Recap: City of Atlanta Roundtable with District 5’s Councilmember Bakhtiari

City of Atlanta Advisory Roundtable

Speaker: Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari, District 5, City of Atlanta

December 6th, 2023

On Wednesday, December 6th, 2023, the Council for Quality Growth welcomed Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari to December’s City of Atlanta Roundtable. Thank you Councilmember for your time, Selig Enterprises for hosting us, and Jacobs for sponsoring the meeting.

As the councilmember for Atlanta’s District 5, Liliana Bakhtiari represents Sweet Auburn, Old Fourth Ward, North Grant Park, Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, Kirkwood, East Atlanta, East Lake, Lake Claire, North Ormewood, Edgewood, Glenwood Park, and parts of Downtown. She grew up in the district and attended Georgia State University, but has also spent considerable time abroad working in crisis relief.

Councilmember Bakhtiari has prioritized addressing District 5’s housing crisis and homelessness. While many people would agree that housing has become too expensive for the average family, there is also a stigma with the word “density,” Bakhtiari said. She discussed how this stigma is understandable because Atlanta and District 5 have lacked a detailed master plan, allowing some developers to build housing wherever they can and without much consideration for the bigger picture. She therefore believes Atlanta has an advantage, arguing that since we are late to the game in development planning, “we can learn from the mistakes other cities have made.”

“Intentional density” is the Councilmember’s solution. Her team has created a “housing deficit map” that, simply put, considers the gap between current housing and the future’s estimated need for housing. Bakhtiari uses this map to guide dialogue with her constituents, clarifying how much housing needs to be built in their communities over the next 20 years, and asking how exactly they would like to see these developments come into in their neighborhoods. These conversations are important to the Councilmember because she can relay community input to Atlanta’s city planners when they consider what’s best for arterial roads, walkability, and the balance between large and small businesses.

To combat homelessness, Bakhtiari focuses on drug dealers targeting the homeless population. Her team’s efforts so far have been very successful, she said, because they have hired Neighborhood Managers who walk their communities every day and report suspicious activity to APD. The Councilmember’s team has also trained retail staff on scenarios for encountering hostile people. These initiatives go hand-in-hand with intentional density, according to Bakhtiari, because if crime and homelessness are hurting a community’s economy, small businesses will have to leave and more negligent landowners will buy up the land, furthering the problem. Councilmember Bakhtiari also mentioned that we badly need a Public Safety Training Center; without it, the City would lose insurance accreditations and taxes would increase for constituents

Looking forward, Councilmember Bakhtiari urges Atlanta to 1) consider more innovative development approaches and 2) engage in more conversation with the community.