Gentrification and Theatre
This weekend I and the Help were invited to see the play Clybourne Park at the Woolly Mammoth Theater down in Penn Quarter. According to the theater’s website
on the drama and the promotional information:
Clybourne Park explores the evolution of racism and gentrification over the past half-century in America by imagining the conflicts surrounding the purchase of a house in a white neighborhood in the 1950s by an African American family, and then the re-design of that house in “post-racial” 2009. While Clybourne Park is a Chicago neighborhood, the play makes no direct reference to its geography. Woolly believes Clybourne Park is highly reflective of the changes happening to neighborhoods throughout DC and across the metropolitan area (and urban America).
And it is a riff off of Raisin in the Sun
with the first half of the play taking place in the home of the family selling the home (that we assume) the RITS’ Af-Am Younger family. I thought that first half started a little slow.
I really appreciated the director’s commentary after the performance at a reception. On one point as urban DC people living in 2010 we know how to judge the characters of 1959 in the first half of the play, saying with confidence Mr. Lindner, from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, is wrong in arguing against selling to the Black family. However in the second half, taking place in what I gather to be 2009, that moral surety is not there and issues of race and gentrification are tied up in arguments about ‘history’ and architecture.
Since the Help and I are both in the History field, we pondered the ‘history’ part for a while. We also pondered the racial and chronological make up of the audience at that performance. History is messy and we found it interesting that one of the Af-Am characters was pushing the idea that the desired preserved history started with the integration of the neighborhood, not its establishment or previous ethnic makeup. Also when the Help (the whitest white guy who was ever white) pointed out the demographics of the audience which had a smattering of Afro-Americans, I mentioned audiences like my Aunt and her friends tend to favor Tyler Perryish morality plays over at the Warner Theatre.
The second half of the play does try to press a lot of gentrification topics into 6 characters. Two topics did ring a bell in relation to stories and events witnessed in the Shaw neighborhood, history and racial defensiveness. The Shaw historical narrative isn’t wrong, it just leaves a whole lot out that isn’t particularly marketable in the larger “Heritage” theme. And one character reminded me so much of a former neighbor who was one of those isolated* white families who moved to Shaw, who tried to be a good neighbor but had to walk on eggshells every time they interacted with their Black neighbors because even the banal issues were hidden roadside bombs of pent up racial anger.
UPDATE- Theater Discount
Readers of this blog can see any performance of Clybourne Park for only $15. Use this numeric code 789 when arranging tickets. Reservations can be made online (woollymammoth.net), over the phone (202-393-3939), or in person (641 D Street NW, Washington, DC). Clybourne Park runs March 15 – April 11, 2010. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm and 7pm. Questions? Visit woollymammoth-dot-net or email Rachel Grossman, Connectivity Director, Rachel-at-Woollymammoth.net
*Isolated in that they were the only white people on the whole block.
Labels: Art, gentrification
CDC comes up with something dumb
(Hattip to Frozen Tropics
The CDC (Center for Disease Control), which I would like to trust for their timely health information has put something out that erodes that trust. Eroded, because Health Effects of Gentrification
, is stupid.
I don't deny that displacement because of neighborhood demographic changes is stressful and stress impacts ones health. According to the CDC:
These special populations are at increased risk for the negative consequences of gentrification. Studies indicate that vulnerable populations typically have shorter life expectancy; higher cancer rates; more birth defects; greater infant mortality; and higher incidence of asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In addition, increasing evidence shows that these populations have an unequal share of residential exposure to hazardous substances such as lead paint.
So is the CDC saying that gentrification, not poverty and poor housing is the cause of shorter life expectancy and asthma? Are all those new middle class residents moving in and fixing up vacant and run down houses polluting the air with lead paint? Is that what the CDC is saying? Because in poor neighborhoods in no danger of gentrification or reinvestment are healthy, lead free, utopias where the Popeye's serve low fat vitamin rich meals and the corner mart has fresh fruit and lettuces. Oh wait, no. Those poorer neighborhoods in the other part of the District (think outside of NW) aren't healthier because there is little to no gentrification there.
I see there was nothing for 'Health Effects of Poverty' because gentrification is a nice way to distract attention away from chronically poor neighborhoods.
Labels: gentrification, health
Gentrification of Sesame Street
Sesame Street gentrified
and I blame Elmo. Others blame Elmo
as well, showing how this annoyingly voiced red hyper monster destroyed SS single-handedly by taking up a huge portion of screen time.
When I was a kid, we had two channels, NBC and PBS. So after I got home and Mom finished watching Days of Our Lives, I turned the channel to the PBS station to watch Sesame Street. People walked along, bumped into each other, started conversations, or ventured over to the independently owned shop "Mr. Hooper's" and hung out, as people do here. Kim Wee as Mr. Hooper, because that's the only small shop I hang out at, if I am hanging out anywhere. But unlike here, SS isn't as trashy. We have more Oscars, and more guys in the alley (but unlike the SS characters they aren't trying to give us a good deal on the letter "A").
Turnover part 2
This map is of houses sold on these few blocks between 1999 and this year below $500K. There are still plenty of red stars representing sales. The blue are more than likely houses that sold prior to 1999, or the odd property selling at $500K and above. Since I did throw in the more than $500K on the map (not shown) it seems there were a few but not many. Comparing the map from Turnover part 1
to this one, a majority of the 1999-2009 sales were less than 1/2 a mil.
Yet the thing that I find really interesting is not so much the amount houses finally sell for, but the fact there are so many houses that change hands in a 10 year period. It seems to reflect the transient nature of DC or the investor fueled real estate boom of the 2000s.
Let's say, for the most part, that the blue dots represents long timer residents and the red stars newer residents. It isn't perfect, as the blue dots could be rentals that turn over every couple of years but never sold, and red stars rentals bought by new investors that remain rentals. On my own block one of the red stars was a rental home that the renters later bought from the owner. But anyway let's say those red stars represent new blood on the block, in some spots, except that part of the 100 block of P, there is a fair amount of turnover.
If you get on the DC gov website and play with the DC Atlas
for Real Property and compare and contrast with other parts of the city regarding final sale prices (which sometimes isn't the listing price) and turn over, it's interesting.
Labels: data/demographics, gentrification
Turnover part 1
This was stolen off of the DC government's DC Atlas website and what it shows are houses sold between Jan 1, 1999 and yesterday. More accurately it shows houses sold for more than $1 and below a billion. I had to throw that in when it showed every house with a red star and I discovered the database had some quirky dates of homes being bought by their longtime owners for 0.00, and had to find a way to exclude that misinformation.
Each red star represents a property sale, that's it. However, one can make guesses that a majority of those sales resulted in some turn over.
Labels: data/demographics, gentrification
"No one wants to live near poor people"
...isn't exactly a correct comment, but I have seen it a couple of times on the web regarding mixed income housing and gentrification. I'm mean we're living in Shaw not Woodly Park or Chevy Chase. I have a hard time imagining that people who bought housing, oh east of 9th Street, were caught completely off guard by the subsidized housing that dots the neighborhood. Than again, maybe some were.
I think of Shaw as economically diverse. You have neighbors in longtime poverty and short term (young, just starting out, etc) poverty, the elderly and disabled on fixed incomes, and others whose incomes wax and wane depending on clients, contracts, sales, rentals, or what have you. But I don't think it is so much a neighbor's poverty is as it is their dysfunction. Grad students are broke, but hardly anyone is up in arms about graduate family housing. Plain college students can be broke also (depending on their sources of support) but neighbors do tend to oppose their housing as that population can be a bit too rambunctious and loud, not because they may or may not have money (see Catholic U area for examples of such conflicts).
Shaw's diversity, economic, racial, etc., is a strength and a challenge. Crime is a huge challenge, so are the blocks of concentrated poverty. In mixed income areas we learn from each other. The more middle class residents learn about the various programs for neighbors in need, the more they can train themselves to be supportive of programs that work and harshly critical of ones that fail and are nothing but fronts for poverty pimps. The more I learn about Bread for the City
(CFC# 61733), and N Street Village
(CFC# 90946) the more I am impressed by their work and efforts.
But let's wander back to the question of mixed income housing and if it is possible, would non-poor people be willing to live next to poor people. Well in Shaw, we already do, in townhomes. I have a hard time telling, as it is from causal observation over the years, but the Washington Apartments
, along 7th and 6th Avenues, appears to be slowly becoming more racially diverse. As far as I know they aren't subsidized housing, but I do get the sense that those apartments are economically diverse. Feel free to correct me if I'm totally off base.
Labels: charity, gentrification
A comment I got here annoyed me, in the same way that being called white annoys me. I'm an African American, but a pale one, so the attack on my identity, as I see it, irks me. Same thing with the discussions of gentrification and neighborhood change, there is a string of thought that fails to see a neighborhood's residents in terms of grades of economic diversity. Instead it is the rich, that being anyone not in subsidized housing or elderly on a fixed income, and poor, and very little in between.
Sometime back I got an inquiry from a journalism student, who asked about neighbors couching it it terms of poor neighbors vs rich ones. The more I learn about my neighbors the more I know what I don't know about them. I can guess whose house is a Section 8, whose retired and on a fixed income, but knowing if someone is on food stamps or other forms of state assistance, I don't know and really it isn't any of my business. Same thing for other neighbors who have jobs and careers, So-in-So works for the government, Theotherguy works as IT, She is a freelance graphics artist, Blahblah is an Asst. Director at a non-profit, and Whatshername does something (I'm not sure what) at Pepco. Are these people rich? Wealthy? Not likely. But they are more apt to be 'wealthier' or 'richer' than neighbors who are unskilled workers or persons starting out in their careers or others for whom employment is problematic. Anywhere else in America So-in-So, Theotherguy and the rest are just middle class people living on a cul-de-sac, here, we become fabulously wealthy.
The money to buy our homes comes from savings, sometimes family members, recently deceased grandparents, and raiding the old 401K for the deposit. The renovation money from 2nd mortgages, building loans, family, savings and once again raiding that 401K. We turn to same resources the rest of middle class America does. Because we're next door or down the street from people whose economic state is more dire or more obviously distressed, the side by side comparison makes it look like two extremes. Rich and poor.
Labels: data/demographics, gentrification
Gentrification Reducing Downward Mobility?
I really wish the findings of a Pew Trust report
(PDF) regarding economic mobility was a little clearer. The best I could figure, before they threw in the math equation, which totally lost me, is that when a neighborhood decreases poverty a child's chance of heading downward as he/she grows up decreases. Yeah, there are a lot of negatives, unfortunately it isn't clear when you make the sentence positive that there is the data to back it up. A positive sentence would be that when a neighborhood becomes richer, or parents move into a neighborhood with less than 10-20% poverty, their children will grow up to become successful adults who make more money than their parents. What was clear was a child growing up in a poorer neighborhood where poverty was 20% or more is more likely to become poorer.
I was reading the report trying to figure out if gentrification, or the lessening of the rate of poverty in a neighborhood, had any positive for poor children who remain in the neighborhood. The best I can figure from the report is that it doesn't hurt. Apparently there weren't enough families in the study group who moved from poor neighborhoods to neighborhoods with less than 10% poverty whose children became upwardly mobile adults.
Labels: gentrification, kids
How I know things are better: cars
One morning I observed a city owned tow truck moving a car on New Jersey Avenue and I was reminded of a question. The question was asked in relation to gentrification and changes in the neighborhood, and it was "what is better?" Because I say that things are getting better and one way I know the neighborhood has gotten better is with parking enforcement.
There was a time when cars would get dumped on our street and they would sit. For days and weeks. While they sat, they attracted trash that would collect under the tires. We STRONGLY
suspected that our friendly neighborhood drug dealers used the cars to stash drugs. Then there were the cars that were stolen, some with broken windows.
Well as good citizens we'd call up the city and ask for the cars to go away and early on it seemed like we were ignored. Because I remember there was a car parked near or under the poo-poo tree and I reported it, several times. And it did not go away for over a month. I'd report it, wait a few days or a week and report it again. I pondered paying a tow truck to make it go away and ditch it in Maryland. But it eventually went away, but it wasn't the only car that was left unmoved.
Now, the city actually enforces the law. They ticket, a new thing that they started a few years ago. Also in the last few years they boot cars. I credit this to the demographic changes in the neighborhood with more active voters who try to hold the city accountable and demand decent city services. It is not that there weren't any politically or civicly active people here before, it's just that there are now more of them, which helps with burn out.
Labels: city services, gentrification
Found on the Street- Gentrification Rant
I'm going to make this quick. I found an interesting flier on Bates Street yesterday. It appears someone decided to print out some of their blog posts
on gentrification and leave them on the doorsteps of several Bates residents.
I may or may not talk about this more, but the thing that gets me is the tortured logic
regarding race and gentrification, that would define Asian-Americans as White. And it doesn't even go into the main elements of gentrification, just homelessness and definitions of other non-black ethnic groups as white. Gah, if you're going to print something out and pass it out, stay on topic. That's just my suggestion.
Appreciation to those who came before
The Bladgen Alley blog Baanc Blog has posted a picture
of 1258 10th Street NW back in the late 80s. It's so depressing looking. Gawd, would you want to live across the street from that? Next door?
There were parts of the eastern parts and mid parts of Shaw that looked like that when I was house hunting in 2000. Somewhere off U Street was a place I called the house of the ugly people. The block of the ugly people was kinda run down too. Now. As 1258 10th Street is now
, it has come a long way, being a bit beyond my economic level. But then again my own house is beyond my economic level, good thing I bought it when I did.
Looking at the roughly 20 year difference in the pictures just makes me thankful for all those who stuck it out, those who tried and held back the decay as long as they could before retreating to save their sanity, and especially those who tried to make the neighborhood better but lost their sanity/ patience/ money/ life in the process. I'm on my block because of my neighbors L&D and Miss B who came 15-20 years before me, who fought against the drug dealing, pleaded with the city for services, and on their own tried to make their and their neighbors' home a little oasis. I'm thankful to the neighbors, no longer on the block, like Pam & John, who did their part, said 'I'm done' and retreated to the suburbs or other parts of the city to recover.
Gentrification re: Loaded
Frozen Tropics mentioned it first
. Sankofa Video and Books up on Georgia Avenue will be 'exploring' the issue of gentrification this week
. According to them:
The panel discussions will allow the community to thoroughly examine the implications of gentrification, gentrification and racism, the institutionalized gentrification, the economic implication of gentrification, the implication of culture gentrification, the appropriation of African American cultural icons for the benefits of the 'gentrifiers', and the following questions will be addressed:
Have they come to live with us or displace us?
Who owns the planet?
Gentrification: Latest stage of colonial power - or - it's relationship to colonialism?
I see a bunch of loaded questions and statements. Yes, the word gentrification is loaded, but you can additionally pack it with more explosives and how you pair it with other loaded statements.
I'm going to take a wild guess and say the answer to question one will be displacement. Maybe the idea of living with people you're implying are colonial oppressors may be batted around for a minute. But seriously, colonialist oppressor is not a nice title and you damage your radical whatever cred by coddling 'those people'. Does one become a colonial oppresser by virtue of simply living east of 16th St NW? Is this an opportunity to rail against the Fair Housing Act
, which allows people to legally live wherever the heck they want.
Here's a question, is the ideal located in places in DC (parts of NE & SE) where gentrification is not occurring and probably will never even bubble slightly in the next decade or two?
Sort of Retelling/rewriting History
I'm trudging through Monique M. Taylor's Harlem: Between heaven and hell
which looks at the role of the black middle class and gentrification in Harlem. Harlem, has a special place in AfrAmerican and American cultural history, so there is that attractive and laudable past that attracts middle and upper middle class blacks.
In the first chapter Taylor writes how Harlem came into being via a real estate bust. Speculators bought up properties in Harlem around the turn of the 20th century because the Manhattan subway or street car (I'm not clear which) was coming up to Harlem and well, you know. Too many houses constructed, too high of a price, and then the bubble popped. Sound familiar? In this economic crisis " many landlords were willing to rent properties to blacks. ... Others shrewdly took advantage of white prejudice. The hope was that by placing blacks into certain properties, neighboring whites would vacate their properties and free them up at extremely low prices." Around the mid to late 1910s Harlem became a majority black neighborhood. Then by 1920 notable and influential black organizations had established or relocated themselves in Harlem. Over time the positives that Harlem is known for flourished.
However, while there was this great Harlem Renaissance taking place, the glory outshone the negative side of Harlem. The unemployment, the crowded living conditions, the poverty and segregation. The famous Cotton Club was for white patrons only. The realities of the negatives resulted in large homes being carved up into smaller units to crowd poor people into and when the glitter of Harlem's shine started getting dull a depressing ghetto began to show underneath.
The background is needed to understand the black middle class who come to or returned to Harlem to 'restore it to it's former glory.' As I was reading the stories of the black mid class (let's say buppies for short) fixing up properties I noticed something. They are making the buildings reflect their pre-black neighborhood past, while lauding the Harlem Renaissance period. You mix your time periods long enough they meld into one, so that it is easy to imagine people like us (buppies) living in the grand houses and participating in the Renaissance. No one in the book, so far, has confused the periods, but the thinking seems to skate very close to it.
The book is very interesting in addressing class. But class seems to be too clunky and static a term. Taylor does show in one example how the relationship between buppies and poor blacks goes from we are all one to those sorry so-and-sos. Maybe more about that later.
Taylor, Monique M. Harlem: Between heaven and hell. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, 2002. p. 5
Labels: gentrification, history, other neighborhoods
I'm in a good mood. I've got my hot cup of British blend tea and a warm bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on multi-grain toast. Life is good. So in this good mood I'm looking over the newsletter sent to me by Empower DC
Normally, I'd just delete it as it is lefty activist stuff, but as I said, I'm in a very good mood.
According to their email "Empower DC seeks to enhance and improve self-advocacy efforts to improve the quality of life of low-and moderate-income people in DC." And looking over their newsletter, which is not available via their website (as far as I can tell) and their website they are challenging developers and private uses for DC owned property. Their newsletter has a series they are documenting and they describe it as so:
This is the first in a series of regular reports, entitled “People's Property Now”, to be released by Empower DC's People's Property Campaign, providing information and analysis about the fate of public property in DC.
Empower DC's People's Property Campaign asserts that:
• As long as community needs exist in DC, there is no such thing as “surplus” public property.
• Public property is the common trust of the residents of the District of Columbia and must be maintained as public for current and future generations, and used for the public, not private profit.
• DC's current law only provides a process for disposing of public property. Legislative change is necessary to create a transparent, community-driven input process to determine new public uses for available public properties.
I'm near the end of my sandwich and tea, so let me add my gently to the right opinion. One, why so critical of charter schools? Kingman Park is listed as being an example of 'currently threatened property' because it is slated to be a charter school. In the TC part of Shaw, Armstrong School languished as a city owned property and finally (it seems to have taken forever) the school has been cleaned up by the charter school in charge of it now. I do applaud Empower DC recognizing that McMillan Reservoir is green space, however it isn't accessible green space, except to Canada Geese. My last comment is on DC owned land. It is not that once land is sold that DC won't or can't get land ever again. The DC government, as many governments have the power of eminent domain, they can seize property for unpaid taxes or other wrongs against the city and add to the city's catalog of properties. Also DC owns enough nuisance properties, and we can point to a dozen city owned problems in Shaw alone owned by the city. If the city can offload these problem properties, turning them into housing (luxury, rentals, mod-income, mixed-use, whatever), with people who pay income taxes, the city and the surrounding community benefits.
Labels: development, gentrification, non-profits/advocates
Book Review: Home Girl: Building a dream house on a lawless block, pt 2
See part 1 here
One chapter says it well, "Nice Bones, Rotten Organs". Besides the drug trade going on outside the author's house the other main drama of the book is the renovation of the house she bought in Harlem. I have to say I've been lucky. I found one main contractor for the big stuff and I have stuck with him and it has been a good relationship. The author, Judith Matloff, sadly has a multi-ethnic, multi-skilled, multi-competent, crew tearing her house apart at any one moment. Old houses are like old people, they are charming but they do have problems that come with age, and poor maintenance. Part way through fixing the place up she calls in some experts who come up with a laundry list of things that needed addressing.
I'm also lucky in that I got to live in my house long enough to have a clue of what it needed and how I wanted to live in it, before taking on major renovations. I know, for me, that my bedroom only needs to be functional, and not some oasis or retreat from the world. And then there are a bunch of things that I wanted to customize to the way I live and want to live (radiators, claw foot tub, Corian counter tops, etc), that no developer could ever foresee. But enough about me.
The second major theme is the business of drug dealing and it is a business. It confirms Sudhir Venkatesh's work in looking at the drug dealing that goes on in the streets of Chicago, NYC and DC as a business with a hierarchy. In Gang Leader for a Day
, the manager of the drug trade was J.T., in this book it is Miguel. Our street has one too, and so reading Matloff's and Venkatesh's experiences, re-affirms what I am (thankfully) seeing less of, on my street each year. Managers, main drug leaders, whatever tend to be a little older (in their 20s or early 30s) and keep their foot soldiers, the younger men selling, running, looking out, etc in line. A manger's primary interest is to move product with as little interruption as possible. Which on the good side means they are not interested in starting up turf wars or any other activity that would bring greater police presence. This is illustrated (in a chapter I'm currently at a loss to find), when the author is very pregnant, is threatened by a female crackhead and her boyfriend on the author's front stoop. She calls the cops, however Miguel lets it be known that if she had just informed him, instead of calling the cops (bad for business) he would have taken care of it.
I know it sounds strange, but in these situations it is not unusual to work out some sort of 'peace' with the dealers, while at the same time battling the drug trade through other channels. As a middle class (white <- gets you extra bonus points) homeowner, you are a factor to be managed, just like the drug runners are managed. Maybe fear motivates you, or maybe a desire for peace and quiet. You're too expensive to buy off or not needy enough to buy into the underground economy. If you're white, I and a few others, perceive that your calls to the police carry greater weight. So the manager of the drug trade has to 'manage' this factor.
This working relationship is an aspect I really appreciate about Home Girl
. Matloff, I believe shows how these things come into being, and explains it in a way of why such a thing is maintained. This is just one of the many issues and challenges of moving into and living in a transitional neighborhood.
I'll follow up with more, when I get around to it.
Labels: crime, gentrification
Book Review: Home Girl: Building a dream house on a lawless block, pt 1
Several weeks back I got an email from the author's publicist regarding this book about a woman who buys a fixer upper brownstone in Harlem on a street filled with Dominican drug dealers. In a quick summary I think the book will speak to several who have gone through or are going through the same experience, in other neighborhoods and cities.
We're perfectly aware that demographic changes, that in shorthand we call gentrification can be hard on struggling old timers. After reading this, the author, Judith Matloff, illustrates that it's no picnic for the new group moving in either. Fixing up and living in a house, having to deal with contractors of varying skill, competency, and temperament, is not fun. Nor is having to navigate through an active open air drug market to get home. Or living next door to a crackhead squatting in the building next to yours, who harasses you and your spouse, and has occasionally broken in to your house and caused damage.
I'm reviewing the book in parts. This part I'll deal with the first 7 chapters of this 25 chaptered book. I can say quickly that it starts off slow. I recognized the necessity of explaining Ms. Matloff's background as a devil may care foreign correspondent in dangerous war torn/corrupt countries. However, I found the first couple of chapters dragging and I wanted to get past the biographical material as soon as possible.
It begins to get interesting when she begins working on the house in chapter 5. In the next chapter she recalls a statement that I feel is unfortunately true:
...Three policemen on horses clopped past and told the dealers at Salami's house to move on. The muchachos ignored the cops, and the horses rode on.
"There goes the cavalry," the woman remarked dryly. "They can't do anything. It's legal to loiter. You bought this house?"
"We're under contract."
"I'm glad someone finally bought it." Her eyes swept over my dust flecked jeans and untamed curls. As she pursed her glossed lips, I got the impression that I wasn't her first choice of a neighbor. "That house has been empty since the doctor died six months ago, It's a blight on the block. I hope you have the energy. If you don't mind my saying so, and please don't take this the wrong way, the police will listen to you whites. They don't take us black folks very seriously when we complain about the problem."
The woman is her neighbor Leticia, and old timer who invites her to a police meeting and into her home to talk. The author notes the pristine condition of Leticia's home and writes:
This was yet another reason that our house was so cheap. It had been destroyed. Ruined. Wrecked. Lecticia's immaculate abode was the 'before' version of my house.
In sharp contrast, my dilapidated property was a museum of the crack epidemic. It served as a reminder of all that had destroyed Harlem: crime, looting, despair, poverty, failing schools. My house screamed, "Neglect."
Chi-town gentrification tour- surface impressions
Chicago, like New York, but without the pesky New Yorkers and surrounded by Midwest farmland. I took a bunch of pictures, and I need to download them and label them properly. Then again 1/2 of them may be crap and only worth a delete button.
This weekend I did the Robert Taylor tour. We drove down to south Chicago, after getting bagels in Sokie.
Just my first impressions, there's a lot of empty land round the former Robert Taylor Homes. I'm trying to imagine them with big ol' apartment buildings on them, but all I see are acres of empty land and thinking, urban agriculture. It didn't help that I also so plenty of community gardens and seethed with envy. Also Chicago, much bigger than DC and with tons more space. When I was reading about the Robert Taylor Homes in Sudir Venkatesh's books I imagined something more compact, like Sursum Corda.
My guide and driver was also from Florida, so we kept comparing it to depressing parts of Orlando. There was enough barren open spaces, storefront churches, run down looking buildings that if you knocked off most of the 2nd and 3rd floors, you'd have Orlando.
Well after taking a few pictures, wandering over to the University of Chicago area and hitting a neat little farmer's market attached to a nice community garden you could walk through, we drove to Gary, IN, for more looks at depressing areas.
Once I ID most of the pictures and locate the SD card reader, I'll post more.
Taking a Break/ Chi-Town Gentrification Tour
I'm probably not going to be posting much for a while. I've been assigned to a 3 month detail that has made my commute 3x longer than normal, so I'm not really interacting with the hood that much. And I have to get to bed earlier because the disruption to my normal schedule is screwing with my sleep so that my body is sending me all sorts of nasty signals that I need more rest. It's a good project, a good detail, and once I get to where I'm supposed to be I really like the work.
Knowing I need some sort of rest, I've been planning a late vacation. Normally I avoid going anywhere in the summer. But summer vacation time is nearly over and I've been reading a couple books by Sudhir Venkatesh, who wrote Gang Leader for a Day
and American Project
. I just cracked open Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor
and man, I wanna go to Chicago. I want to get a lay of the land that was the Robert Taylor Homes. I also want a pizza. I hear they make good pizza in Chicago.
Two years ago I did the London Gentrification
tour, walking around the gentrified Brixton neighborhood. Yet, I had experienced Brixton several times before in 1993 and could sense a change. I've never been to Chicago. So I'll take suggestions of books I should read and places I should eat at.
Labels: blog, gentrification
Fun with ProQuest and the Historical Washington Post
Rob Goodspeed covered this use of the word "gentrification" and its use in the Post in his blog here
. So I cannot even improve upon his work. However I can make some observations and provide a bibliography.
For the years 1970-1979, a few:
"Londoners vs. Developers" by Jerry Edgerton. Mar 25, 1973. p. C2
"Will 'Saved' Cities Mean Suburban Slums?; Mr. Peirce writes a syndicated column, on the problems of cities and states" by Neal R. Peirce. Jul 30, 1977. p. A15
"Gentrification of London; Working-Class Residents Vie With 'Colonizers' For Housing Working Class Vying For 'Gentrified' Homes" by Clay Harris, special to The Washington Post. Nov 5, 1977. E1
"Harlem Woos Tourists in Bid to Level Ghetto Barriers" by Lee Mitgang Nov 8, 1978 A30
"The Future Is Behind Us: Make Way for the Past; Architectural Outlook for the '80s: Make Way for the Past" by Wolf Von Eckardt. Dec 30, 1978 C1
"Opportunity for a Livable City; The Urban and Suburban Choices Facing Washington's New Mayor" by Wolf Van Eckardt Jan 13, '79 B1
"The Motown Model; GM Spruces Up Its Neighborhood General Motors' Motown Model" by Wolf Von Eckardt Jan 20, 1979 D1
"Going 'round in (Logan) Circles; How a Modest Dream Was Transformed Into a Bureaucratic Nightmare: Cityscape 'Gentrification' and Logan Circle" by Wolf Von Eckardt Feb 3, 1979 D1
"Preservation Is Not the Enemy of the Poor; Preserving Cities For Poor Residents" by Beverly A. Reece Feb 10, 1979 E29
"Measuring Change in the Cities" Feb 22, 1979 A16
"Mayor Voices Housing Concerns" by Blair Gately, special to The Washington Post Mar 15, 1979 DC5
A few articles in my own ProQuest gentrification query were written by Wolf Von Eckardt
, who did the art & architecture beat. January 13, 1979 in "Opportunity for a Livable City" (B1, B4) he has hopes for the new mayor, Marion Barry. As a candidate it seems that Mr. Barry was not fond of the 'rehabilitation movement' taking place in the city by the middling classes. Von Eckardt wrote:
In the first place, displacement due to rehabilitation may not be as widespread as Mayor Barry was told. His task force said approximately 150,000 families were in danger of being thrown out of their houses. The Census Bureau just told us that the city lost population. Could it be that many of these endangered families have displaced themselves-- to Prince George's County?
I'm also noticing in the results for the mid to late 1970s an anixety about the growth of suburbs. Which leads me to think that some people are 'renovating' and moving into economically depressed areas and there are more getting the heck outta D(odge) C(ity), either to PG, MoCo, or NoVA.
Labels: gentrification, media
The last post's
comments have gotten way off topic so I'm going to try to move them here.
There is a comment I want to answer in a bit of a longer length.
Are all of these new businesses for the existing residents or to attract new, higher income residents? And if they are primarily to attract new residents, and push out the lower income families and residents who have been living there for decades - well, I think that's a problem.
My question is what will happen to the ordinary hardworking lower income people as the professionals move in? Ironically, the young urban professionals who move into these areas looking for diversity, often end up driving out the "diversity" by raising the cost of living beyond the means of long term residents.
My question is how to prevent this from happening and to create a truly diverse community, comprised of every income level, educational background, race, religion, etc.?
Regarding new businesses, there was a demand (residents) that attracted the business, not the other way around. This is no Field Of Dreams. Business failure is a very real possibility, and with small businesses we could be talking about someone's life savings, a mound of debts (business loans) on the hope that the perceived demand is not a load of hype. There was/is a great demand for the businesses in a way that residents go out of their way wooing and supporting (see Queen of Sheba, Vegetate). And in the case of Windows (feel free to correct me Scott) the business was already there, but over time expanded and changed. There were residents, people who'd been here from 20 years to 20 days whose demands for a dry cleaner, a place to go and sit and eat, a place to get a decent wine, etc were not met. So yes, the businesses are here for a portion of existing residents, as well as visitors, and sometimes those visitors decide to become residents.
esse, a commenter, answered the other part regarding long time residents quite well:
On my street, the long time residents are dying.I have lived on my street for 15 years. I have yet to see a single household "forced out". 5 vacant houses have been renovated and have people living in them now, three houses were owned by seniors that died. Their kids sold the house,because they have their own house in the suburbs. One family did cash in and moved to the suburbs for more room and better schools. I think that many neighborhoods in DC are renovating, rather than than gentrifying.
The opposite of Gentrification?
Once a year I travel back to ye olde homestead in Florida to see the folks (Mom, Dad, Sis, Bro-n-Law, kids, and other assorted family members). It is also a chance to see the old neighborhood, as Mom lives in the same house we kids grew up in. And this neighborhood is a poor/working class neighborhood with a smattering of lower-middle class households.
So these annual visits I do notice little changes. Such as there was this horrid almost 35-40 degree dip in the center of the road a few blocks up that had been that way for decades and getting worse, got repaved. So I notice where there is new construction or renewal, in my mom’s area of town, none. She told me even her pastor (church is about a mile away) made mention that there isn’t going to be any investment in that area, and in fact there is disinvestment. People are just leaving the houses to rot and fall in under the weight of Nature reclaiming the space.
Now compare that with my own neighborhood in Shaw, I see what’s happening back in Florida as the anti-gentrification model. No investment, no rebuilding, rows and streets of houses completely abandoned, empty, slowly demolished by the elements. People do keep up their yards by mowing them, if there is grass growing, but that’s it. Houses sag, there are rusty tin roofs on others. It isn't all bad, but there is a lot of bad to notice.
I don’t know about crime, I just know I grew up with a rooming house of ill-repute diagonally across the street we called Pete’s house. And now, in addition to Pete’s house, Mom says, the house next door had dope dealing, prostitution and regular police visits, once the matriarch died. People who have other options to live somewhere else, do. The older folks stay, but the younger ones with means move out. About a 20 minute drive away, kinda out. Like what my half sister, some of my childhood friends, and cousins did. Come to think of it, they left town altogether.
Thursday-Friday Grab Bag
Warning for some of you car owners, traffic enforncement is now in tow. I've been seeing cars get moved by the city on a regular basis. Today I saw a truck taking away a car on New Jersey Avenue. The day before it was moving a car on R St. You've asked for city services, and well you got one.
With the housing problem we are surprised why? Remember oh, back to 2004
, and 2006
when I said real estate agents were on crack and the houses were overpriced? So, what happened? We discovered the houses were overpriced. The bubble deflated. I can't say burst
because it's not like the houses are worthless, just worth less. We knew people were taking out loans too large for them to handle. We knew this day would come. We knew a few years back that there would be a lot of foreclosures, and guess what? 2008, there are a lot of foreclosures. Who knew? Yes, there are people who are losing their homes, but where I am, so are a lot of developers and flippers and speculators who came into Shaw, looking for a quick buck. Some of them got out in time. A good number didn't and so we are stuck, until the next housing uptick, with vacant, 1/2 done, or crapily done houses, and cut-up townhomes created into funny looking condos.Central Union Mission is going downtown
. And there was great rejoicing in Pentworth and some other NW neighborhoods. For lo, they moveth the men's shelter to 65 Mass Ave NW, where they are not far from other homeless services. And someone remind me, wasn't the Gales School (65 Mass Ave) used as a shelter before?I'd support more harpsichord players
. Because they are artists, performing artists. And tearooms? Since I don't drink coffee, I'm stuck with loving Teaism, so if the landed gentry come in and put in tearooms, I'm all for it. Besides I spent most of my undergrad years studying the rise and fall
of the British aristocracy, I'd be pleased to observe them up close.
Labels: city services, gentrification, housing
My first Federal job was as a GS-5. I had a brand new shiny MA in History and I was a Museum Technician. Know what I did as a Museum Technician? Hung coats and told people where the bathroom was, and they were almost always down the stairs and to the left. Other duties included monitoring the exhibits, stuffing brochures into the hands of tourists at the information desk, and inform people in long lines of how to get through security. Occasionally, I would lead a tour, work on information sheets, and speak in pigeon German. But for most of what I did, did not require a graduate degree, or even a Bachelor's. I had a gentrified job, low pay but high requirements.
Don't get me wrong I appreciated the job. It was a foot in the wonderful world of the culture industry, Federal employment, and they paid to keep my language skills up. For several of my colleagues, also people with BAs, and MAs it was a stepping stone to other positions at the Museum, or in the Park Service. We had a fair amount of turnover, and I left after about 2 years to go to grad school again to get a degree I could eat with. At the same time a colleague left for a desired position along the C&O canal (Park Service).
But back to the job gentrification, something I have been thinking about as it applies to my college educated and unemployed cousins. Those low paying jobs that really don't pay a lot and don't really require anything more than a High School diploma to actually "do" the job. But like housing gentrification, where the price of housing goes up past the masses' income levels, the job's requirements go past the masses' education levels.
I'm betting right now there is a bright young thing with a newly printed BA or MA in hand getting off the plane (or train) and heading to DC to make his or her mark. And that person will be competing with other degreed people for jobs worthy of their education, as well as those lower paying AdminAsst jobs competing with non-degreed people.
Can this possibly further plain old gentrification when the jobs that would help people afford the homes are basically only available to people with a doctorate in basket weaving?
The Council is planning
on passing legislation to make sick leave a mandatory benefit. This will be great for persons already employed. However, I think it one of the several things that makes the city less competitive and will create fewer jobs that wouldn't have had sick leave anyway. Also it will make jobs more valuable, too valuable to be wasted on the hard to employ crowd, thus increasing unemployment amongst the unskilled. Also it would encourage employers to seek alternative solutions to get tasks done, rather than hire another person (contract out, buy a machine, make people do more work, etc). We have seen this in our industrial sector, where people have been replaced by machines or production has been moved abroad, with in call centers in Manila or Mumbai.
Remember the chapter in Freakonomics "Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live With Their Moms?" Well go up a little in the heirarchy and expand it, and you have Dr. Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day
a 302 page book about the years Dr. Venkatesh hung out with a drug dealing gang in the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago. I could barely put this book down as it was so interesting.
I couldn't help but think of our own little groups around the hood as I read and I held on to various themes in my head. One theme being nature abhors a vacuum, particularly in terms of power. The gangs were one power group, controlling or working with, or negotiating with other groups. The other theme was that of complexity. Drugs were one source of income, the gangs also levied taxes on squatters, prostitutes, and hustlers. However the gangs weren't the only ones collecting 'taxes' on underground trade.
Two things that I thought were most useful in the book, for my understanding, were how the gang saw themselves as being part of the community and what undermined the gang. I have heard before, and in great disbelief, that the hangers out help the community. From Venkatesh's study I see where that assertion comes from, in that the community leaders at Robert Taylor were able to get funds and co-operation for programs from gang leaders. There is some irony in a program to get kids off the street and away from gangs, partially funded by a gang. Towards the end, when the author was winding up his studies, two things were occurring, the Robert Taylor Homes were slated for demolition and a federal crackdown on drug trafficking. Together those two things removed the customers, the taxable underground economy, and valuable experienced staff (dealers, enforcers, etc).
In the case of Shaw, gentrification probably helps break up some networks, by reducing the number of underground consumers in the area and reducing the amount of influence certain groups have. I'm going on 7 years here in the hood (good lord I'm getting old), and I have seen the drug activity around here decrease, since my arrival. I'll credit aspects of gentrification to that decrease, in that several vacant buildings that hid or facilitated illegal trade, are now filled and cannot be used for that sort of thing. New residents tend to support with their numbers the kind of leadership, political pushes and social reforms that weaken the drug dealing structure, adding to old timers who may have been too few in number to get any traction.
Labels: crime, gentrification
Degentrification, gentrification and something to think about
Frozen Tropics pointed it out
and Richard Layman did too
, the NY Mag article
about a neighborhood that seemed as if it was going to get gentrified, but is now heading in the opposite direction. I enjoyed reading the article as well as the comments at the Curbed blog
that shed some light on the Red Hook neighborhood.
I can't really talk about a neighborhood I know nothing about, but the idea of de-gentrification is curious. Of course, the question is has gentrification occurred in the case of Red Hook, or was it really strong wishful thinking? And if a neighborhood is gentrifying
and then the process is stalled indefinitely, is that de-gentrification, or does it only count if the neighborhood reached a gentrfied
point? To me degentrification seems to hint at disinvestment, but reading the NY Magazine article, they appear to define it as something else.
Today I got an email from the folks over at Neighbors Project
with their 7 Rules for Talking About Gentrification
and they make some excellent points. I especially like #2. Get your history right. I'll call Shaw an historically Black neighborhood, mainly because it a) in it's most recent history been predominately African American, and b) the history bonus points of notables come from the Black History basket. Yet I will totally acknowledge that once you go further back than 1930, Shaw is mixed, if not white.
Flipping around on their site I found a link to some Instructable guides
they produced. Some are so simple that it should be like 'duh', such as "How to Pick Up Trash In Front of Your Home."
But I guess if you lived somewhere where this was never an issue, then a how-to is in order. (My excuse for not cleaning up in front of my house, I'm just lazy) They have some other guides like "How to be a trick-or-treat stop for apartment-dwellers
"; "How to Shop at a Downtown Farmers Market"; and "How to say hi to a stranger on the street
". These guides, though a little dorky, can help people integrate into the neighborhood and foster neighborly-ness.
Check out their 7 Rules, what do you think?
Labels: gentrification, neighbors
Waddaminute: Porch Culture
Something said at the Shiloh FLC Gentrification forum is not sitting right with me. And this is just my life experience, which may not reflect someone else's who may have lived in a different era and place. But the idea of porch culture being so prominent isn't exactly jiving with my memories.
I grew up in a mediumish North Central Florida city in the 1970s-1980s. I'll admit there has been some climate change, but the general weather is hot & humid. I had no clue what people meant by humidity until moving north because when it was hot it was always humid. Shade did not matter, much. So in the 70s I think people did hang out on their screened (Florida has big bugs) porches, but as air conditioning, sweet, sweet humidity controlling AC in the form of window units became more affordable in the 80s and 90s people in my neighborhood were seen less often on their porches.
Also, I think cable also played a part. My family got cable in the early 80s, 1982 or 1983 to be exact. Yes, it is entertaining to watch the world go by sitting on the porch, but so are the stories and wrestling and that new Michael Jackson video in the AC.
FF to today in Shaw.
Not that no one hangs out on their porch or stoop. I will occasionally sit outside in the front yard, when the mood grabs me. Cell phone guy will be out, in his front, broadcasting his business (at some point he'll wander to his backyard too) loudly and clearly. Other households will sit out front for a smoke, or to decompress before heading back inside. There are so many inside things that demand our leisure time, so it seems unfair to blame gentrification for the decline of porch culture. Maybe technology is to blame.
Labels: gentrification, misc
Well, that went well
Well today after getting my hair done, I went to the Shiloh Baptist Church Family Life Center's Forum on Gentrification. It was a good step on the part of the Family Life Center to have something of a dialog, which despite nearly falling into chaos*, where different opinions voiced themselves. Hopefully, some Shiloh groups and community members can come together again to improve communication, find out what we can agree on, and work together on that.
I really did not take any decent notes. Except a notation about something Alex Padro, one of the panel members said about who gentrification really hurt were the people in boarding houses and people in single family townhomes. Shaw has the highest concentration of subsidized housing in Ward 2, with Lincoln Westmoreland, Foster House, Asbury Dwellings and some other places. And, if I remember right, the tenant groups have long covenants that keep the housing affordable to them. So whatever happens in the real estate market, their fine. However, found out that the United House of Prayer, which had/has a fair amount of affordable housing is going market/ luxury rate.
Also it was good to meet/see people I mainly know from the online experience, Ray and the man behind OnSeventh. The great thing about neighborhood blogging is at some point you are going to run into people off-line. Oh, and I stand behind what I said about libel. If there is anything that I have typed that is untrue (outside of an opinion) bring it to my attention, and if it is false, I will retract it or adjust it, basically try to make it right. I am not hiding behind a blog, believe me, you can find me if you put some effort in it, like emailing me, or wandering over to a BACA meeting. At some community gatherings, some people (Scott Roberts) are more than happy to point me out.
After the forum I did talk to some folks who were members and volunteers for Shiloh. There are a few ideas that I hope some who can act on these ideas can work with. One is getting new Baptists in the area to join. Second is doing a better job of advertising different missions that can help people in need in the immediate area take care of immediate needs, like a food pantry and a benevolence fund, and if a person needs to tap into it right this minute, how they would get connected. Third, have a church presence on one of the civic association committees, like Ebeneezer Baptist is with BACA.
I've been typing this up between dinner and had a nice long conversation with a fellow with a Shiloh justice ministry spin-off, the Urban Housing Alliance, who was at the forum. Long and short of it, because I really want to get back to dinner, what's going on with Shiloh and the properties and the official justice ministry to address issues is complicated. This is the part where I don't want to be bothered with the infighting because I have to side with my family members who are Shiloh members and supportive of current leadership. But the fellow made a good point of some failings with current leadership and some of the problems we are seeing.
Anyway, due to issues related to the infighting & parking, the Urban Housing Alliance will be meeting at a friendly location for them, 4311 R St, Capitol Heights, MD October 20th from 10:30AM to noon. 'Cause I asked, why out in Maryland? It seems they also meet in DC as well and their goal is to provide services, free of charge, to DC citizens (I gather from the discussion) to cut property taxes, lower rents, and hold on to homes.
Off Seventh has more here
*I say the same thing about my church's screamy baby service with kids squirming and not providing the expected answers when the priest does the kiddie focused sermon.
Labels: blog, churches, gentrification, housing
Gentrification and housing
Because of this blog, I get asked about gentrification. I'm not a public policy wonk, or a student of urban planning, or an activist, but I am a citizen with an opinion on the topic. One question is if affordable housing will disappear because of gentrification? Um, short of Mothra coming in a flattening 3/4ths of the hood, no.
The reason why is just off the top of my head there are a couple of public housing units (see here
), the co-ops and other apartment buildings that are not market rate on 7th, 6th, 5th, and 1st Streets, that have sizable footprints and surface parking lots (see the DC Real Property Map
). Some are owned by churches, which doesn't really mean anything, because a church owns (in full or part, not sure) Kelsey Gardens. But as long as the churches see it as part of their mission to provide affordable housing (with the help of being tax exempt) those housing units should be fine. So the cry that there is no affordable housing or that affordable or low income housing will disappear in Shaw, doesn't ring true in my ears.
I do acknowledge that among privately rented townhouses and small 4-6 unit apartment buildings there is a danger. However if a landlord decides to sell his townhouse to someone who will more than likely want to live in the unit and be a resident homeowner, I think the neighborhood is better off because it stabilizes the community.
Anyway I started writing this to point out a function going on this weekend. Shiloh Baptist Church this weekend is putting on a Gentrification meeting/ forum whathave you reported here
, and probably a few other spots. It's this Saturday between 1-4pm at 1510 9th St. And to touch on OneDC's rally for their favorite bidder for Parcel 42, but I'll get to that later.
Labels: gentrification, housing
The Washington Post finally gets it
Praise be to G-d, they lost the 'neighborhood change' template all the reporters keep reusing to describe places like Shaw and Bloomingdale. In today's Post there is an article by DeNeen L. Brown "Change is Clear"
in the Style section, page C1 about change in the Bloomingdale neighborhood centering around the image of Windows Cafe. The old template goes, setting black poor neighborhood, evil wealthy white people come in change things and displace the black people, tsk, tsk, tsk, and throw in the word 'gentrification' in a disparaging manner.
This article acknowledges that the changes have been made by both blacks and whites. Even better a black gay (okay I'm assuming gay) couple who restored a house are quoted. The whites in the story, have been in the hood for about 15 years, hard to call them newcomers. One of them, Scott Roberts, 52 year old SPF 10,000 guy, has some of the best quotes, which I may write about later. Really, those quotes are money, gems.
Good job all.
Labels: Bloomingdale/Eckington, gentrification, media
Today must be quote other people's blogs day....
anyway over at ANC2C02 there is a post on how Kesley is to look in 2010 after being bulldozed and rebuilt
. 2010... that's 3 years.
I'm a little down on that prediction because, it's not that I don't want to see a change there, it's just that at the place where they pay me, I've been working with files covering development in the city and it seems that large things take forever to get built, if they do. Looking at the pictures it sort of looks like a zoning variance may be requested because of the height. Joe Mamo (Mammo? Mambo?) over on Florida and North Cap has been trying to get that for a good while now. And there is something about underground parking, which raises questions about how stable are the houses on the other side of the alley when all this earth gets moved. Oh, and then there is the whole construction mess.
On the upside, when this all does get built and the market rate units get filled, there will be people who may be able to support the kind of retail, I and my neighbors would like to see.
Labels: development, gentrification
A new day, now get to work
Lot of stuff I wanna cover ... It is September and InShaw has entered semi-retirement, or an active retirement. It may be another way of saying I'll post when I darned well feel like it, and post what moves me to post. So there may be several days when there is nothing, and periods of furious posting.
I've also changed the name slightly. So "(now with more gentrification)" has been dropped, in favor of what interests me, history. Gentrification still is in there but isn't the focus. The mad real estate boom has passed and the gentrification it fueled, has calmed a bit. If that rooming house, crack house, liquor store, vacant building hasn't been developed yet, it may be a while before it does. Maybe during the next wave of real estate fervor, maybe between now and then, and maybe never. In the meantime, there are other things to look at, like the past.
The past couple of years, the past couple of decades, whenever. I'm going with what a co-worker defined as history, anything that happened in the past. So anything between the Big Bang/Let-there-be-light and last week is up for grabs. But to be more DC focused I'll start somewhere in the 18th Century.
Today I just want to talk about Sunday's Washington Post.
Sorta under the title of 'gentrification' is Income Soaring in Egghead Capital
. Where I see the DC metro area is where the nation's well off African-American households live. Yet $55,547 is a pitiful amount compared to our Asian ($83,908) and Non-Hispanic White (94,290) colleagues. The data the Post provided kinda proved a belief that I had about the black middle class, they wanna get as far away from "Pookie" as their middle and upper-middle class white colleagues do. The highest median Black incomes $92,492 in Loudoun and $89,096 in Stafford, are far from the District ($34,484 and the highest percentage of population living below the poverty line).
Looking at my own middle class Black family, I and my blind great-aunt are the only ones in the District. The next closest relative tried to escape inner Beltway Prince George's County because of all that's going on around, but couldn't due to a failure to sell the house. If the house did sell, outer-waaay past Upper Marlborough would have been the new address. Then everyone else is in Fairfax Co. and Howard Co. I've noticed when the relatives move up in house, they seem to move further out. They express a desire for more space, more amenities (planned communities w/ clubhouse) and less crap.
But back to gentrification.... So if high earning African-Americans are engaging in black flight from the city and inner-ring suburbs, that could mean that they are leaving a residential void. A void filled by poorer Blacks and middle-upper class non-Blacks. Add to that the great big gap in incomes ($91,631-white; $67,137-Asian; $43,484-Hispanic and $34,484-Black), housing prices, and you got a problem. And I wonder, even if District employers provide the higher paying job opportunities, what is there to say that African-Americans who fill those positions will be from the District or will stay in the District? Okay, now I'm rambling, next...Back from Behind Bars
has a graph, that shows Truxton Circle as one of the communities where 5.1 or more (per 1,000 residents) ex-cons return to after being released from the criminal justice system. The other parts of Shaw (except what looks like upper U Street) have a rate of 5 or less per 1,000. The articles goes in on how those released have trouble finding housing and employment, and staying away from the things that led to prison.
And something that has more of a history bent an opinion piece about Dunbar High School
in its hey-day. It's more about integration and colorism
than the school itself, but the print version has a nice photograph of the school in 1931. The original school is no longer and it has been replaced by that prison-like building that dominates the TC skyline.
Labels: blog, gentrification, neighborhood history
I don't trust you
Well I finally finished reading and marking up E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century by Robert Putnam
, and yeah, I'm low on trust. According to his article, diverse communities like ours people are less likely to trust people different from them as well as people like them. Equal opportunity lack of trust. Well, that's how I read it.
Putnam does recognize the good thing about diversity in that it does foster tolerance in the other. However tolerance is not love, or even like. There is 'bridging' between communities but little in the way of 'bonding'.
One of the things I was worried about before reading the article was lack of city services and amenities due to a neighborhood's diversity. That wasn't so much an issue and what was all included in as an amenity was too wide of a net (religious institutions, day care facilities, schools, etc). Things like schools and churches could have been in an area long before the place got diverse and are just holding on. Anyway, Putnam writes "If anything, such community resources turn out to be positively correlated with ethnic diversity...." The negative is in the low trust people, who are withdrawn from actively participating in the surrounding community.
A few other negatives of a diverse community is that there is a higher turnover. Well that just describes Washington DC right there. Someone who is a close friend of mine is moving away to the Midwest because of her career and as far as friends go she'll be irreplaceable. The specter of someone you're close to up and moving away is always there in this town, and it does not inspire you to form those deep strong bonds, knowing that there is a chance that bond will have to be ripped apart. There is turnover in Shaw too, and I know that neighbors you grow close to may up and move with the next best career opportunity or when their kids get to a certain age.
Labels: gentrification, quality of life
Quick thought on housing and gentrification
There is someone moving into the neighborhood today, who in 5-10 years will complain that gentrification moved them out. This thought came to me after a quick conversation with an older woman (maybe not quite senior citizen) who was moving into a rental house. A house that has been 'affordable' since I've been in the neighborhood. And it has had a fair amount of turnover (but that's because the landlady is horrible) so it remains a housing option.
There is little purity in the gentrification that happens in this neighborhood. All
the poor people do not move out at the same time to be replaced by people with more money. Not all
the landowners sell when the market is hot, some keep holding on, maybe through greed or apathy, and then the market cools. There is loss, there are fewer housing options for lower income groups, however there isn't a 100% loss of affordable housing from the market.
I write this from what I've observed on my block. At least three houses (there might be more) in the six years I've been noticing appear to fall in the 'affordable' category and they though the crazy RE market and it's current cooling have had some turnover with tenants and yet have had the same kind of tenant.
Labels: gentrification, housing
Fun with ProQuest: An obseravation
I've been taking quick peeks at the Washington Post articles on ProQuest and there is something about how I approach them. Being in 2007, I'm aware how things turn out in the end, yet the surprise is in the discovery of where stuff came from. The people of the 50s, 60s, & 70s they don't know how things are going to turn out. So I read about this and that plan for the area and things don't always provide the results desired, and in some cases, I can't tell if it has worked out. Also, not surprising to me, there is the messiness of the past, the corruption, sloth, distrust, confusion, and lack of funding that make their appearances.
Anyway, an article I've yet to read in its entirety is "Urban Renewal: A Slow, Painful Process: SW Developers Made Mistakes The City Now Hopes to Avoid," by George Day. Washington Post 6/2/1969 p.C1. In it one little caption "Northwest One includes housing for elderly (rear) and Sursam [sic] Corda Project". Sursum Corda, wonder how that's working out?
Labels: gentrification, neighborhood history
Strive for the harder story to tell
Well I'll probably clean this post up and put in some links about the recent Post articles about H Street and Navy Yard, as well as the tried & true "Shaw is gentrifying/changing" themed articles. Once again the old themes and the stock characters in their typecasted roles. White newcomers are wealthy arrogant jerks who disrespect the downtrodden struggling black old timers, is the easy tale to tell.
I will admit I do see glimpses of the hard stories in the Post. Where there are issues of class, country of origin, education, gender, theology, sexual orientation and age play more a part of story than that great DC standby, race. Maybe to an editor they are less interesting.
The easy story starts with a peaceful middle class African American neighborhood. Ignore the Jews, the Irish, the Germans and those few Italians that everyone tells me were all over the neighborhood (but haven't seen too much documentation on). Maybe a few hard questions center around the riots, who left and never came back, who stuck it out, who filled in the vacuum, and what did the city government do and where did the govt. fail & succeed?
Then I can ask what are the alternatives? Neighborhoods where the commercial sector has basically flat lined and you can barely even get businesses to even look at the area? Places where your dining options consists of KFC, Micky D's, Popeyes or some other carry out? Residential sections where there are few buyers and renters have no interest in becoming homeowners?
Here's the story I know about Shaw: Its been changing for over 100 years. People of different races, countries of origin and financial circumstances move in, and those people moved out and they got replaced by more people. Gentrification has been happening at least since the 80s in fits and starts (do a Proquest search, Washington Post 12/31/79-Present, search "Shaw" [or logan/ bates/ blagden] & "gentrification"). Business growth has been slow, for a variety of reasons, but it has been moving forward. So we tend to get excited when something new pops up. Long after the pages of these stories turn yellow and get stuck in the Post's pay-to-see archives, people will move in and people will move out and the neighborhood will continue to change.
Labels: gentrification, media
My condescending friends
Within an article
on that dead horse of a subject... church parking, Washington Times reporter Tom Knott wrote:
And one other thing: Although it is fashionable in some circles to speak condescendingly of those who gentrify a neighborhood, the alternative is not exactly all that romantic. High-crime areas are not really cool places to live. Bars on the windows of homes and storefronts are not attractive features.
I get it from some coworkers, associates and several drive by commenters on this blog the condescending attitude about living here in Shaw. I know I do bring a little of it on myself with the subtitle "now with more gentrification". However, we all have our own reasons for being here and I don't think it was because we love living with bars on the window and displacing poor folks. The condescension does not make me feel guilty or less than. The headaches that come with this place, and enduring the inconveniences, do away with that and make me feel that I've earned my right to be here. That and the mortgage.
The Post might be a race baiting newspaper but I'm keeping my subscription
1. I've already set up automatic payments. I don't look forward to trying undo that.
2. The Washington Times? Phooey. I spit on the Times.
3. Comics, sales papers & coupons.
4. Classified (Jobs, Houses for Sale, etc) section better than City Paper's.
5. Paper handy for craft projects.
6. I really, really like the Style section.
7. Cheaper than a NYT or Wall Street Journal subscription.
8. Food section is good too.
9. I use it to clean windows.
10.Thursday District section has Animal Watch (aka Stupid Humans).
Okay, I sense a theme. [sarcasm]Middle class white people are evil. Well at least the ones who live outside their designated areas.[/sarcasm] Designated areas are neighborhoods west of the park, maybe west of 16th Street, small sections around Capitol Hill.
The Post gentrification stories pretty much harp on a certain theme as Truxtonian pointed out. Find two opposing sides, mix in race and stir. Over at Frozen Tropics
there has been a flurry of comments about the Schwartzman article on H St
. In it some residents were dismayed over comments in the article by Martini Lounge owner Clifford Humphrey, who (I guess- ID is so hard on these things) said he was misquoted. Personally, I'm willing to accept that was the case, not he's the first person to be misquoted or have words taken out of context by the press. As I remember when there was an article about the corner of T & 14th
that painted a picture of Mike Benson (owner of Bar Pillar & Saint X) in a certain light that didn't really jive with the Benson I know. Heck, Jimbo
pointed out to me in last week's WP Express a quote taken from my blog
, made me look like an anti-church anti-Christian. The words were mine, but cropped giving it another feel. And by the way my regulars know I'm a regular church going Episcopalian (except for Christmas and Easter). So I'm willing to cut Humphreys some slack.
Labels: gentrification, media
Smells like gentrification.... hooyah!
otherwised titled "gad I dispise self rightous kids."
I and a few others were out one tonight for a neighborhood cause and I spotted a gang of cyclists on the corner with bright flashy lights. As it was an auxillary drug dealing corner (not the main drug corner) and our drug dealers do use bikes I suspected they were dealers. But then I noticed the helmets. Drug dealers for one reason or another don't seem to place great value on personal safety and forgo the whole helmet thing. Nor do dealers bother with other safety equipment like lights or reflective clothing. ...or following traffic rules. As the gang broke up and biked down the street one said to my small group "smells like gentrification." This made one member of my party believe that the gang was the "stop gentrification" taggers casing our hood.
Please don't give me the "promoting awareness" crap. I think all the parties inovolved are aware.
Part of the gentrification problem
I want to thank John
for leading me to this blog
about gentrification in Baltimore City [corrected]. Funny, Baltimore is the place I point people to when the gentrified prices of DC are too high.
Which reminds me. TechBalt
is not purposefully trying to displace people but move into a poorer neighborhood take over a block and reap a return on their investment.
Wandering around Techbalt's website I wound up linking to the city of Baltimore's crime map. It is so cool. Crime isn't cool but a colorful map of what type of crime happens where is sooo totally cool (yes I grew up in the 80s).edited to change County to City
Labels: crime, gentrification
Evil Evil Gentrification
In today's New York Times
the case where the cash strapped city of New London wants to steal the property from homeowners so they can build yuppie complexs has been placed on the Supreme Court's docket. The city fathers (and mothers) have some wacked out idea of "public use." Which is the part of the law that allows local governments to kick people out of their homes. Usually it is to build a road, make a big park, like Central Park in NYC, or even to build a factory that would employ thousands. Not a hotel, conference center and private
Labels: gentrification, politics
In Shaw field trip
Went on a little field trip to take a quick peek at gentrification elsewhere. It is the same everywhere I guess. When there is a housing crunch, where the housing stock is not enough for the population, people with some money begin moving into neighborhoods where poorer people are. But there was cool stuff too, which I'll share in pictures.
Went through Harlem. I don't know where the gentrification began there. It is pretty near the Park at 110th. Which I think is the bottom of Harlem. I could understand the reasoning behind paying big bucks to live near Central Park. The further north you went from the Park, the less gentrified it looked.
I wandered through the East Village. What jobs do odd looking goths have to afford these crack fueled rents? What jobs do to the people of Greenwich Village have to afford any of these NYC rents? Yeah, yeah, NYC greatest city in the world, blah, blah, blah, known for high rents, but still $4,000 a month for a 3 bedroom walk up? Crazy.
The good things I found in the city, besides decent buskers on the subway, were the thousands of little grocers thoughout the city. My roommate thinks DC needs more of these kinds of stores. Even in the less nice parts of Harlem you will find stores with fresh veggies and fruits, like this one, where people can get the ingredients to make meals from stratch. Scratch, instead of some high in sodium, fat and sugar prepackaged crap that is sold in many a DC quickie mart, next to the 40s.
Also walking around the city that never sleeps..... well it does sleep, on a Sunday morning 'cause that's the time to find a parking spot.... I digress. I noticed some great architectural details. Not just on the buildings of note but the everyday ones. I say doors and ironwork that was just inspiring.
Labels: business, gentrification
How gentrification can be just plain EVIL
Friday morning while trying to convince myself that getting up and going to work early is a good thing, I heard over NPR
that riled up passions in my conservative heart. Property rights.
The story is about what's going on in New London, CT where the city wants to redevelop a section of town to make way yuppie condos. Fine. Problem, they are threatening to use 'eminent domain' as a way of taking land away from the few homeowners in that area. Eminent domain should only be used to build roads for polluting cars or waterways or big public utility projects, not privately owned condos. Yuppies and the working class are equal in the eyes of G-d, and should be equal in the eyes of the State, but alas no. Apparently because you can suck more money out of yuppies via taxes, yuppies are better people and thus the State chooses to kick out working/middle class homeowners, depriving them of their property. The State is dangerous.Eminent Domain Watch
, a blog, has a wonderful amount of information on this case
along with other incidents of local and state governments encroaching on individual property rights.
The New London case is the best example of gentrification evil style. Gentrification done naturally invovles individual property owners selling to either other property owners or corporation when they so chose. They are not forced to sell (ok this can be argued on whaddya mean by 'force'). Provided they can keep up with real estate taxes and local ordinances, individuals can choose NOT to sell. The residents in the New London area do not have that choice. And that is plain wrong. So wrong.
Should the Supreme Court decide in favor of the City of New London real property rights will be undermined for all US citizens. In DC I could only imagine the worst. My beloved Anthony Williams is already the bitch of the developers 'round here. I know the city likes sucking money from higher incomes and crack fuel housing prices, but if they were given this tool....
Labels: gentrification, politics
In Alexandria, with mo gentrification
I would link back to my friend Nora B.'s livejournal post, for the love of me, I can't find it and the girl is a prolific poster.Background
My friend Nora B. has a condo in an area of Alexandria and her area, particularly her condo, is experiencing the joys of gentrification. First, let me describe N. She's a big white girl from my native Florida. We met at a confirmation class a few years ago and she was one of the several people I knew buying houses during the wild years of rising prices between 2000-now.
She bought, with he help of her parents, a condo on the western edge of the Alexandria city/county (what is Alexandria?) limits for $140Kish. The condo is this huge, not so pretty 15 floor monster on Duke St filled with brown people not born of this country.... who apparently drive cabs. So Nora was fine with being the only (with the exception of her roommate) Anglo EFL (English as a First Language) person under the age of 50 in the building.
The area of Alexandria that she's in is experiencing a different sort of gentrification. I don't know how to describe it as.... different. From Nora's living room window she sees Yuppieland (which we have a song for) otherwise known as Cameron Station. Yuppieland used to be a military. Now it is a place where people who can afford near million dollar townhomes live and breed. Outside of Yuppieland it's pretty much bluecollar/ whitecollar, eh. Pretty much what Arlington's Wilson Blvd area used to be like in the early 1990s. You got the dinner theater, porn theater, CVS, cruddy Magrudgers, Mango Mike's, and other generic run of the mill businesses.Nora remarks gentrification
Her first sign that gentrification was coming to her condo was "Republican Guy". A white man, married, father, American, in a suit spotted. Apparently the condo was affordable, and he wasn't scared off by the huge number of Africans and Latin Americans running around. Then another night Nora spots, in the building, the Bennetton ad hipster kids. Last weekend we spotted white people in the pool. The typical pool attendees are Islamic grandmas who'll only show off their feet and the grandkids they are watching.
Another sign came from the condo board. Nora would like more parking, or at least parking for her friends who visit, and the building rules force visitors to park across the 4 lane street at odd times. So she has taken to going to the board meetings. From attending the meetings she has learned that the porn theater's days are numbered, as well as the Magrudgers. They will be replaced by the yuppie grocer Harris Teeter. Also in a move to attract white people with money, the condo is considering updating the decor that hasn't been changed since the Nixon administration.
Gentrification in Shaw- Manna Report
If you haven't read Manna's 2003 report
you should. It covers rising rents, displacement, the personal impact gentrification is having on long term residents, good stuff. The best part is the photo on the cover (this is a PDF file) of 7th Street right after the riots, with the burned out shells. Okay, not the best part, but the jewels of the report are the personal stories of residents who have experienced the rent increases and non-renewal of leases.
The stories do help illustrate the problem that gentrification has brought. Saying rents have increased, nothing. Saying that one day a renter receives a letter that their 2 bedroom apartment that had been $634 a month was soon going up to $954 in 5 months, says a lot.
Conversions are another thing Manna writes about, that I didn't think much about before. Not just apartments to condos conversions but from boarding house to single family residence. There are several townhomes that you can see along New Jersey Avenue that are divided into two residences next to homes with the same exterior that are just one residence. The report mentions large townhomes that were formerly boarding homes housing several people at low rents that are now for one family.
A good thing about the report is that is does get into the specifics, naming names and addresses. It mentions location, address of particular apartments and converted and rehabbed homes and also businesses that have felt the impact of gentrification hard.
Of course I disagree with Manna on some points, but that is just my opinion. I don't disagree that there is gentification going on in Shaw. Hence the title of the blog "In Shaw (now with more gentrification)" which acknowledges the gentrification. I don't disagree that people are being displaced and the sadness of that.
I have a problem with the concentration of bemoaning the areas west of 9th St. That area has been gentrified. Dead to any hope of making it affordable. Move on. Don't wring your hands about the unaffordable even to mid middle class folks, lofts and condos. Another problem I have is Manna not coping to it's role in the gentrification game. Yes, Manna sells homes and condos at rates affordable to the people it is trying to help. I gather to cover operating costs, it also has sold homes AT market rate
, reflecting the crazy prices in Shaw. Manna is a non-profit, so is it any better when Manna does it and worse when a for-profit does it too, doing what it was created to do.... profit? I remember when I was first looking to buy they and other non-profit developers had some pretty expensive homes. For the ones you could afford you'd have to get in line or belong to a certain group, or wait for .... whenever.
The solutions that Manna presents, would at best preserve small islands of affordable renting in a sea of gentrification. They desire to preserve Section 8 by helping tenant associations. Good if you are in large enough building where tenants can buy the building. Land development, well maybe public land but with quasi-public organizations like Metro
(WMATA), I don't think so. Maybe they hadn't heard but Metro doesn't have enough to pass up maximum money making opportunities. New jobs, well, that might help some. But the kinds of jobs needed to afford the market rate rents and houses around here are a bit unaffordable to folks with "good jobs". And as with my former neighbors, when the opportunity to pull up stakes so your kid can get a yard, with grass, and enough room to play and run around in, presents itself because you got a good job or can sell the house at $$$, there is nothing saying you'll stay in Shaw.
Labels: gentrification, housing
How to Gentrify a neighborhood: pt 2 1/2 the gentrifier
Warning: I'm writing this after 3 glasses of wine. I could be crazy.
In a followup to Gentrify yo hood:pt 1
this part briefy looks at the gentrifier.
First, money. Do you have it or don't you. If you have money you might have choices, you could live in the "nicer" parts of the city, or you could buy bigger digs in the hood. Then there are the people like me, who don't have a lot of money and the hood was the only affordable thing. So you move in and make the best of it. I didn't move in to displace the poor. I moved into Shaw, because it was along the Green and Yellow lines (metro
), close to a grocery store, decent for my car-less lifestyle, and oh I could afford it as a single person.
Second, tolerance level. The white bread population that loves the suburbs don't cotton the city. Scared white people need not apply either. Scared [any other ethnic group] should keep to the 'burbs as well. To be and urban pioneer and gentrify the city you need to put up with the crime, the trash, the bamas, the crackheads, the vacant houses, the whatever, until the day the neighborhood turns "nice".
third, and last (cause I really need to go to bed), the gentrifier needs to be an object of change. This can range from the small and the really local aspect of investing in your home and inspiring others to do the same. Or harassing neighbors to be in compliance with the DC laws by calling the authorities constantly. Or it can range on the larger scale as to being involved in neighborhood wide revilization programs.
More than just black and white
The Intowner just briefly touched on it in this month's article
about gentrification in Shaw. One little thing is that it is not just a phenomenon of white people moving in and kicking out black people. There is an element of class and general self interest within the African American community that adds to the mix.Who do you think owns the land
There are a lot of renters in Shaw. These not only include apartment buildings but also houses converted into apartments or whole townhomes rented out to families or made into boarding/group homes. Who owns those houses? Who owns the houses where people are getting pushed out by gentrification? It may be wrong to assume it is always "THE MAN", the unknown white WASPY figure in the shadowy background ever exploiting minorities. It isn't always so. If my own block is a good example, two Section 8 houses are owned by a man of African decent (can't remember if he's from the islands or from Africa), and the other is owned by the Jamaican lawyer. There are plenty of houses rented out to poorer Afro-Americans owned by middle class African Americans, who live elsewhere. So when the economic revival comes, do you think Black solidarity will keep black landlords from kicking out their tenants?
Two good examples are the building that once housed Sisterspace and the Kesley Garden apartments. The Sisterspace building is owned by an elderly African American man. Sisterspace, was a bookstore catering to the Black community. After many years of disagreement about the lease and a legal battle, Sisterspace was kicked to the curb. Gentrification was to blame. Yes, the economic revival was to blame, but the person removing this black business was another black business. The apartment building Kesley Gardens is owned by an African American church in SE DC. The church is working toward removing the tenants so the building can be converted into luxury condos.The Good Thing About Gentrification Is....
When Whole Foods first moved in my Aunt was doubtful that blacks would take to it. The conversation didn't get past, "Black folk, um, I don't know..." Go into the Whole Foods/Fresh Fields on the weekend when it is packed, you will see a diversity of black faces, and I'm not talking about the ones behind the counters. There are African cabbies, who have discovered the joys of a central location with parking, eating in the booths near the cashiers. There are the all-natural brothers and sistahs, in search of the veggie/vegan organic food you cannot get at the corner quickie mart deep in Shaw. Products of Jack & Jill
wander the aisles, possibly in search of something for a dinner party? Oh, yeah and me blowing no less than $12 on wine, fish, fruit, or chocolate. Occasionally, there may be a woman in FF with kids, whose class background could be middle class to working class, but hard to tell.
For those of us who survive the wave of gentrification or are waving it in, the fruits of it are enjoyed. The equity in the house is much appreciated. The new eatery that serves good food, and maybe a place to sit, is nice too. The shops catering to the middle and upper classes that come into Shaw do not have "Whites Only" signs in front. The only signs are for VISA, MasterCard, and American Express, because the only color that counts is green.In Closing
The point I have tried to make is that gentrification is not necessarily anti-African American. Gentrification isn't necessarily pushed and helped by Anglos only either. It is economic. But in Shaw the victims of gentrification have a black face and the new residents tend to be white, so it is easy to simply it and say that blacks are being pushed out by whites. It's economic. People who do not have the means to stay are leaving, people who do have the means come and stay, and because the middle class in dominated by one racial group it is easy to lose site of the incoming minorities.
Gentrification too close for comfort
I could cover the Bates Area Civic Association: I get bored so you don't have to- but really who cares (as seemed to be a phrase bandied about)? And besides who really wants to read me b!tching about an obnoxious Jamaican who dominates these meets week after week?
Instead I cover an article in the Washington Post Church's Plan to Raze Housing Protested Tenants Trying to Buy SE Complex Voice Opposition During Worship Service written by Dakarai I. Aarons
which covers the Kesley Gardens on 7th and P and Q St. The residents protested at the church that owns the property, but the church owns it with private investors. There are other problems that make things difficult.
When my neighbor read the article he seemed resigned to the eventual destruction of this community. Apparently several residents signed away their right to buy the property from the owner for a $1000. I mentioned efforts in Columbia Heights that allowed residents to turn their slummy apartments into condos. But still. Ms. Bettye lives there and I hope she will find a home in Shaw.