance studio and a video store.
That has not stopped some merchants from circulating anti-Goodwill petitions and asking the city to stop the project on the grounds that it would alter the character of the neighborhood.
"We have nothing against Goodwill, we just don't think they belong on upper Solano," said Gerry Ruskewicz, who works at Sottovoce women's clothing boutique. "We're worried about the homeless and people leaving bags of donations outside."
Blaming Goodwill for attracting the homeless is not only wrong, it's a jerk move and snobby as well. I've never seen a Goodwill that wasn't clean, well lit, and orderly, even when they are located in rougher areas like the Tenderloin. What Solano Ave merchants don't like are the down scale shoppers who might appear in their delicately balanced land of Persian Carpets and Whole Foods Markets.
That's liberals for you: always ready to fight for the little guy as long as the little guy stays in their own neighborhoods.