A personal story on West End hair salon that closed rather than pay rent hike

By David Pendered

Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms talked Tuesday about her mother closing her West End hair salon when faced with a rent hike. Bottoms told the story while asking the Atlanta City Council to create zones where tenants and owners can’t be displaced because of rising property values.

Advocates of West End worked hard to create a sense of community. A rent hike force Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms to close her nearby salon. File/Credit: Donita Pendered A timeline in the brick sidewalk in front of Mall West End reminds pedestrians of the neighborhood's history. File/Credit: Donita Pendered

Advocates of West End worked hard to create a sense of community. A rent hike prompted Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms’ mother to close her nearby hair salon 20 years ago. File/Credit: Donita Pendered

The lease on her mom’s salon was almost up in 1994. The landlord raised the rent, Bottoms said. Rent hikes were common in the years leading up to the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

“She had to make a decision about whether she could keep her business,” Bottoms said of her mother. “She could close her business because she didn’t have to feed her [grown] kids anymore. But it was a decision she had to make because of rising rent.”

Bottoms said she and her husband faced a similar situation when they went looking to buy a home in Atlanta in 1995. They wanted a house that was newer, but not expensive. That proved to be a tall order to fill.

“Twenty years later, it has evolved into a much larger issue, as it relates to people who aren’t financially able, and whether Atlanta will be a place where everyone can live,” Bottoms said.

Bottoms spoke to the council’s Community Development Committee. She was presenting her resolution that asks the city’s planning department to research and report on “displacement free zones.” Bottoms announced last month she is running for mayor in the 2017 campaign.

The paper impressed the committee to the point that six members asked to add their names as co-sponsors. Councilmember Kwanza Hall, the seventh member, was absent.

The committee voted unanimously to approve the paper. Because of the unanimous vote, the council is to approve the paper at the Dec. 5 meeting, barring unforeseen circumstances.

Keisha Lance Bottoms

Keisha Lance Bottoms

Committee Chair Andre Dickens spoke in favor of the paper.

“We want to make sure Atlanta remains inclusive,” Dickens said. “Particularly to those who have sewn deep seeds and roots here. We hope we won’t have this displacement existing.”

Dickens has introduced a package of legislation that aims to increase the number of homes along the Atlanta BeltLine that are affordable to folks who don’t earn the salaries of computer programmers and other top wage earners. Dickens’ package is slated for discussion in 2017.

“The Old Fourth Ward was affordable once upon a time,” Dickens said. “Now you have to have a masters degree, or a PhD, or sell a body part to live over there.”

After the affirmative vote, Councilmember Michael Julian Bond characterized Bottom’s proposal as representative of Atlanta’s aspirations.

“The city too busy to hate can’t be the city too busy to notice,” Bond said. “Atlanta is the city it is because of great intentionality and vision. … If we want to have a great city to pass on to our children, we have to do it intentionally.”

(Note to readers: The legislation that is available here,  16-R-4683, was amended to remove the notion of rent caps. The amended version also states that the planning department is not limited to approaches cited in the paper. The amendment was not available online late Tuesday.)

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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