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Progress Sucks

April 9, 2014

I’d hate to see what the people who wrote the report would say about Detroit…

The movement of middle-class people into low-income neighborhoods is profoundly and rapidly reshaping the urban core of the Bay Area, from San Francisco’s Mission District to the farthest reaches of East Oakland, according to a sweeping report released Tuesday.

The gist of the report is that close-in neighborhoods that have been traditionally fully of crime and lousy housing are being spruced up to attract people who’d like to live close in, and the resulting drop (slight drop, mind you) in crime and better housing is meaning that rents and prices are going up.  I get that this displaces poor people.  But really, we should never improve a neighborhood because it would make things better, and that’s bad?

Jon Bean, 31, is among those displaced. A longtime resident of North Oakland, he moved to 94th Avenue in East Oakland in 2004 for cheaper rent. But last year he was forced out of there, as well, when his rent for a two-bedroom apartment jumped from $1,100 to $1,800, despite the neighborhood’s high crime rate.

Now he and his three kids live in a $945-per-month apartment in Antioch, and he commutes about three hours round-trip daily for his job at a nonprofit in Oakland.

“I spend so much time commuting I hardly see my kids,” he said. “On my lunch break, sometimes I go to my old neighborhood in North Oakland and it’s totally different. There used to be kids playing in the street, basketball games going on. Now it’s a lot of ‘For Sale’ signs and cafes.”

So now it’s a place where people would like to go, and that means profit for the landlords and homeowners?

Again, I get that this is hurting poorer people who no longer can live affordably in the Bay.  I lived there for quite a while in the 90’s, and this isn’t new.  I knew many people back then who commuted three hours to their jobs.  When they got tired, they found new jobs where they lived, since people created jobs there for similar reasons.  It’s not magic to assume that people move based on changes in neighborhoods.

I note a couple things… take a look at this comment:

“Change is always good,” he said. While gentrification once meant only more white people moving in, today many Latinos are part of the incoming middle class. Reid noted that his district is increasingly Latino as African Americans continue to move away. “Where we once had vacant storefronts, we now have Latino businesses. And in the hills we’re seeing young families from San Francisco. It’s definitely shifting.”

And this one:

“It’s true, I’m beginning to see white people in (deep East Oakland). … The only reason it hasn’t happened sooner is because we have six shootings a day around here,” she said. “The question is not whether this change is good or bad. It’s how do we find a balance, and how do we start the conversation?”

And I wonder what this is really about… is this a focus on what constitutes a “good” neighborhood?  Oakland has always been a diverse environment, but maybe some diversity is viewed as better?  I think it’s useful to see change happening in an environment, because changes motivates people to do better things.  Hopefully the changes in Oakland result in this.

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