Tag Archives: gentrification

Gentrification and City Planning

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak in front of an international group of city planners on gentrification in DC and surrounding areas. Many thanks to Frank Justice for the invite – this is an amazing and exciting opportunity. Here is my slide deck:

The idea behind this presentations was to start framing the conversation around gentrification differently, and start this thinking at the inception of the planning process. How do we create a more just and equitable living environment? How do we design with intention? How do we ensure that everyone gets to enjoy the benefit of increased prosperity in a given area? I co-paneled with Peter Taitan of the Urban Institute, who provided stats about historical changes in the DC population – and had the fun job of explaining the concept of “white flight” after looking at the dramatic fall in DC’s white population from 1960-1980.

The coolest part were the countries represented: Bhutan, Cambodia, Egypt, Finland, India, Lesotho, Macedonia, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Slovak Republic, Sweden, Trinadad and Tobago, Turkey, and Vietnam.

The questions were insightful and fascinating, as all of the attendees tried to understand how American governments allowed gentrification and displacement to happen. There was also a conversation (though all too short) on gentrification’s unintended consequences, since it has a very positive connotation in some fields. I learned that Egypt is staring down the barrel of a housing crisis that mirrors issues with long-time residents and property taxes, and that DC could probably learn a lot from India’s ideas on making the law match social will. I also learned that America’s regionalism is really puzzling to other nations – I never had to think through things like WHY every state and local government has different policies around housing and urban development and quite a few of the questions (like what are the national needs around housing) had me stumped. So all in all, an excellent conversation.

One thing I wish I had time to go into more was the Kirwan Institute’s discussion on opportunity mapping. The paper/presentation looks at neighborhoods as more than just residential or commercial use, and into the idea that neighborhoods are clusters of opportunity. I’ll try to do a full write up on this next week, as I’ve alluded to the report a few times over the past year, but never committed to a full write up.

Strongly Recommended Reading: The Kirwan Institute’s Paper on “Opportunity Mapping: Mapping the Geography of Opportunity for Public Interest Advocacy

Selected Conversations on Gentrification:

On The Rapid Gentrification of DC
The Gentrification Shuffle
The Gentrification Shuffle, Redux: Rebranding Anacostia
Gentrification has Nothing to Do with White Hipsters
More Notes on Gentrification
Another Perspective on Gentrification
I Colonize

And our full archive on gentrification is here.

On The Rapid Gentrification of DC

Ben's Next DoorThe New York Times recently published another take on gentrification in DC, focusing on the U and H street corridors:

[R]ace and class issues often overlap, and as the city’s demographics shift — the white population jumped by 31 percent in the past decade, while the black population declined by 11 percent — many less affluent blacks say they are feeling left out of the city’s improving fortunes. In April, the Census Bureau reported that Ward 8, in the city’s mostly poor and black southeast, had the highest jobless rate in the country.

“Change is good, but it kind of kicks some of us to the back of the bus,” said Shirley Parnell, a Department of Motor Vehicles worker who recently inherited her mother’s house near H Street, which came with $11,000 in back taxes. [...]

The Rev. Cheryl J. Sanders, the pastor at the Third Street Church of God, in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, argues that race is important, particularly in gentrifying neighborhoods like hers. Her plan to raze buildings on church property to make room for more parking was blocked by her local neighborhood council in a vote that was divided evenly along racial lines. Blacks voted in favor of the church, long the social heart of the black community, and whites, concerned with preservation, opposed it. City preservation authorities later struck a compromise.

At stake, Ms. Sanders said, is the face of the nation’s capital and who gets to shape it. That privilege has special meaning here in Washington, whose black-majority government has given jobs to African-Americans and a way into a middle class that they had long been shut out of.

“It’s a question of who has the power to determine what this community is going to look like,” she said. “I want to have a voice in that. I don’t want to be told to ‘sit down and shut up while we cast the vision for the city.’ ”

Sanders hit the nail on the head. The vision of the city is essentially being dictated to longtime residents from outside interests – or, worse, from the folks who have settled here while Obama is in office, and don’t see DC as home. The newer visions for the city are heavily cosmetic and heavily skewed to a younger, moneyed class – which is causing tensions. As we’ve spoken about gentrification many times before (see the links at the bottom of the article) and that tough bridge dividing long time residents and the new development.

It’s easier to like things like new establishments, nicer streets, rising property values and many lifers understand why it’s important to woo a larger tax base. But it’s hard to like changes that just feel straight up exclusionary. Continue reading

Welcome to East Willy B! [Culturelicious]

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Sometimes there’s love in laughter. And the cast and crew bringing the new web series East Willy B have a lot of love for the real-life neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn, and (most) of the fictional characters.

The series’ heart is Willie Reyes, Jr. (Flaco Navaja) the 30-something Puerto Rican-proud bar owner who inherited the business from his dad, including the barfly crushing on him, Giselle (Caridad “La Bruja” de la Cruz). Wille is trying to keep his bar, which has served as the nabe’s hangout and nerve center, from closing down due gentrification in the form of his ex-girlfriend Maggie (April Hernandez) and her new white beau (and Willie’s longtime rival), Albert (Danny Hoch), and the incoming white hipsters looking for cheap(er) rent.

Transcript of the premiere episode after the jump.

Continue reading

Why Do I Hate Steve Zahn’s Davis in ‘Treme’?

by Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, originally published at Televisual


HBO’s Treme is growing into an intricate and well-written show! While it lacks the political pizazz of The Wire, it makes up for it by giving us characters we instantly care about — or at least I care about. I think it might yet be a great drama, despite my reservations!

But I have one problem: Davis McAlary (played by Steve Zahn). I hate this guy. I realized why this week.

GET THOSE GENTRIFYING GAYS!

First, let me recount a situation from the last episode, which made me realize my feelings.

Davis has been blasting music from his apartment window into his neighbors’ house, mostly jazz and hip hop. This week, the gay yuppie neighbors confront him about it. “Why are you being so nasty about this? You have a problem with gay people?” Davis says no, he loves gays (see, we’re supposed to like Davis). Why does Davis hate the guppies? It’s a really original argument**: “You moved into the Treme. You tear the place up. You put in your birdcage, your flower gardens and you don’ t have a fucking clue as to where the fuck you are living.”

See, the gays are sill gentrifiers who want to “historically preserve” homes but don’t know anything about the neighborhood whose property rates their raising! “It’s called gentrification. This is the Treme dude! The most musically important black neighborhood in America,” says Davis, as he starts listing artists that lived in the block. He asks the gays: “did you know that?”

“I know all about the Treme,” older gay insists. Wait, is this a different breed of gentrifying gay?

But Davis keeps on listing artists. Finally the gay person rattles off the name of a jazz great too. See, the guppies grew up in New Orleans. “We’re as much New Orleans as you are.” Nuance?

Caught off guard, Davis goes on to accuse the gays of complaining to the cops about his stereo and other music in the ‘hood being too loud.

The gays says they’re innocent: “We have never once called the cops,” the older gay says, believably — and inexplicably — I think.

Davis goes on, he doesn’t believe them. “You live in the Treme. Gotta deal with that shit.” Continue reading

The Gentrification Shuffle, Redux: Rebranding Anacostia

by Latoya Peterson

Anacostia Shops

“Gentrification is coming,” says Morgan, “and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

What’s the difference between East of the River and River East?  According to a March 3rd article in the Washington City Paper, it depends on who you are.

Anacostia is located in South East, DC, made notorious for high levels of crime in violence in the 1990s. The area, currently 92% black and one of the most impoverished areas in DC, is often referred to by its residents as “East of the River.” This stands in contrast to the area of North West referred to as “West of the Park,” which holds a high concentration of wealth. Longtime residents often use those two descriptors to explain the flow of class and politics around DC. Those East of the River tend to get the short end of the stick, with horrible support from the city government. Those West of the Park receive all the benefits privilege can afford.

So, when new residents began to flock to the promise of cheap housing and convenient access to downtown Washington, they decided that the old image of Anacostia was ultimately detrimental to the neighborhood:

[T]here’s a constituency of folks who don’t like what “east of the river” connotes, and they’ve created an organization in part to address the matter. Members of “River East Emerging Leaders”—note the lower-case, hipoisie-appeasing acronym “r.e.e.l.”—have a new name for the place they call home. For these people, it’s “River East.” The rationale for the appellation comes straight from r.e.e.l.’s Web site: “Many committee members recalled conversations with friends or news stories characterizing ‘East of the River’ as dirty, dangerous, crime-ridden and poor. ‘River East’ was a new way to rebrand the area and inspire a sense of pride.”

Older residents fear that being “rebranded” is a way to remove them from the neighborhood. And their fears are well founded – often, projects to improve older neighborhoods tend to displace the lifelong residents there, in favor of wealthier entrants. Continue reading

Thoughtless and Racist

By Guest Contributor quadmoniker, originally published at PostBourgie

I’m going to be vague on location here to avoid giving away too much, but I had a friend who just had to interview a group of homeowners in a portion of the northeast that’s very wealthy and smugly liberal. The group was concerned about a mixed-income housing unit going through the zoning approval process. These folks were going to get some new neighbors, and they didn’t like it. They actually feared it, and said so on the record.

Officially, the group was upset about increasing traffic, and that the plan called for some units’ backyards to face the street, forcing them to look at backyard things like playsets and grills. Zoning officials addressed those concerns, but residents were still not happy. When a group of a dozen neighbors called my friend over to their swanky townhouse complex, which is on the border between well-off and less well-off sections of the city, some unofficial objections leaked out through the aggressive use of pronouns.

I mean, why do they all have to live in this side of the city. Right?

Last week, this same town filled all three available board of education spots with candidates who came out against “heterogeneous classrooms,” which are experimental classes in some local middle schools that do away with the former method of grouping kids by ability. Ability is assessed at way too tender an age, and in suburban schools the achievement gap by and large splits black and Latino students from their white peers. The idea used to be that kids learned best in similarly abled groups, but it turns out that idea hurts lower-achieving students and does little if anything to help higher-achieving ones. This parental fear that lower-achieving kids are somehow going to infect the higher-scoring ones with their stupidity has no merit. I can’t say for certain that heterogeneous classrooms were the deciding factors in the elections, but it was a big issue during the campaign and those who supported them lost.

Continue reading

More Notes on Gentrification

by Latoya Peterson

I came across an interesting piece on Boing Boing where the author is trying to reconcile his gentrified reality.

In “Your Money or Your Life: A Lesson on the Front Stoop,” Douglas Rushkoff recounts being mugged in his neighborhood. The experience jarred him for a variety of reasons:

In the meantime, I posted a note about my strange and frightening experience to the Park Slope Parents list–a rather crunchy Internet community of moms, food co-op members, and other leftie types dedicated to the health and well- being of their families and their decidedly progressive, gentrifying neighborhood. It seemed the responsible thing to do, and I suppose I also expected some expression of sympathy and support.

Amazingly, the very first two emails I received were from people angry that I had posted the name of the street on which the crime had occurred. Didn’t I realize that this publicity could adversely affect all of our property values? The “sellers’ market” was already difficult enough! With a famous actor reportedly leaving the area for Manhattan, does Brooklyn’s real estate market need more bad press? And this was before the real estate crash.

I was stunned. Had it really come to this? Did people care more about the market value of their neighborhood than what was actually taking place within it? Besides, it didn’t even make good business sense to bury the issue. In the long run, an open and honest conversation about crime and how to prevent it should make the neighborhood safer. Property values would go up in the end, not down. So these homeowners were more concerned about the immediate liquidity of their town houses than their long-term asset value — not to mention the actual experience of living in them. And these were among the wealthiest people in New York, who shouldn’t have to be worrying about such things. What had happened to make them behave this way?

Eventually, Rushkoff’s pondering leads him to start questioning the nature of displacement in neighborhoods:

Why, I wondered aloud on my blog, was I struggling to make $4,500-per-month rent on a two- bedroom, fourth- floor walk-up in this supposedly “hip” section of Brooklyn, when I could just as easily get mugged somewhere else for a lot less per month? Was my willingness to participate in this runaway market part of the problem?

The detectives who took my report drove the point home. One of them drew a circle on a map of Brooklyn. “Inside this circle is where the rich white people from Manhattan are moving. That’s the target area. Hunting ground. Think about it from your mugger’s point of view: quiet, tree-lined streets of row houses, each worth a million or two, and inhabited by the rich people who displaced your family. Now, you live in or around the projects just outside the circle. Where would you go to mug someone?”

Back on the World Wide Web, a friend of mine–another Park Slope writer–made an open appeal for my family to stay in Brooklyn. He saw “the Slope” as a mixed-use neighborhood now reaching the “peak of livability” that the legendary urban anthropologist Jane Jacobs idealized. He explained how all great neighborhoods go through the same basic process: Some artists move into the only area they can afford–a poor area with nothing to speak of. Eventually, there are enough of them to open a gallery. People start coming to the gallery in the evenings, creating demand for a coffeehouse nearby, and so on. Slowly but surely, an artsy store or two and a clique of hipsters “pioneer” the neighborhood until there’s significant sidewalk activity late into the night, making it safer for successive waves of incoming businesses and residents.

Of course, after the city’s newspaper “discovers” the new trendy neighborhood, the artists are joined and eventually replaced by increasingly wealthy but decidedly less hip young professionals, lawyers, and businesspeople–but hopefully not so many that the district completely loses its “flavor.” Investment increases, the district grows bigger, and everyone is happier and wealthier.

Still, what happens to the people who lived there from the beginning–the ones whom the police detective was talking about? The “natives”? This process of gentrification does not occur ex nihilo.

While I liked his reasoning on his own choices and culpability later on in the piece, I kept getting stuck where he describes the process. Is gentrification really that simple?

Then I realized what was bothering me: the presentation of gentrification as an organic process, starting with young starving artists (who then must be compelled to open a gallery, what else do artists do?) and ending with a more moneyed populace coming to chase the newly cool neighborhood. Then, the cycle is supposed to repeat.

But where is the role of the state in this discussion? Continue reading

Gentrification has Nothing to Do with White Hipsters

by Guest Contributor M. Dot, originally published at Model Minority

Last year, it took me roughly six weeks to earn $5,800. This is significant because during the late eighties and early nineties my mother received public assistance, subsequently she and I lived off of $5,800 for an entire year.

Yes, $5,800 per year.

Given these facts, last year, I thought a lot about the ways in which I could personally serve as a gentrifying factor in my hometown of Oakland, California. Often times, in popular media, there is very little talk of gentrification, or if there is, it is discussed in vague terms, such as”those hipsters are moving in” or “those white people are moving in” or “this area is becoming nicer.”

Gentrification has very little to do with white hipsters moving into the ‘hood and everything to do with process of people who earn higher incomes moving into neighborhoods where folks reside who are earning comparatively lower incomes.

If I am a Black women, in Bed-stuy, East Oakland or the South Side of Chicago, and I earn $60K per year and I am willing to
pay $1000 for an apartment that everyone else, who earns between $10-15K/year, pays $500 per month, then I am
serving as a force of gentrification in this neighborhood. It bears being stated that I in may ways I am a gentrifying force in the same way that a white person earning $60K who moves into the same community.

What becomes pivotal is my willingness to be engaged with the community that I have moved into.

A more sustainable, honest and comprehensive conversation about gentrification would involve a discussion of the income of the gentrifiers and not just the race of the gentrifiers. Continue reading