Gentrification stories

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Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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197 Responses

  1. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    When one part of the community has systematically and maliciously stolen the other party’s wealth, are we really surprised when the poor folks are asking, “Why ain’t we rich yet?”

    It is NOT unwarranted to ask such a question, as the deliberate racist actions have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few.

    You mischaracterize the argument massively.

    “And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. P.S. 20 was not good. P.S. 11. Rothschild 294. The police weren’t around. When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something.”

    Spike’s complaint about the Westminister Dog Show does not grace your page, and it really ought to.

    I, like you, cannot evaluate the facts on the ground. I’m not there.

    But I can tell you What. Anyone getting RICH off gentrification doesn’t do much complaining about it. Me? I’m gonna be one of those people. But — that doesn’t mean I’m not a privileged tool for trying.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Kim
      Ignored
      says:

      He does bring up a real issue by questioning why better government services are only showing up in the neighborhood now that white people have moved in. That is a massively important question, and the likely answer is disgusting. But that is the gentrification of the neighborhood exposing a public policy problem. It is not in fact an argument that white people should not move into the neighborhood.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        If anything gentrification is useful in this case to point out how poor neighborhoods get treated like crap. That doesn’t mean people in those neighborhoods shouldn’t dislike the negative parts of it, but it is something to show how poor areas get the short end of the stick. All the other poor areas should be shoving this in the faces of the mayors.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        Another presumed “real issue”:
        You can’t just — here’s another thing: When Michael Jackson died they wanted to have a party for him in motherfuckin’ Fort Greene Park and all of a sudden the white people in Fort Greene said, “Wait a minute! We can’t have black people having a party for Michael Jackson to celebrate his life. Who’s coming to the neighborhood? They’re gonna leave lots of garbage.” Garbage? Have you seen Fort Greene Park in the morning? It’s like the motherfuckin’ Westminster Dog Show. There’s 20,000 dogs running around. Whoa. So we had to move it to Prospect Park!

        If spike is saying his dad is getting calls (possibly police visits) to turn his acoustic guitar down, because it’s too loud? Yeah, he’s got a right to be upset. That’s not loud folks.Report

  2. Avatar Chris
    Ignored
    says:

    If the only issue with gentrification was that it changed the culture of neighborhoods, making them less like they traditionally have been, this post would be right on point.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Chris
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      says:

      That begs the question. Are there issues with gentrification or is gentrification a symptom of other issues? Just asserting that gentrification causes trouble doesn’t do much.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r
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        says:

        There’s one actual issue with gentrification, and that’s old folks who LURVE their homes having to move to other homes.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r
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        says:

        There’s actually a fairly large literature on gentrification, its overarching and its proximate causes, its direct and indirect effects, and so on.

        In Austin, for example, gentrification of large swaths of the East Side and Southeast Austin have bee driven by a couple factors (which are interrelated and interacting): (1) Austin’s population has been growing pretty quickly since the 80s, but in the last 10 years it has been growing at an astronomical rate, and (2) because of the pre-2005 growth, the city had decided to try to increase the population density of downtown, in large part by giving developers a ton of financial/tax incentives to build there. The result of this was that a bunch of highrise and less-than-highrise condo buildings have gone up centered around Congress Avenue, with very hefty sticker prices. These, in turn, have caused areas a ring or two outside of the high rise condo-plex that has become the immediate downtown area to become attractive to people who can’t afford to pay a bazillion dollars for a 500 square foot condo on the 29th floor of a tower. As more and more people with money but not highrise money have moved into town, they’ve taken over several of those areas (some of which were already expensive, some of which were downright poor), and developers, recognizing this pattern, began to expand their developments into still more areas in the close rings around downtown (East Austin was taken over by the gentrifying residents; Southeast Austin was taken over by developers who then brought in the gentrifying residents).

        As soon as the developers and the new residents began to move East of I-35, people began to be displaced. It was a very rapid and not entirely friendly process. And it’s continuing as the development continues to move East and North.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
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        says:

        @chris

        You obviously know Austin far better than I. I travelled there a few times back around ’07 or ’08. Then I traveled there against in 2013. During the former trips, we always stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn just on the “good” side of 35, with a quasi understanding that we didn’t go beyond the Wendies just on the other side. This past time, we used AirBNB to rent a relatively new condo several blocks past 35 (right around the corner from Franklins… which we did not partake in… worth the wait?). It was surprising to see how quickly things had changed. I assume what I was seeing was a direct result of what you described?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r
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        says:

        Kazzy, what you saw is exactly what I was talking about. Not that I imagine anyone cares about these details, but until very recently, east of I-35 was the “bad” part of town, pretty much from the extreme northern to the extreme southern parts of town. This meant, basically, that it was almost all black and hispanic, poor, working, and lower middle class. The town was so segregated that I knew people in northwest Austin who had no idea that Austin was less than 60% non-hispanic white, because they never went East of 35.

        Back then, I lived in what was the #1 crime zip code in Austin (78741), and one of the most notorious areas in town (not in 78741) was 12th and Chicon, just a few blocks east of the Wendy’s you mentioned. Now the East side, at least between the river and airport, and west of Pleasant Valley, is the “cool” side, 12th and Chicon still has some drug problems but is surrounded by hipster joints, and my old neighborhood (78741) has 3 quarters of a million dollar condos.

        Oh, and Franklin’s isn’t really worth standing in that line. The brisket’s good, but not spectacular, and while some people swear by the ribs, each time I’ve had them they were not just bad but awful. There are better bbq joints.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @chris

        Whenever I go, I take the bus from the airport. If I remember correctly, this runs through the east part of town before crossing over onto the west side. You could tell the difference — and I’m sure there are gradations within each side — but the east side never looked so bad that people would avoid it entirely. I can understand why folks might not have regular reason to head over there, but it always surprises me when people avoid whole swaths of cities just because they are “bad”… especially when those same people are all too happy to head that way when the area becomes “cool”.

        I guess the idea of such a sterile lifestyle just boggles my mind. I couldn’t imagine living on the UWS of Manhattan and never going to Harlem, Washington Heights, Morningside, Spanish Harlem, and the South Bronx (some of which have experienced their own amounts of gentrification). I mean, why live in a society if you are only going to visit the sterile slices that are largely indistinguishable from those same parts of other cities?

        I’m generally not one to stand in lines. It is rare that Place X with a line is so much better than Place Y without one that spending 2 hours doing nothing is made up for. I’m a Stubbs man myself, but I haven’t explored too many places in Austin.

        When I was in San Antonio, I think we went to a place out in the middle of nowhere. Rudy’s?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r
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        says:

        Yeah, the airport bus (assuming you took the 100 and not the 350, which also goes to the county jail) goes through southeast Austin, from the airport, down riverside just by my old neighborhood (I lived off East Riverside and East Oltorf until 3 years ago), always just off Pleasant Valley) then heads up Congress into downtown. The neighborhoods it passes through are mostly working class, and on the east side of 35, and mostly hipsanic, though once it gets west of Pleasant Valley (about a mile east of 35), you get to the gentrifying areas.

        There is no neighborhood in Austin that I would consider “bad.” The Dove Springs (southeast) area has had some serious crime problems in the recent past, but I when I lived on East Oltorf, where getting off the Night Owl bus at 3:30 in the morning meant being hit on by prostitutes and hit up by crack and meth dealers pretty much instantly, I never felt unsafe, and I’ve never felt unsafe anywhere else in Austin either. Well, except trying to enter the lower deck of I35, because doing that is insane.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        Oh, and Rudy’s is pretty awesome. There are two in Austin.

        My favorite is Salt Lick, but County Line is pretty damn good, and Iron Works ain’t bad either. Stubb’s is good if you’re going to a show there (and the spinach casserole is delicious, and really spicy). And sometime in the last year one of Franklin’s former employees opened his own place, La BBQ, which is as good as Franklin’s, though annoyingly expensive. The best BBQ is in Lockhart, though.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        I recognize there is all sorts of male privilege wrapped up in my advocacy of public transit, busses, and frequenting less-than-ritzy neighborhoods… but I still think people tend to overstate the risks. With the exception of my current home, I lived in urban or urbanish areas my entire life. And I frequented pretty much all parts of the three major cities I lived in (Boston, NY, DC). The only “violent” crime I encountered personally was when some teenagers stole my bag of candy on Halloween. This happened in my hometown, I was probably about 12-years-old, and was right out on the main drag. They were just asshole teenagers who wanted candy and saw an easy target. My car was broken into once when I left it in the U Street neighborhood for two nights with foreign plates. They stole the GPS and my change (though took the time to sort out my pennies). Otherwise, I’ve been totally fine. And that includes walking through Harlem, Columbia Heights, and Dorchester at all hours of the night. Not necessarily the “worst of the worst” but neighborhoods a lot of people won’t go to until they are going to the super gentrified areas.

        Don’t get me started on NYers and the bus. That is more of a class issue than anything else but, again, it astounds me that people are so willing to limit their experiences because of perceptions of what it means to do something outside their comfort zone. “A BUS?!?! TO HARLEM?!?!?!?!?!” “Yea, dude, you’ll be fine. And we’ll get chicken and waffles and it will be amazeballs.”Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        Kazzy,
        Yeah, the stories I’ve heard have been… quite different.
        [My friends have a gift for trouble that I’m quite certain you lack.]
        Also, I notice Philly isn’t on your list. Some places are higher crime
        than others.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Chris
      Ignored
      says:

      I think gentrification has been going on for a long time. Jane Jacobs wrote about transient high-rent payers in The Death and Life of American Cities. The first neighborhoods to gentrify in Brooklyn did so in the 1970s, it started with Park Slope and the slowly went through the rest of Brownstone Brooklyn with neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens, Boreum Hill, and Cobble Hill following suit. The housing was cheap. A Brooklyn Brownstone went for around 20,000 dollars in the 1970s. Now they go for several million.

      Gentrification was not initially a problem because the demand for Brooklyn Brownstones was smaller than the supply. Somewhere in the late 1990s or early aughts, this all began to change. I think for for most of the Post-WWII era, young white upper-middle class professionals would live in the city for a few years after college but then return to the suburbs when it was time to start families. This is at least true of people born between 1944 to around the late 60s. However, white middle class people from Gen X or later decided that they wanted to raise their kids in the city instead of moving back to the suburbs. Or they are getting married much later and not moving back to the suburbs. I don’t know what accounted for the shift in attitudes but it happened and has been noted.

      http://www.danagoldstein.net/dana_goldstein/2013/02/hipsturbia-actually-becoming-browner-poorer-and-older.html

      Does anyone know why Gen X and later decided that they wanted to raise their kids in the city instead of suburbs?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        1) Financial concerns.
        2) Cultural concerns — there’s more of an attitude of “I want shinies” and less of “I want space” [I’ll note this is probably more of a ‘tude in cities that are more promiscuous than the average.]Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        The phenomenon that we call gentrification, which has some predictable patterns, has been going on since the 50s, and it’s not the changing of the culture of the neighborhoods that’s the problem, it’s dislocation, often in the form of eviction or foreclosure, that’s the problem. I mean, when every neighborhood starts to look like every other neighborhood, that kinda sucks, but in general I think most people would prefer not losing their homes over not being able to drum in the park.

        A lot of times the folks who’ve been affected by gentrification point to cultural change, but this is largely because the economic factors are harder for them to put their fingers on, the cultural change really does affect the way they view themselves and their neighborhoods, and it’s a symbol of the people who are gone now as a result of dramatic increases in the cost of living in a neighborhood, because the culture was the people.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        It’s probably a combination of the pendulum swinging back the other way after the wave of suburbanization that took place after WW2 and the fact that cities are a lot more livable now. I grew up in New York when the subways were covered in graffiti and you weren’t supposed to go above 96th street (116th street on the West Side).

        Also, I don’t know if it’s that Gen X decided anything as a generation. Lots of people still decamp to the ‘burbs. It’s just that the pace of that migration is lower and happens later as family formation happens later. People who would have moved to the suburbs at 25 are now doing it at 35, meanwhile they spend those 10 years bidding up rents in the city.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        1. Note sure if this is true. It is very expensive to maintain city housing even a condo especially an old-school San Francsico Edwardian or a Brooklyn Brownstone. This isn’t to say that suburban housing isn’t expensive but you have to deal with all the same homeowner ship expenses like updating the kitchen, repairs, mortgage, etc. The one benefit to condos is that the doorman is always there for the UPS and FedEx guys and a condo will have a maintence guy on staff.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        jr,
        I’ve seen enough strange (and unpleasant) stuff around NYC…Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        @j-r

        I remember NY during that time even though I was a small kid.

        My friends are largely in their early to mid 30s and a decent amount have kids or are starting to have kid. I would say it looks like a roughly 50/50 split between those moving back to the suburbs and those trying to stay in the city with their kids.Report

      • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        @newdealer You’re wondering why people who had to grow up in the suburbs don’t want to live there now?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        NewDealer,
        You are invited to consider Pittsburgh as a city, and then compute housing costs with a more realistic average 😉
        Seriously, San Fransciscans do spend a TON on housing — but their food is cheaper than here. And I’d be willing to bet your local taxes might not be as high as Pittsburgh’s either (on a dollars earned basis). (Discounting state taxes because of many issues)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        most people would prefer not losing their homes

        True enough, but when we’re talking about renters, that begs all sorts of questions.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        Crime. Or rather lack thereof.

        And even the worst school systems are decent in upper-middle class and up neighborhoods. (esp at the K-6 level)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        James, certainly, and I don’t think there’s any solution, particularly within our economic system, to gentrification. Once we recognize that it does have negative effects, even if it does have positive ones, we can start trying to come up with methods — whether it’s through policy or through the market — to reduce the negative effects without having much of an impact on the positive ones. So, boutique grocery stores without evictions and foreclosures that result from dramatic increases in rent and taxes.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        @jonathan-mcleod

        I think it depends on what we mean by suburb. I grew up in a suburb of NYC but there was a central town and I was able to walk to the town and get a slice of pizza. The train ride to NYC was 30 minutes away. There are lots of “suburbs” in the NE and NW that are really charming towns on their own. Granted these are often expensive and a product of being old communities that became inner-ring suburbs.

        I think it is a limited imagination to think of suburbs as inherently bland and with nothing to do. My parents took me to culture in NYC and museums all the time when I was growing up.

        If I ever start a family, it might be nice to raise them in a city but I can also see moving to an inner-ring suburb/town that is close enough to a city. A benefit of suburbs is that the public schools are generally good and you don’t have to jump through crazy hoops to get your kid into the good public schools or a private school.

        The NYC school scene is insane. I don’t know how to describe it to non-New Yorkers because they would never believe me. I lived in a well to do neighborhood with a good public elementary school and a bad public elementary school, real estate agents were masters at telling people where to live to be zoned for the good public, elementary school. The entire private school scene is an insane amount of competition, application, and expense.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        @newdealer

        Does anyone know why Gen X and later decided that they wanted to raise their kids in the city instead of suburbs?

        For the most part, they didn’t. Kids are still notably more of a suburban thing than an urban thing. It’s just that there is modestly less difference in how much, depending on the metrics you’re looking at.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        most people would prefer not losing their homes

        True enough, but when we’re talking about renters, that begs all sorts of questions.

        It does, but it dismisses the straw man of “Why do the people who got there first want special privileges to exclude outsiders?”Report

      • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        @newdealer You asked if anyone knew “why Gen X and later decided that they wanted to raise their kids in the city instead of suburbs?”

        I can totally understand the benefits of urban living, of suburban living, of ex-urban living, of rural living… hell, even nomadic living. Can you seriously not understand why some* families will prefer urban living? I understand your stated preference; can you try to understand the preferences of others? (And please remember that not all areas are like NY or SF.)

        *as will notes, it’s not like all of Gen X (and beyond) decided to raise their kids in urban areas. Not by a long shot.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        @mike-schilling–I think Vikram does a good job of explaining why it’s not a strawman.

        @chris–So, boutique grocery stores without evictions and foreclosures that result from dramatic increases in rent and taxes.

        Really damned difficult, though, without simply making the property-owner/landlord bear the cost of what we deem a desirable social policy. And if “we” decide that it truly is a desirable social policy that “we” want, then “we” should pay for it–i.e., taxpayer funded subsidies for the current residents. But when you consider how much some people are willing and able to pay, to offset their attractiveness to landlords we’re potentially talking about a very expensive policy that actually provides huge subsidies to landlords to continue offering housing of marginal quality.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        in general I think most people would prefer not losing their homes…

        Even this is a fairly broad and somewhat imprecise statement. Some people are probably attached to their neighborhoods and would hate the idea of being forced out by rising rents or cost of living. Other people might jump at the chance to sell their homes or ditch their high rents and move on to greener pastures.

        There is a pattern of black folks leaving northern cities and moving south, a sort of Reverse Great Migration. Some of this is about being priced out and some of this is just people who’ve spent their whole lives in apartments or small houses taking the opportunity to retire somewhere they can have some space.

        The problem with this simplistic narrative of gentrification is that it creates this odd divide between old residents and new residents that only enforces all the negative aspects of the thing that it is trying to critique. It reduces all of the old residents of a neighborhood to a passive status in which they have no agency and a homogeneous set of preferences. And it imbues all of the new residents with this odd sense of somehow being above it all.

        Young white people live in cheap neighborhoods for the same reasons that black and Hispanic people and older less well-off people do. It’s where they can afford to live. All those twenty-somethings living in Bushwick walk-ups, dollars to donuts they’d be living in brand new elevator buildings in the East Village or in Williamsburg on the water if they could.

        The thing that makes Spike Lee’s rant notable is that it’s just that, a rant. It’s a complaint about a certain type of entitled attitude and a certain type of behavior. It’s not necessarily a rant against gentrification.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        @jonathan-mcleod

        My question wasn’t meant to say that there weren’t benefits to urban living but I was wondering about the generational shift or the pendellum swinging back as jr called it.

        I disagree with Will Truman a bit, the data does seem to indicate that suburbs are getting older and poorer (but maybe not completely as Dana Goldstein argues).

        My mind was wandering more about how the collective mind of a generation cohort decides things. The Boomers ultimately did not rebel against their suburban childhoods but Gen X appears to be doing so. I love living in cities but dislike the general attitude of suburbs as a wasteland or mall-boredom. Perhaps I was reading tone into your post that wasn’t there.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        NewDealer,
        I dunno about you, but my boomer relatives grew up in small towns.
        Some of ’em shot and ate squirrel, too.
        In New Jersey, believe it or not.Report

      • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        @newdealer I’ll certainly cop to there being some snark in my initial response, but I still don’t get your argument. Just because the suburbs are getting older does not mean that young families aren’t moving there (there are a lot of factors at play). It’s, no doubt, true that more young families are choosing urban living than used to be the case, but I still don’t think I’m buying into the blanket statement.

        But if you want to know some reasons why people might be rearing kids in the city, it could be for certain things like:
        1. environmental concerns
        2. shorter/less commutes
        3. walkability/bike-ability
        4. greater sense of community
        5. cultural benefits
        6. “grown up” stuff to do
        7. diversity of activities (work/home/play balance)

        A lot of this will depend on what cities and suburbs you’re talking about. The suburbs around NYC seem nice from what you say, but some really are pseudo-wastelands filled with boring houses, heavy-traffic streets and big box stores. Maybe the question is why weren’t previous generations staying in the cities more?

        The idea that the pendulum is swinging back seems on track. If things got way out of kilter towards suburbs, it’s just settling back now. It’s not actually a giant shift. In terms of the “collective mind” of a generation, to the extent that exists maybe it’s just that it took a few people to start a trend to let other people know that this was an option. I often think that many people make decisions based on what they think they should do rather than being thoughtful and intentional.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        @jonathan-mcleod

        There is no argument because I am not making one. I am just meandering on an observations. Suburbs do not need to be culturally limiting. I think how the US handles it schooling is probably radically different from any other nation especially other developed nations. Cities might not be as clusterfucked as NYC when it comes to schooling but I haven’t heard of one urban school system in the US as being described as good except a few select schools here and there. This includes Washington, Boston/Cambridge/Sommerville, SF, Chicago, Portland (Tod posted on this a few months back), Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami, etc.

        I was just asking a question about a seeming attitude shift in generations, not making a pronouncement that something was better.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        ND,
        ours gives free college if you stay in school. So, um, there’s that.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Chris
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      says:

      The culture of a neighborhood can change without gentification occuring and it still pisses the original inhabitants off. I live in Williamsburg. In the early 20th century, it was a Catholic working class neighborhood. In fact, it was the neighborhood featured in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Than the Williamsburg Bridge opened and working class Jews from the Lower East Side moved into the more spacious Williamsburg. This pissed off the original Catholic inhabitants but provided the world with Mel Brooks. In the mid-20th century, it became a Puerto Rican and Hasidic neighborhood than towards the end artists moved in and gentrification started.Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe
    Ignored
    says:

    “An example of doing it right would be Trader Joe’s canceling plans for a store in a community that opposed their entrance.”

    In a so-called food desert no less.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Kolohe
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      says:

      Actually, that’s just an example of doing it stupid.
      TJ’s is a Discount Grocery Store, and just ought
      to remind folks of that fact.

      Also, don’t “so-called” the food desert until you’ve
      walked the streets.

      http://www.alleghenyfront.org/story/grocery-stories-fresh-food-access-pennsylvania-neighborhoodsReport

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Kim
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        says:

        They could have lobbied for themselves, but the letter the organization that opposed them was pretty unequivocal in its condemnation of the proposal. After that to say, “hey, we think if you got to know us, you’d like us” seems a bit naive and assumes that the group doesn’t know what it’s talking about.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Kim
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        says:

        so long as you’re not buying meat or produce there, it’s “discount”.

        disclaimer: i hate trader joe’s. i hate its ugly shriveled soul. i hate its logo. i hate the way it looks spelled backwards: s’eoj redart.

        actually i take that back it’s pretty cool backwards.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kim
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        says:

        But have you ever had their green chicken burritos?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Kim
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        says:

        Green chicken?! No thanks, Sam-I-Am.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kim
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        says:

        I love TJs. It isn’t ideal for all my shopping needs, but for most of my dry goods & dairy/eggs, they rock.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kim
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        says:

        I would definitely shop at TJ’s if one were in my neighborhood. But I would prefer a more full-service grocery store. (Thankfully, my neighborhood’s getting one.)

        What bothers me, though, is the opposition to a TJ’s. I didn’t click on the links, etc., and maybe they explain some things. But whatever “community group” opposed the TJ’s likely didn’t speak for everybody in the so-called “community.”Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kolohe
      Ignored
      says:

      I had sent this story to Tod a few weeks back, figuring he would be able to provide a bit of local perspective on it. I don’t recall seeing a post about it, so I guess he never got the time.

      From what I recall, the Portland TJs debacle is a case of too many people talking past each other too fast & before they could all perform a collective anal-cranial inversion, TJs decided it wasn’t really interested in all the drama (& who could blame them).

      Whole lot of stupid all around.Report

  4. Avatar NewDealer
    Ignored
    says:

    A lot of my white gentrifing friends posted Spike Lee’s rant, possibly to assuage their own guilt.

    I am a gentrifier and have always lived in neighborhoods that were considered dangerous and crime-ridden in recent memory (which can go back 30 years or more) and are now filled with expensiveish restaurants and bars and convenience stores that sell more craft and foreign beer than Bud and Coors. My Brooklyn neighborhood was already heavily gentrified when I moved in and is now more so. My SF neighborhood halted gentrification because of the fiscal crisis/recession but is gearing back up and expanding quickly.

    I don’t think anything can be done about gentrification. White middle class people who grew up in the suburbs are moving to city centers and seemingly want to stay there according to the statistics. A good chunk of us disliked our suburban existence and don’t want to give that to our kids. I personally think that this will change in a few years but right now I have anecdotal evidence of white, middle class types sending their kids to public elementary school in large cities. This would have been unfathomable for most white, middle class people when I was growing up and a small child.
    We shall see if it lasts until middle school though. In my observation it is easy enough for large cities to have good elementary schools, the real tricks are good middle schools and high schools.

    I think the real controversies with gentrification are more about changing cultures and value judgments over raising rents even Spike Lee credited the gentrifiers for making Fort Greene less violent. However, Matt Y once wrote an article where he praised how a mediocre supermarket was replaced with a Whole Foods yuppie type market. He used the word better. I love Whole Foods as much as the next yuppie but it is not necessarily better than a Pathmark or Safeway. Those are certainly more affordable and scale better. So someone might be rent-controlled or own their housing but now needs to travel further for affordable groceries.

    Insert notice that I am being hypocritical by saying grocery shopping is a relative value while I am not relativist when it comes to culture sometimes.

    City neighborhoods can be very odd and a mix of cultures that are really different and really disagree with each other. The social contract maintaining piece and adhesion between these cultures can be very hard to maintain. Williamsburg, Brooklyn is a mix between Hasidic Jews, Hipsters, Yuppies, working class Hispanics, and older Eastern European immigrants. Maintaining a peace between the groups and their needs is tough. The Hipsters and Yuppies seemingly control most of the commercial environment because they have the most discretionary income. They also lived there the shortest. The Hasidic Jews own a good deal of property and are politically connected. The other two groups, not as much.

    I don’t know if there is a solution to gentrification but I think it is not necessarily a 100 percent good.Report

  5. Avatar Creon Critic
    Ignored
    says:

    I think an aspect of the frustration Spike Lee is expressing isn’t really about gentrification today; it isn’t necessarily the current change that’s most galling to him. It is about the treatment of the communities in question prior to gentrification. Access to services, he mentions, trash collection, policing, and schools, was far more restricted or very unevenly distributed. But now that the well-to-do have arrived the city/state devotes resources to provide these services that should’ve been at the high quality, post-gentrification level all along.

    By the way the neighborhoods operate post-gentrification, the city/state is vividly demonstrating that it was capable of high quality service provision all along. The people who lived in the community before just didn’t matter enough* to the powers that be to receive the attention/resources they deserved. And to say the least, that is frustrating.

    * With a significant class and race element to this who matters and who doesn’tReport

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Creon Critic
      Ignored
      says:

      I think this is a fair point. He might be more upset at the neighborhoods past treatment, and I’m also upset on his behalf and think it inexcusable. He is, however, also upset about his new neighbors, and I was only referring to those comments here because that is what directly relates to gentrification.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        Also, I’ll note that I don’t think he says “White people shouldn’t move here.” Instead he says “if you move here, do so with respect unlike what I’ve seen thus far,” which is a notion I agree with.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        @vikram-bath

        How does one do that? Does it simply mean allowing the drum playing to continue in the park? Does it mean allowing people to drink and smoke weed on the streets if that is the status quo of the community? Etc. What is the limit? New businesses are going to move in and that might mean an old institution shuts down…Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        NewDealer,
        I think his requests are reasonable. Let the black people have a party for Michael.
        Let his dad play acoustic music (where I’m at, folks wouldn’t dream of kvetching about that.–the kids down the street have drums, too. And though it is somewhat annoying, I don’t bitch)Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        ND, I think you’re right to ask. I think being respectful is perhaps easier said then done. With respect to the bass playing, I think working out acceptable hours for play might be a good idea. Same goes for the drums.

        If smoking and drinking in the streets is normal practice but illegal, I think it’d be OK to report it.

        In my view, old businesses should be given no special privileges over new ones (or vice versa). But if you are a big company moving in and get told you aren’t wanted by the locals, I would personally advise backing off. And I say that both for the sake of the community as well as the business itself.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        @newdealer

        Something that seems left out in Lee’s rant is this:

        Did the neighbors have a conversation with his father about the guitar playing, or did they just call the cops?Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Creon Critic
      Ignored
      says:

      Good points.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe
    Ignored
    says:

    “Does anyone know why Gen X and later decided that they wanted to raise their kids in the city instead of suburbs?”

    In addition to what Will Truman said above, (and what I said above), it’s also about options.

    The boomers are still by and large in those 60’s-80’s built suburbs in the inner rings. The inventory for a SFH in a (deisrable*) inner ring suburban neighborhood is relatively small, and thus are some of the most expensive properties out there.

    Which leaves either condos (which they are building) in the city, or a longer commute (but affordable housing) in the newly minted exurbs.

    Also, with the norm now being 2 income households, somewhere that’s a commuting radius of two job centers, vice just one is now a priority. The city center often fits this bill, as do exurbs that are between two metroplexes (like Howard County Maryland and central NJ)

    *because inner ring suburbs everywhere have either become the near exclusive enclaves of whitey mcwhitetersons, or have become predominantly immigrant communities. With a few longstanding suburban majority African American communities in the mix.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kolohe
      Ignored
      says:

      An interesting development over the last decade – one I believe is indicative to how dominant the suburbs truly are – is that language has shifted. We don’t talk about “the city” versus “the suburbs” so exclusively. Now it’s the “city and inner suburbs” versus “outer suburbs and rings.”

      As a gesture of pity, we’re giving (inner) suburbs to the cities!

      Okay, not pity. It’s just that suburban expansion has considered at such degrees and city cores have been so constricted that people who would used to live in the city are instead living in the inner suburbs and making it more city-like in many respects while expansion outward has continued endlessly.

      But any day now, I hear, the suburbs are going to start to become ghost towns. There is an interesting dynamic where people who otherwise wouldn’t seem to imply that the increased diversity of the suburbs is indicative of their decline. (To be fair, they also mention poverty rates, which is a better point, but I’d say perhaps indicative of the fact that the suburbs are often a more comfortable place to be poor.)Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t think the suburbs are going to become ghost towns. This trend (if it is a trend) is going to develop over a long time period. We will either see more white kids entering the city school systems and/or a crop of new private schools coming into existence if the new city residents.

        Dana Goldstein’s data is plausible. Joel Klotkin is a bit too partisan to be plausible and seems to be part of “Dems say this, so I will say the opposite” that Tod mentions.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Kotkin isn’t a Republican. In 2010 he was waving the banner for the Democratic nominee for Texas Governor.

        He is a staunch opponent of the urbanists, though, and “smart growthers.” Which I think is a-okay because urbanists and smart-growthers tend to dominate the conversation.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        NewDealer,
        oh, some of the suburbs are already ghost towns. Complete with lynx or mosquito filled pools, take your pick,.Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    Tel Aviv is experiencing similar issues with gentrification that San Francisco is and have developed an interesting strategy to deal with it according to Tablet magazine. The basic idea is that if you gentrify an entire neighborhood at once, tearing down existing buildings with new ones that could house more people. The people already living in the lot of land where the new building is beign built are given apartments in the new building and the rest of the apartments are sold at market rate. It causes a disruption but only a temporary one.Report

  8. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
    Ignored
    says:

    Regarding Trader Joes in Portland, this is informative:

    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/02/trader_joes_decision_to_pull_o.html

    It includes a lot of reactions from neighborhood residents, who seem rather pissed that some group essentially chased TJs out of the neighborhood.Report

    • Yeah, I saw that. But ultimately that means that Trader Joe’s entrance would be at best “controversial”. As a company with options, I don’t think you should wait for uniform opposition before looking for a more welcoming community instead.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        From the reactions I read, I think it was only controversial to a community group whose leadership no longer lives in the neighborhood.

        It would have been nice for TJs to pause & try to get more information, but I also don’t blame them for not doing it. They want to sell groceries, not get sucked into community drama.Report

  9. Avatar j r
    Ignored
    says:

    As somewhat of an aside, the phenomena of gentrification is a pretty good illustration of why property rights matter. It’s fashionable right now, in the wake of the housing bubble/financial crisis, to mock Bush’s ownership society and how the GSEs were subsidizing mortgages. And whenever libertarians talk about the importance of economic rights, progressives like to assume that this always an attempt to screw the poor and middle class.

    Imagine, however, how different the process of gentrification might work if the residents of a neighborhood had a real economic stake in that neighborhood. Imagine a policy based on homesteading run down areas instead of demolishing them and putting up housing projects. Imagine if Great Society housing policy had been implemented in a way that deeded people in their apartments instead of turning them into tenants with very little power in the management of their buildings.

    Things might be unfolding much differently in the present.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      There is some truth here, though a lot of them would still be pushed out due to increasing property appraisals and property taxes.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      Local residents DO have a major economic stake in their neighborhoods. That is why they are upset. Often they have lived in that place for a long time and the changes mean they have to leave since they can’t afford it or move farther away which hurts them. I dont’ particularly agree with the anti-gent folks, but they are committed to their neighborhoods and show a strong stake in them.

      I’ve never actually heard anyone say property rights don’t matter. The progressive critique would be that they are but one of many important rights, not the primary issue, as some contend.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      Imagine if Great Society housing policy had been implemented in a way that deeded people in their apartments instead of turning them into tenants with very little power in the management of their buildings.

      I was thinking about something like this in response to Chris’s comment above about people getting evicted. What if government policy–pre-gentrification–was to help tenants organize to buy out the landlord and create condos with a home-owners association?

      This couldn’t be a universally applied policy. It wouldn’t work where tenants tend to be transient. It’s strongest appeal would be in places where people are long-term tenants, but that’s exactly the people whose eviction most bothers us, right? (I lived in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco for 2 1/2 years in my early 20s, in two different apartments; presumably eviction of folks like I was aren’t what makes our hearts bleed.)

      Those neighborhoods could still gentrify, of course, because housing would still be relatively low-cost there. But it would mean the current residents are voluntarily moving out, as they accept satisfactory offers to buy their property. And that’s a huge difference, no?

      Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Before the housing bubble burst, I thought this. I don’t know if I still do or not; there are other considerations.

        In my state (and this will vary by state) affordable housing projects that receive CDBG funding can do either income-based rentals or direct sales; they almost never do direct sales. I suspect it boils down to eviction being much easier the foreclosure on the fail end. On the success end, people able to bootstrap up seem to move out.

        The economic crisis also revealed potential links between long-term unemployment and home ownership in communities with crashed economies; if your best upward mobility comes from relocating, the ball-and-chain of a house you cannot sell can be a problem (and I credit this notion to @will-truman’s writing here.)

        Another problem flows from mortgages that require two incomes in the household; the loss of one due to job loss or divorce can put the family into crises and this also tends to shut lower middle-income to low-income single-parent households out of the market. There are also considerations of maintenance — lot of people have no notion how to maintain a house.

        Those are just thoughts; I think homeownership should be encouraged. But the downsides of homeownership should at least be examined, too. Sometimes, the flexibility of renting might be superior, and when it comes to public money in the system, there may well be some reason why rental units seem to be the trend.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        When Hawaii became a state, it had a higher percentage of renters than any other state. This was because of the plantation economy that developed during the Kingdom and territorial period. Most of the land was owned by a handful of corporations.

        The new state that this was undesirable and launched the biggest use of eminent domain to spread land ownership. It worked but had to go the Supreme Court.

        I think that turning renters into owners would involve something similar.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Haight-Ashbury has gentrified somewhat.

        There is a Whole Foods at the end, a mock Irish pub with a middle-aged clientelle, an expensive cocktail bar, an upscalish gastro pub, the fancy soda store, Amoeba Records, a Ben and Jerry’s, and a fancy food mart where the Red Vic used to be, and a nice coffeeshop, and a good greengrocer. There are still plenty of Haight Street
        kids who just hang out all day and beg for money and pretend 1967 never ended.

        It is an interesting mix of the Yuppie and the sketchy.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        zic,
        I disagree. FHA is public money too (same with the loans vets get).
        Willing to bet that Roths and FHA combined are a lot bigger than the rental units, in terms of cost to taxpayer.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @newdealer
        Haight-Ashbury has gentrified somewhat.

        It was gentrifying when I lived there in the late 80s. And there were lots of complaints–mostly from young white itinerants like me.

        More descriptively, mostly from young white people who’d come to Haight-Ashbury looking for the romanticism of the beatnik and hippie eras, and were distressed that the place didn’t meet their expectations.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Kim, FHA is mortgage insurance for lower-income and marginally credit-worthy home buyers, now. It’s not public money going to direct lending, it’s an insurance for lenders on loans made to lower income borrowers with marginal FICO scores.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        Were you expecting a romantic beatnik past when you moved in? Cool Daddy-yo 🙂

        I live a few blocks away and really like the local greengrocer on Haight and get most of my fruits and veggies from there and it is the one place I can think of close by for pizza slices. Plus Ameoba is fun to browse but lots of friends especially female friends dislike going there because of the panhandlers.

        Sadly the Red Vic Movie House is gone.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @newdealer

        No, I was just looking for a cheap apartment (and boy did I ever find one, but that’s another story).

        By the way, have you ever had breakfast at the Pork Store?Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      Imagine a policy based on homesteading run down areas instead of demolishing them and putting up housing projects.

      First, is there large-scale evidence that this is happening? Do you mean ‘housing projects’ to indicate ‘the projects,’ meaning subsidized housing, or to mean subdivisions built by the private sector, which has to go through the local community’s planning and permitting process?

      If you do mean publicly-funded projects, it’s a matter of state-level policies, not federal policy. Housing money is given out in block grants; and so much of how it’s handled will be based on an individual state’s choices, though those choices are limited to some degree by the federal government. So if you want to see what works best, there’s 50+ incubators out there trying to revitalize communities and create affordable housing to examine.

      This really gets to local control, however, and questions of best management practices used in local zoning ordinances and local standards on including low/middle housing requirements in development projects. Local ordinances work two ways; they can be used to keep re-development of poorer neighborhoods ripe for gentrification at bay to some degree, but it’s more common to see them used to keep the riffraff out of high-end communities with things like minimum lot size standards, subdivision open-space requirements, etc.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      @j-r

      The idea of homeownership is hardly new to Bush but was part of the NewDeal’s post-WWII plan.

      Though from what I’ve read economists are mixed on whether homeownership is something that should be encouraged or not.

      http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/884

      The answer seems to be hard because people like stability (almost no one wants to move every year or every few years) but homeownership is the only way to make this possible.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        It’s a social good but an economic liability, which is why I am so conflicted on the issue.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        Will,

        I think pundit types are usually more enamoured of geographic mobility than other people are. People aren’t think with policy in mind and sometimes they move for economic reasons, sometimes social/cultural reasons, sometimes a combo of both, but I think most people just want to be able to stay near their families and friends. No one wants to move every 5-6 years to an new city/area especially if they have kids in school.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        I suppose “BOTH SIDES DO IT!” is only to be expected when a good thing is pointed out about a Republican…Report

      • Avatar trumwill in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        Yeah, most people don’t, but you typically don’t need most people to move around that frequently.

        Either way, labor mobility is an economic good and its absence an economic inefficiency that can’t be wished away by opinion.

        As I’ve said previously, my solution is bribery.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        ND, its a serious problem. Most people don’t want to move around for the reasons you listed. Very few people uproot themselves in their country let alone leave to immigrate elsewhere unless some strong reason compels them to. Many people don’t even like going far for vacations if possible. Even if a rich and mobile country like the United States, its possible to not get on plane your entire life.

        The problem is that corporations, especially those involved manufacturing goods, move around quite a bit to find cheap labor. Home ownership probably made the situations in rust belt cities a lot worse because it was difficult for people to move away without taking an even bigger economic hit.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        Lee,
        actually, not really. The homes dropped in value, but a lot of folks had already paid them off.
        This recession/bust is hitting mobility a LOT harder than the 1970’s-80’s one did. Mostly because people bought overmarket, and now can’t afford to leave without paying more money –cash. Plus, people have far far less savings now than they did then.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        The problem is that corporations, especially those involved manufacturing goods, move around quite a bit to find cheap labor.

        I think that it’s an exaggeration to say that they move around “quite a bit.” Building a factory is a huge up-front investment, and liquidating it takes a huge bite out of any potential savings from relocation, so once it’s built it makes economic sense to keep operating it as long as it’s profitable.

        My impression is that the secular shift we’ve seen in the location of manufacturing employment has been overwhelmingly through attrition and automation, with manufacturers choosing to open up additional factories in lower-wage locations, rather than simply shutting down a factory in one place and opening a replacement in another. It just doesn’t make sense to relocate a factory to save 20% on wages.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        Brandon,
        you put the factory on wheels, and you roll it to the next town. It’s really not that difficult. See Atlanta.Report

      • Avatar Lyle in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        My cynical impression is that the policy in favor of homeownership in the 1930s arose to make the communist slogan not apply ” Workers of the World Unite You have Nothing to Loose but Your Chains” If you own (+/- a mortage) a home a rebellion means you do have something to loose. Recall that before WWII a significant part of the intelligentsia in the US thought a communist solution might be better than what we had. Homeownership was designed to make being a communist less attractive. (One has to look at things without taking into mind what happened since 1940 in looking at what the motivations were)Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        It is awesome.

        The deed for my grandparent’s farm, now in my uncle’s name, goes back from him to his parents, who purchased it from a family who got the land as part of the land from the original grant for Phipp’s Canada from King George; there are four deeds written and recorded, the rest are quitclaims to heirs. The fourth was my grandparent’s estate selling off some of the land to pay the other siblings their share of the estate and transferring the smaller parcel to my uncle; he’s a market farmer (vegetables, goats, cheese), in his 70’s and could not afford to purchase their shares.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      jr,
      while I cosign most of what you’re saying, I do want to note that not everyone should own a house. It’s a huge financial decision, and it completely boggles my mind that most people do it without a lawyer present. No business would dare do such an irresponsible thing.Report

      • Avatar Matty in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        Really? What system do you have over there? When I bought my house in Wales I certainly needed a solicitor to complete the sale and satisfy the bank that what they were giving a mortgage on was worth that much.

        Maybe you mean even the initial offer should be done with a lawyer present but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t considered a binding contract until the legal paperwork was completed.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        No actual lawyer necessary. However the costs include a title search, to ensure no liens or something suchlike are attached to the property. There are real estate lawyers, for those who want them. The need for them is rare in the residential market, so most people don’t bother.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        However the costs include a title search, to ensure no liens or something suchlike are attached to the property.

        I suppose this is one of those things that will vary by state and county, but: I title search is a good thing to do if you’re buy property; a good thing to do yourself. You can learn a lot about the property, particularly if it’s older. How owned it over the years. Also some indication of how they cared for it; a property with periods of liens on it may have also gone through a period of neglect, or a controversy with a building contractor can indicate some history of shoddy work.

        Some places, you can do them on-line, but that’s expensive. Here, I can go to the registry of deeds at the county courthouse, and follow any piece of land in the county back to when the state was incorporated in 1820; before that, the deeds are in Mass.

        Doing it yourself may not satisfy a lender’s requirement; but this may well vary by place and regulation. I would always do one before deciding to make an offer on a property.

        You can learn more:
        http://titlesearchblog.com/2008/09/09/diy-title-searching/Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        ETA: on-line searches are expensive to set up, so a lot of counties will not have it.

        Also: for most places now, tax records are available on-line.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        Here, I can go to the registry of deeds at the county courthouse, and follow any piece of land in the county back to when the state was incorporated in 1820;

        That is awesome.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      I should say that my original comment was not a push for more home ownership. From a policy perspective, I am ambivalent on home ownership. The choice as to whether to buy a house or not should be made by an individual taking his or her own preferences and financial situation into consideration along with the particulars of the local housing market.

      Rather, I am pointing out that the sort of housing and urban policy that planners and activists pushed pushed was based on the idea of top-down government intervention. And to the extent that individuals were empowered it was through particular legal and bureaucratic means not through entrepreneurial and market-based ones. I remember watching a documentary on Newark in the 1960s and there was a segment on activists coming in and organizing tenants of some run down housing into protests and law suits. I thought it odd. You had a bunch of people with limited job and career prospects and a bunch of housing in need of improvement. Going to the courts is one option, but so is training people to fix up these buildings.

      I’m not trying to get into a big argument about which is preferable. I only want to raise the idea that had a more entrepreneurial policy stance been the case then, now would be different. Would it be better? I don’t know. It’s hard to say anything definitive about counterfactuals.Report

  10. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    Here is a link on how Tel Aviv is dealing with gentrification issues:

    http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/164218/tel-aviv-meets-the-google-busReport

  11. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Great piece, @vikram-bath . I find very little to disagree with and really appreciate your willingness to explore and discuss the way in which institutional racism and other forces color the conversation.

    “I do acknowledge the discomfort this creates. Narratively, we told black people “you can only live in these assigned, undesirable places” one decade and then said “we want to change what you’ve built to suit us” 45 years later. That should make us uncomfortable, and I think Lee is right to ask for respect and tolerance rather than a call to the cops. An example of doing it right would be Trader Joe’s canceling plans for a store in a community that opposed its entrance.

    But that doesn’t mean that the final authority on the subject should not still be all members of the community regardless of the means by which they got there.

    Probably the only pushback I would give is with the bolded section there. And less pushback and more a question about whose voices tend to get listened to in the community. If ten white newcomers are properly entrenched within the various systems of power that they can effect change in a way that their 990 black neighbors who’ve been in the community cannot, we need to consider that fact when determining if we are really listening to all members of the community or not.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      If ten white newcomers are properly entrenched within the various systems of power that they can effect change in a way that their 990 black neighbors who’ve been in the community cannot

      This is a good point.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      Thanks, Kazzy. I wouldn’t characterize your question as pushback. Whether all members of the community are being listened to is an important question (and quite likely has racial tinges), but that is a separate issue from the question of whether new residents ought to be allowed to come into existing neighborhoods and expect to have their voices heard. It certainly is disturbing if ten powerful newcomers take complete control over the majority, but that is a problem regardless of whether they are newcomers, whether they are rich, and whether they are white. (Yes, there will often be all three, but the problem would still the usurpation of power, not the demographics of who is doing the usurping.)

      To put it more bluntly, you can make a valid complaint that black people’s voices aren’t being heard in community decisions. This complaint can be made independent of any discussion of gentrification, and referencing gentrification isn’t likely to support your argument.

      The same goes for Spike Lee’s complaint that the neighborhoods didn’t receive proper services when they were black. That’s a valid complaint that doesn’t need to be confounded with whether African drums in the park ought to be tolerated.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        Very well said.

        What I find interesting about your position as stated here is that it would very likely be supported by more conservative elements. But were you to apply the exact same logic to immigrants and the question of assimilation, they would likely sing a very different tune. Or — to avoid making this a “conservative” thing — liberals might well push back against your logic here but then employ it in defending the rights of immigrants.

        I think it applies equally in both cases and points out the problem of assuming a simple black-and-white answer that is either all X or all Y. All situations need to be evaluated on their own merits but the goal should be greater involvement of more people.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath
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        says:

        And allow me to say again that I *really* *really* like this piece. Love it, even. I’m probably inclined to, given some of the similarities in how you and I see the world and that you deal with an issue of intense concern for me in a remarkably thoughtful way. Really, a job well done.

        Now I need to scroll up and see everyone tearing you to shreds and yell at them and then get flogged at Whole Foods.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Vikram Bath
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        says:

        Regarding the bending arguments to apply to some groups and not others (i.e. rich whites but not immigrants or vice versa), both sides do it!

        But really, either the principles apply or they don’t. You can sometimes carve out exceptions as to why an argument that applies to one group doesn’t to another, but you have to do so carefully lest you simply extend courtesies to the populations you find sympathetic and deny them to those you don’t.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath
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        says:

        Exactly!

        Sometimes things are different and thus different principles apply. But you have to actually demonstrate why that is. Simply saying, “But it’s different!” is insufficient.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Vikram Bath
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        says:

        A married set of friends of mine relocated within Colosse. The place where they lived, where he grew up, was undergoing a rapid demographic change. White well-to-do suburbs on the one side of it, predominently minority and lower-class suburbs on the other. It was going from having more in common with the first side to having more in common with the second. If you asked them why they moved, the first couple of reasons were pretty benign (closer to his work, bigger house) but scratching below the surface, the changing state of the neighborhood was a significant motivating factor.

        If you asked her, she would give a teeth-grinching explanation with some racial stereotypes and whatnot along with complaints about language barriers. If you asked him, you would hear about cars parked on the front lawn, lawn care, boarded windows, and crime. (Both are Democrats, if it matters.)

        In many ways, though, their complaints are different sides of a very similar coin: The character of the neighborhood is changing and they increasingly have less in common with their neighbors than they used to.

        Is that legitimate? When is that a legitimate complaint? Does society owe it to people to have to do anything so that they don’t have to move? The answers to these questions ought to go beyond how we feel about them and the people that moved in.

        Putting it in racial terms is obviously problematic on the one side. And on the other who can object to people objecting to a crime problem? But obviously (to me) more was going on. They ceased feeling at home in their home. Did those moving in have an obligation to adopt the norms of their new home? Did they have an obligation to put on a happy face about it? It’s really not very simple.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        @will-truman

        “In many ways, though, their complaints are different sides of a very similar coin: The character of the neighborhood is changing and they increasingly have less in common with their neighbors than they used to.”

        I would question whether they REALLY have less in common with their neighbors or if they are assuming that based on certain superficial characteristics.

        Now, if well-manicured lawns are something of great import to them and they want to be surrounded by similarly-minded people, such is their right to pursue that. But if they don’t really care about lawns beyond an aesthetic preference for better kept ones but suddenly start talking about the “values” of people will the ill-kept lawns, I’d want to know how they went about learning those people’s values. If it was just a glance at their lawn, I’d be inclined to call bullshit.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Vikram Bath
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        says:

        To be honest, I do have my doubts about what sort of chance she gave the situation. It was his narrative of events that lent some credibility to the complaints. I suspect, for his part at least, his complaints would have been similar had a bunch of lower-middle or lower-class whites moved in.

        Personally, my personal concerns don’t line up with theirs very much (which has always been the case between him and myself, where he likes things “just so”). He said that one of the great things about the community they’re moving into is that they are going to have a rigorous home-owners association. Which would be precisely the opposite reaction I would have if I found out I was looking at a place with a vigorous HOA.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        @will-truman

        “Which would be precisely the opposite reaction I would have if I found out I was looking at a place with a vigorous HOA.”

        bro-daps on that. given the choice between rural location that can’t even get cable broadband and a marginal hoa+development, we picked the middle of the woods. i’m basically totally afraid of nature and have never had a lawn before but i have met small-minded control freak jackasses, and spending money to buy a house only to be at their sinister whimsy is a bridge too far.Report

  12. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    Great post, VB.

    My guess is that someone else has already brought it up, but there’s a different piece of the gentrification issue that I don’t see you bringing up that has a pretty big impact here in PDX: Gentrification that is fueled by new upper middle class families moving in that make it impossible for lower income families to stay.

    This is especially a problem in Portland, because we have our own (as you say) fished up processes, and one of those is an urban growth boundary whose effect is that when lower-income families are pushed out of neighborhoods they’ve lived in all their lives there’s a decreasing number of places to move to. (Part of this is because if you are a developer looking to invest, the most profitable place to begin the next neighborhood gentrification wave is that area of PDX that has the lowest property values.)

    I’ve discussed this before here, but it creates a situation where the job of Democrats here is to look after the vested interests of upper middle class people — and often times these “interests” are merely aesthetic. (“I like seeing fields instead of buildings when I drive on the freeway to work!”) And since the state Republicans would rather eat raw slugs that champion the poor, it means that no one who has the power to do anything is even trying to find solutions for the most economically vulnerable.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the side of gentrification you’re looking at is True, and needs to be part of the debate. But I also think there are other issues going on with the gentrification debate than “keep the newbies out.”Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      Gentrification that is fueled by new upper middle class families moving in that make it impossible for lower income families to stay.

      @tod-kelly , I’m trying to figure out how to answer this without sounding like a heartless bastard, but I’m not really succeeding, so let me go ahead and admit that I’m a heartless bastard and continue with my argument.

      The benefits we get from having a liberalized society and a liberalized economy aren’t free. Namely, you have to follow those rules of liberalization. You can make a lot of exceptions to them to protect people we feel need protecting, and we do, but such exceptions have costs.

      If you’re a lower-income resident living in a place where the cost of living goes up, this can become a very big problem for you very quickly (and it might even be worse if it happens slowly). As mentioned by someone in a comment above, stores cater to their clientele, so if your Safeway gets replaced by a Whole Foods to match the neighborhood’s demographic, you are now paying for your groceries to be grown in a certain way that you might not care about and for the grocery store’s operations to be carbon-offset, which you care even less about.

      The liberalized economy’s answer to this is unambiguous. You move someplace that fits your needs better. Change happens, and it requires everyone to accommodate.

      But I mentioned before that there are exceptions can be made, and they often are. In my own city only pretty high-income people pay their full property taxes. Almost everyone my wife and I know either gets a waiver or a discount based on their income. Similarly, you could have cash grants, EITCs, or rent control to help manage the cost of living. You can do these things, and despite being a huge fan of liberalized economies, I don’t go out of my way to oppose such things.

      What I do oppose categorically is the notion that rich people either shouldn’t be allowed or should restrain themselves from moving into a neighborhood in which someone is either willing to sell or rent them property. You can tax them and give the money to the lower-income residents. You can make them pay for the schools. You can impose a heavy fee on inbound moving trucks. You can make them listen to Spike Lee’s dad playing the bass, but to say that they shouldn’t even consider moving into a neighborhood because of the secondary effects it might have on someone else’s cost of living is illiberal and a violation of the right of free association between consenting adults.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Vikram Bath
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        says:

        @vikram-bath I largely agree, and I am not suggesting that people not be allowed to move into neighborhoods because they are too wealthy/different/hipster.

        I am simply saying that there is a secondary problem caused by gentrification that doesn’t go away because of “the market” (or whatever). In Portland, one of the default solutions to that problem is that there are simply a lot of homeless people that new residents in gentrified neighborhoods have to deal with. Portland police try to make sure they are all rounded up in a few specified squatter camps (usually under freeway bridges), but it’s a free country and you can’t keep them there so every neighborhood has to deal with the issues large numbers of homeless people (many of whom have mental health issues) bring to residential areas and public squares.

        Because if you allow regular and constant gentrification (and I believe you should) in a city that has limited real estate, one of three things is going to happen: you will have city planning for low-income housing that matches city planning for middle-income housing, you will have increased subsidization by the middle class for lower income people, or you will have a growing homeless population that you choose to live with.

        So it makes sense to me that even if you allow gentrification, you still need to have a plan for gentrification’s outcomes.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        Vikram,
        Yeah, I agree on this. I think there are systemic reasons why certain elements of our society are upset — and it’s not because they’re entitled. I think we should pursue specific and targeted means of manufacturing wealth for these people (yes, this is America, we can’t just Give Them Money they don’t need Today).Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        Yes, I view this as a yes-this-is-bad-but-we-should-allow-it-anyway kind of things. I think the same thing could be said about allowing businesses to go bankrupt.

        You’re right that the problem doesn’t go away because of the market. Rather, it’d be more fair to say that the problem must be tolerated for the sake of the market (though as I mentioned you can make various exceptions to mitigate the pain).Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Vikram Bath
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        says:

        I was going to post that as an original comment. I’m going to go ahead and make that change.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        I view this as a yes-this-is-bad-but-we-should-allow-it-anyway kind of things.

        I view it as not “bad,” but a mixed bag, with both positive and negative aspects, but with most imaginable alternatives to allowing it having a higher proportion of negative aspects.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath
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        says:

        Let me throw this in the mix. Unusually for someone in my profession, I live in a neighborhood that is about equally lower middle class and upper lower class. We own 140 year old house that looked like hell (a Victorian painted gray and white, with a fair amount of rotting lap siding and a big ol’ backlog of deferred (that’s the optimistic term) maintenance. We’ve repainted most of it in a color scheme–chosen by my wife–that literally had people stopping as they drove by to compliment it. I’ve put a lot of work into residing, improving the insulation, replacing the post-and-tube wiring with up-to-date (e.g., less fire-hazardy) wiring, updated all the light fixtures, repainted most of the rooms, replaced the clay sewer line with modern plastic, replaced the gravel drive with asphalt, and have plans for much more work over the next several years.

        By myself I’m not sufficient to gentrify the neighborhood. But the young parents across the street from us are trying to sell their house, and either of the two old ladies who live across the street from us could kick off and their houses go up on the market, and what I’ve done with my house could have a positive effect on their sale price; e.g., somebody somewhat better off and more capable of maintaining and upgrading their house could move in, rather than someone somewhat less well off who might not be able to afford to keep up the maintenance. And that could have a further positive effect on the next one.

        In twenty years, what will my neighborhood look like? Maybe not much different. Possibly worse. But possibly better, and possibly in part because of me.

        But nobody in my neighborhood has expressed anything but enthusiasm for what we’re doing to improve our property.Report

  13. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    I’m having trouble finding the salient difference between people protesting immigrants from other cities driving up the price of “their” apartments and people protesting immigrants from other countries driving down the wages of “their” jobs.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      @kazzy , Brandon found another nice catch here.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      Wages going down and housing costs going up are both bad things for low income people? There are differences between the two situations concerning who is doing the changing, and their relative status, but in the end, they’re both bad for the people they’re affecting, right? Particularly if you add “immigrants from other countries causing people to lose their jobs” and “immigrants from other cities/elsewhere in the same city causing people to lose their homes.”

      That’s not to say, again, that there aren’t benefits, potential or actual, to immigration of both sorts, merely that the effects can be bad, and pretending that people who are living in housing they could afford being forced to move (through eviction, foreclosure, or simply no longer being able to afford their home and choosing to leave before eviction or foreclosure) is not bad is, well, it’s not just callous, it’s sociopathic. It’s a type of sociopathy I’ve come to expect from a certain breed of “all I see is the capital” type of person, but which irks me from anyone else.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Chris
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        says:

        That something bad has happened does not imply that protest is appropriate. To protest is to blame—to say not just that something bad has happened, but that someone has done something bad and that reparations are due.

        I have no problem with residents of San Francisco or American workers lamenting the fact that their rent has gone up or their wages stagnated, and I sympathize with them in that. Especially since I’m part of the latter group. But when they go beyond lamentation and start with the protesting, scapegoating, and demanding that Someone Do Something to privilege them over the newcomers, that’s where they lose me.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Wages going down and housing costs going up are both bad things for low income people? There are differences between the two situations concerning who is doing the changing, and their relative status, but in the end, they’re both bad for the people they’re affecting, right? Particularly if you add “immigrants from other countries causing people to lose their jobs” and “immigrants from other cities/elsewhere in the same city causing people to lose their homes.”

        Right. The similarities are obvious to me. What I said is that I can’t see the (morally) salient difference. My perception is that people saying that the government ought to Do Something about Mexican immigrants “taking our jobs” wouldn’t get quite the same level of sympathy here, especially if they were actually harassing Mexican immigrants instead of just complaining. Am I wrong about that?

        And no, I don’t think that those who find the latter group very sympathetic tend to view the San Francisco protestors favorably, either.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I see the morally salient differences, having to do with issues if power, status, and privilege. If you don’t think those things are morally relevant, only the abstract issue of people moving to an area and potentially impacting some existing residents negatively, then your moral reasoning is impoverished to a degree I find abhorrent. But I already said that.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        But when they go beyond lamentation and start with the protesting, scapegoating, and demanding that Someone Do Something to privilege them over the newcomers, that’s where they lose me.

        Do you not think that protest is a legitimate form of social action? When people are, in essence, powerless individually or alone as a group — that is, without attracting outside attention and action — change things that are harming them in some way, is it not acceptable for them to attempt to get attention and help from outside forces with the power to change those things through protest? Why is it less legitimate to try to influence the behavior of a complex social system through protest than it is to influence it through buying power?

        Not all protest is aimed at eliciting state action. Even when it is, this is often because in our system we’ve set things up so that there are only two obvious forces with the power to enact real change, the market and the state, so that when the market is harming someone, it’s often the case that the only recourse they see is the state. If you don’t like people looking to the state to help influence the market, then it seems that the solution is not to say, “They should shut up,” which is what you’ve essentially done (repeatedly), but to offer them other solutions, perhaps other market mechanisms that they might take advantage of. Though I suspect if they organized, say, to have collective influence on the market (which is the only way they could, if there is any way that they could, because if they’re being harmed it’s because they don’t have the power to sufficiently influence the market), you’d be just about as irked by them as you are while you’re thinking that they want state intervention. And I suspect you’d be irked as well if some outside actor or group of actors came in to influence the market in their favor.

        So what would you have them do? Take their medicine and move on, and maybe make better market-based decisions in the future so that they can be the winners next time?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Do you not think that protest is a legitimate form of social action?

        Repeating what I said above, that something bad has happened does not imply that protest is appropriate. To protest is to blame—to say not just that something bad has happened, but that someone has done something bad and that reparations are due.

        Yeah, I get that having your rent go up sucks. I’ve moved because my rent went up too much. But the idea that it would have been appropriate for me to protest is nuts. Who wronged me? What reparations were due to me? Someone else wanted to live there, probably because he was himself priced out of all the better places, and was willing to pay more than I was, end of story.

        Again, I think that protesting the artificial restrictions on housing development that have helped to drive up rent is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. That’s an example of how San Francisco residents have been wronged, and how things can be made right.

        But that’s not what they’re doing. They’re scapegoating people who have just as much right to live there (and who themselves were likely priced out of better housing). What have those people done wrong? What recompense is due to the people who were priced out?

        As for offering other solutions, the only possible solution to the problem of more people wanting to live in San Francisco than there are housing units available for is to build more housing, which I’ve already offered as a solution. Any other “solution” just pushes some people out to let others in. You might as well protest the law of gravity when you fall and scrape your knee, as protest the pigeonhole principle.

        And yes, I understand that you think that your generosity with other people’s property makes you a better person than me.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Though I suspect if they organized, say, to have collective influence on the market (which is the only way they could, if there is any way that they could, because if they’re being harmed it’s because they don’t have the power to sufficiently influence the market), you’d be just about as irked by them as you are while you’re thinking that they want state intervention. And I suspect you’d be irked as well if some outside actor or group of actors came in to influence the market in their favor.

        Why would I have a problem with either of those? I think this stuff about “power to influence the market” is nonsense, and that the laws of supply and demand are perfectly adequate to explain what’s going on here, but sure. It’s not clear to me that voluntary collective bargaining would work very well in such a tight rental market, but what do I care if they try, as long as they don’t get government backing like unions do. And if wealthier people want to spend their own money to help people make rent, more power to them. It’s their money, and they’ve earned the right to spend it as they see fit.

        So what would you have them do? Take their medicine and move on, and maybe make better market-based decisions in the future so that they can be the winners next time?

        Again, I think that building more housing is the only real solution. But barring that, yes, this is the only reasonable alternative. It’s not clear to me what solution you’re proposing, but the only way to keep people in their homes without building more housing is to keep other people out. Why should current residents be privileged in that way?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Though I suspect if they organized, say, to have collective influence on the market (which is the only way they could, if there is any way that they could, because if they’re being harmed it’s because they don’t have the power to sufficiently influence the market), you’d be just about as irked by them as you are while you’re thinking that they want state intervention.

        This demonstrates an on-going confusion about libertarian(ish) beliefs. I don’t understand why you would think this way.

        If they organize voluntarily–without violence or threats of violence–to, say, all refuse to shop at Joe’s Hardware until he takes down his confederate battleflag, there’s no libertarian problem there.

        If they organize instead to get a foundation to give them a grant or loan them money to buy their apartment building from the landlord, and draw up a contractual structure in which the building is collectively owned, and when someone chooses to leave they can only sell it to the collective, rather than on the open-market to the highest bidder, a libertarian is likely to say they personally would want no part of that, but they support the right of people to voluntarily join that type of organization.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Right, James. The jig’s up. Just admit we hate poor people.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I’m wearing my FYIGM t-shirt even as we speak.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Yeah, I guess a shirt’s okay for people who are just taking the whole “libertarianism” thing for a test drive. I have it tattooed onto my forehead.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I already had HATE there, so there wasn’t any space left.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      It’s fun to point out hypocrisy, but it’s better just to say that they are both wrong.Report

  14. Avatar zic
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    says:

    The whole concept if gentrification is disturbing; lots of creative destruction that leads to social instability is my liberal response. My inner libertarian rejoices at the improvements that it brings to neighborhoods, too. the 2000’s, for instance, saw the single greatest improvements to northeastern housing stock in its history; and since it has the oldest housing stock in the country, that’s a significant investment.

    Gentrification is as old as villages. It’s always been with us, always will be. There are ruins buried in the deserts of Mesopotamia that were, once upon a time, the coolest places to live on Earth. It is destructive to traditional neighborhoods, but it also forms new neighborhoods, new communities.

    The most troublesome aspect of all, however, is that in my experience, the totes cool places are those in the catharsis of gentrification; mixed neighborhoods with an old tradition and new vibe; people bringing new money in but still enough of the old to keep things stable. I’m very much reminded of Roger’s thoughts on creative destruction here. I also notice that neighborhoods that gentrified 20 or 30 years ago get stodgy and then run down themselves, some will eventually be the poor neighborhoods of some distant future, and might see multiple cycles.

    What does matter to me is making sure people displaced by gentrification don’t become forced into a downward economic cycle because of dislocation; greater commute times/costs, lower-quality housing or schools, etc. When that happens, we’re subsidizing the redevelopment cost with their economic losses (and I suspect many of you will disagree with that).Report

  15. Avatar Michael Drew
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    says:

    What I do oppose categorically is the notion that rich people either shouldn’t be allowed or should restrain themselves from moving into a neighborhood in which someone is either willing to sell or rent them property. You can tax them and give the money to the lower-income residents. You can make them pay for the schools. You can impose a heavy fee on inbound moving trucks. You can make them listen to Spike Lee’s dad playing the bass, but to say that they shouldn’t even consider moving into a neighborhood because of the secondary effects it might have on someone else’s cost of living is illiberal and a violation of the right of free association between consenting adults.

    To be clear, have we found anyone saying this?

    I mean, if gentrification in Williamsburg had happened in a way where they had been allowed to have the party for Michael Jackson, keep drumming when they wanted to, keep playing the bass, and where a system of subsidies was set up to try to prevent the established community from being spread to the four winds by economic forces (which I regard as basically impossible – how do you identify who needs to be offered that subsidy in a formulaic way?), do we really think there would have been such a reaction to gentrification? Perhaps there would have been, but then I’d join you in condemning it to the extent it just said it doesn’t want the new people coming in at all.

    That, of course, didn’t happen. And I think that a purely individualistic look at the equities here is insufficient (not that that’s all you are doing), even if on its terms it can’t really be argued with. As you put it, “Narratively, we told black people “you can only live in these assigned, undesirable places” one decade and then said “we want to change what you’ve built to suit us” 45 years later.” The issue is really much less all the individuals’ equities in being able to keep living affordably in a place they have lived in for years, or so I suspect. The equity at stake is a social equity in which, as a result of these social-political structures of the past, these communities have created spaces of redoubt from those forces.

    I think that is what really motivates this response, or at least is a part of what does: that, basically, we(sic) were forced into these locales, but we were able to overcome this by building a community. The loss from gentrification is not merely the diminished utility for individuals of having to choose from a set of affordable housing arrangements that now excludes a particular neighborhood. It’s that that fact (perhaps literally) decimates the community that had been built in response to these near-unbearable social strictures that shaped the reality to which the community was an adaptive response.

    Now, you’ve acknowledged costs to liberalized markets determining residency patterns (and all areas of life), and I don’t claim you don’t realize that’s part of the cost. And I don’t even claim that these costs render the anger that gentrification has engendered fully or even at all righteous. At the same time, I’m completely at a loss to understand the posture of indifference to it that you manage to take (and I’m sure this relates to our differing perspectives on these issues). To me, there is a large middle area of responses to anger of this sort that lies between affirmation of its righteousness and complete indifference to it due to an asserted lack of moral justification.

    For me, were I to move in to a neighborhood where people of any race or history who weren’t very well off were able to live a stable, affordable life and by doing so I caused them to have to change their arrangements, i would understand and frankly be receptive to their anger. Ultimately, I would assert that I have a right to live there too, but I would hardly think they had no basis to resent me or be angry that I was changing their set of option through my choices.

    In this situation? The anger seems massively sympathetic to me. But that doesn’t mean that it’s actually morally righteous of dispositive of good policy. I think those two things can, and for me should, be separated. I understand that you may have a different perspective. So I guess the least I’d ask is that you acknowledge that it’s possible to be understanding and sympathetic to the anger here without committing to the notion that it’s enough to dictate policy. You may not choose to feel that way, but you could, and I would argue that for a person of usual levels of compassion, not doing so indicates he hasn’t really considered fully the perspectives of everyone implicated in these processes.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Michael Drew
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      says:

      To be clear, have we found anyone saying this?

      Implicitly, yes. For any fixed quantity of housing, subsidizing someone’s ability to live in a place means that someone else is priced out. Possibly multiple people, if subsidies cause people to live alone instead of sharing. The housing supply isn’t literally fixed in San Francisco, but with the political climate it might as well be. When someone demands that the government make it easier for him to live in San Francisco, he’s demanding that the government make it harder for someone else to do so.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        To be clear, have we found anyone saying this?

        This is a reasonable question, but what I’ve read thus far would seem to suggest “yes”. The letter that the Portland African American Leadership Forum wrote opposing the Trader Joe’s project doesn’t suggest that Trader Joe’s should come in in a more respectful way. It says they shouldn’t come in. In addition, it explicitly is negative towards the phenomenon of wealthier residents entering the community.
        https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/929379-paalf-letter-regarding-trader-joes.html

        Our opposition is rooted in the well­-documented and ongoing attempt to profit from development in inner N/NE Portland at the expense of Black and low­-income individuals. Rather than invest in proven methods to stop displacement and empower the African American community, the Portland Development Commission (PDC) and City of Portland have consistently supported projects that have displaced existing residents and attracted wealthier ones in their place.

        In October, PAALF met with city officials including, Mayor Hales, Patrick Quinton and John Jackley to discuss the disparate impact gentrification has had on our community’s wellbeing and viability. Both Mayor Hales and Patrick Quinton expressed a commitment to solving the issues related to gentrification and to finding community-based­ solutions to stabilize Black residents. This decision indicates the opposite and reflects the City’s overall track record of implementing policies that serve to uproot, displace and disempower our most vulnerable community members.

        Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Rather than invest in proven methods to … empower the African American community,

        Waiting for someone else to empower you is…ironic.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg
        Ignored
        says:

        Vikram,

        Upstairs you answered MD’s question affirmatively by citing an argument to not permit a Trader Joe’s store – a business – from opening. MDs question referred to your comment about permitting wealthy individuals from purchasing property in a neighborhood. Slight distinction, yes, but not irrelevant, it seems to me.

        Especially since in the comment of yours in question includes all sorts of ways to disincentivize wealthy people from moving into and gentrifying neighborhoods. Yet you conclude your most recent comment (again in response to MDs question) by saying

        In addition, it explicitly is negative towards the phenomenon of wealthier residents entering the community.

        Now it seems like you’re identifying any measure, even the bare expression of negativity regarding gentrification as evidence that they want to prevent the wealthy from moving in. But if that’s true, then you apparently make no distinction between prohibiting and disincentivizing, which is what Michael’s comment was addressing, and one which your earlier claim appeared to make. In fact, making that distinction is apparently the entire point of the earlier comment Michael quoted.

        Am I confused about all this? It seems like you’re now arguing that even disincentives are unacceptable. And if so, that’s fine. But it’s not what you were arguing earlier, it seems to me.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg
        Ignored
        says:

        VB,

        Yeah, I’m a little confused too. I thought you were saying in the OP that expecting Trader Joe’s not to move into an area when it’s not wanted by a vocal, established (perhaps marginalized) community is a reasonable expectation for responding to resistance to gentrification – in contrast to expecting that the actual prospective residents “shouldn’t even consider moving into a neighborhood because of the secondary effects it might have on someone else’s cost of living.” Was I getting your meaning just flatly backward?Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Brandon Berg
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater and @michael-drew ,
        I think your confusion is justified. Let me try to clarify.

        In my view, the letter from the Portland African American Leadership Forum differs substantially from the ways I mentioned to Tod above that simply make it more expensive for wealthier residents to move in. The PAALF letter doesn’t ask that Trader Joe’s pick up more of the slack. Instead, it quite plainly says they shouldn’t enter. Rather than detailing (or even suggesting) the conditions under which TJ’s entrance would be deemed acceptable, they are simply told to go away.

        I think it’s also worth clarifying that I am generally not a fan of proactively policing who your neighbors will be. I do, however, recognize the right of the PAALF to speak, and given that they did speak, I think it was wise of TJ’s to exit just as I wouldn’t have moved into our current neighborhood if our neighbors had given us nasty looks when we started looking.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Michael Drew
      Ignored
      says:

      For me, were I to move in to a neighborhood where people of any race or history who weren’t very well off were able to live a stable, affordable life and by doing so I caused them to have to change their arrangements, i would understand and frankly be receptive to their anger. Ultimately, I would assert that I have a right to live there too, but I would hardly think they had no basis to resent me or be angry that I was changing their set of option through my choices.

      @michael-drew ,
      I think a lot spends on the “I caused them to have to change their arrangements”. Does that mean you simply stopped shopping at the Safeway, where the prior property owner had shopped, contributing toward it going out of business? Or did you enact noise regulations to chase off the public expression of their cultures while specifically allowing yours (e.g. banning the drums while bringing in the dogs)?

      If it’s only the former, then you are a more understanding person than I am because I would find their resentment of me to lack a solid basis. If it’s the latter, my reaction would be more like yours would be.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        The moral culpability is distributed, as it always is in a market system. This is part of why people like the Google bus protesters pick suboptimal targets, and why the Google employees have no idea why they are being targeted. It’s also why someone can compare immigration with gentrification, despite the economic and moral dynamics being radically different. And why Spike Lee can focus on culture while housing advocates focus on displacement.

        As you noted, people’s biases determine what they see, and what informs their judgments. This is particularly true for complex, dynamicphenomena with distributed causes. You latched onto the cultural aspect because it was convenient for the narrative you want to build. Brandon focused on the “immigration” because it’s convenient for his economic winners and losers morality. I focus on the displaced and disrupted lives because it fits with my anti-market sentiments. None of us, including me, has really addressed gentrification very well here.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        I assume he’s talking about driving up rent. Not by himself, obviously, but as part of a broader trend of middle-class people moving in.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        BB,

        Correct, that’s what I meant. It’s definitely a small effect on an individual basis, but all I’m discussing here is our personal reaction to the feelings of those whom our actions have even a small part in affect. After all, they don’t experience the effect only as a part proportional to our part in causing it. They experience the full effect. (Or, I suppose if the number of people moving in is roughly like the number of people being forced out, then the effect is roughly proportional, but then it doesn’t look as small, either. To any given person, suddenly being priced out of a desirable rental arrangement is not a small thing, nor are significant economically-caused changes to a community environment they cherish.)

        I will say I’m inclined to walk back what I said about what a person of normal compassion would feel if fully considering the equities. Perspectives differ; I can accept that. I just don’t really understand not having a sympathetic understanding of the anger in this case in the context of that not necessarily implying any policy or other obligation on the larger community. I just don’t get that, but I get that it’s different for some.Report

  16. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Vikram,

    Thinking more about this, I’m curious if you would find the following position problematic:

    Given that gentrification tends to have negative effects on poor people and others from historically marginalized groups and that it tends to further enforce and entrench distorted power constructs, would that be enough to justify opposing it? Perhaps not through legal means, but at least in principle?Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      I would say “no, it would not be sufficient.” In the San Francisco example, I mentioned that the people who claim to be from the marginalized groups aren’t necessarily from marginalized groups. They may in fact be from privileged groups and simply unaware and ignorant of it.

      The New York example is more difficult because there you have a group that can accurately claim to have been marginalized. In their case I would still say that it doesn’t justify opposition to gentrification for the reasons I gave Tod about the need to preserve some of the more basic elements of a free society. In that response I give a number of examples of ways in which the effects on the marginalized groups can be mitigated, but I draw the line well before a blanket condemnation of gentrification.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        @vikram-bath

        I should clarify a bit. First, I meant opposing it in the situations that fit the general trends. I agree that the situation changes when the power dynamics are different.

        And by opposing, I mean “Wishing it didn’t happen and/or that it happened differently” more than “Trying to stop it.”

        I suppose a better way to pose my question is thusly: Is it far to think that when gentrification exacerbates existing power disparities, it is a bad thing?Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy ,
        I agree with your refinements, but I’ll point out that these refinements have taken you far from what a naive reading of your initial question would take you. If the question is “is it OK to recognize that gentrification has its losers?” then the answer is an emphatic yes.Report

  17. Avatar Sam
    Ignored
    says:

    Your claim of demanded “special privileges” is bizarre and missing the point, particularly in regard to Spike Lee’s argument. It isn’t that he’s demanding special privileges for his father. It’s that he’s demanding that what has been the case in the neighborhood for years remain the case the newcomers who want to settle there. The special privileges you’re decrying are the ones being demanded by the newcomers. This becomes all the more problematic when the newcomers are white.

    For instance, if you’ve lived in a black neighborhood for 40+ years and not been able to get the police to show up for even heinous crimes, you might be a little frustrated when your new white neighbors are able to get the police to show up because you’re “loud.” It isn’t unreasonable – is it? – to demand that those insisting upon moving into a neighborhood make some attempt to fit into it, rather than demanding the special privilege of having the neighborhood change to reflect the newcomer’s needs.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Sam
      Ignored
      says:

      @sam Who are you talking to?Report

      • Avatar Sam in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        MRS,

        I was referring to Vikram’s claim that it is Lee who is demanding “special rights” – that is just as silly as claiming that gays are asking for “special rights” for wanting to be able to marry the people that they love.

        Saying, “I want the police to treat me differently than they’ve treated my neighbors for generations, and I want them to specifically give me that treatment to prevent my neighbors from doing what they’ve been doing for generations, even though I’m the one that voluntarily moved here.” If you move next to an interstate, you don’t get to complain about the traffic.Report

      • Vikram never said “special rights”… and he did say that Lee was right to ask for respect and tolerance instead of calling the cops.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        OK, thanks.

        If you move next to an interstate, you don’t get to complain about the traffic.

        I agree, although that didn’t stop SeaTac residents out here from throwing an epic fit when the airport added a 3rd runway (didn’t even take any land, just added a runway).Report

      • Avatar Sam in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Will,

        But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t claim unearned privilege.

        Please excuse my confusion. I used “special rights” rather than “unearned privilege” – the rest of my point stands.Report

      • I think he is referring to the “unearned privilege” of being able to avoid the passage and enforcement of noise ordinances. Do you disagree with the notion that residents are obligated to ignore a failure to abide by noise ordinances? Or that they shouldn’t have a say in whether such ordinances are passed?

        I personally think it’s kind of crummy to move to a place that has a culture and then seek to change that culture. And yet I did move to Deseret and I did push back against the prevailing norms there. And if I move into a place with a substantive HOA I will probably immediately being an influence against those norms.

        Either way, I don’t precisely see it as a matter of the incumbent residents wanting what the newcomers don’t. Ultimately, each side of the debate wants the community’s general behavior and tolerances to match their own. Which, being a live-and-let-live sort of guy suits my preferences just fine.

        Though, of course, the debate is often the opposite. The incumbent-newcomer debate is particularly vigorous in rural America as small towns become larger towns and small cities become larger cities.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Again we’re analyzing social structures as if they were token on a game board, and the only difference between the green token and the blue token was the color. There is a difference between “pushing back” against a culture of intolerance and “pushing back” against a musical culture.

        When you say {X} did {Y} to {Z}, the X and Z variables matter. The reasons they matter depend on how they are situated in culture, their relative power, their traditions, how and why their traditions developed, and their ability to enforce their will on others.

        Whites moving into a black neighborhood is utterly fucking fundamentally different than blacks moving into a white neighborhood.

        Why?

        Really? You don’t see why? Really?

        Really, really?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        There may be any number of ways in which white people moving into a black neighborhood is different than black people moving into a white neighborhood, but it needs more exposition than “really?”

        In fact, I would argue against there being a fundamental difference. As I’ve said elsewhere in this thread, young white people live in transitioning neighborhoods for the same reason that everybody else does: it’s where they can afford to live. When you draw a ring around these people as doing something special, you are treating everyone outside of that ring like part of the scenery. Non-yuppies are people as well. They are rational actors balancing their preferences against their constraints; if we want to be of help to them, we can start by recognizing them as such.

        Go to a neighborhood that is majority black or majority hispanic or any other non-white ethnicity and you’ll see people wrestling with the same concerns. The young coming into their own and butting up against the old and entrenched. The upwardly mobile bumping up against lower-income residents. Those with kids against those without. So on and so forth. Gentrification is novel in some respects, but it’s really just part of the eternal constant that is change.

        In general when it comes to discussion of gentrification, a lot of the things we assume as self-evident are really a case of mistaken moral intuitions. Even the very notion of black and white neighborhoods is a bit odd in that it implies some sort of collective ethnic ownership over a neighborhood. Certainly you can make a positive claim that neighborhoods have an existing culture and its best to tread lightly, but it’s a bit of a leap to make a normative claim that people who move into a new neighborhood ought to be bound by existing norms.Report

      • Veronica, if that was directed at me I wasn’t taking about black people moving into a white neighborhood. The rural cases I referred to were all our almost all about white people.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Will,
        there’s a big difference between crusading for ‘looser norms” and crusading for tighter ones.
        “Can you BELIEVE they want a porn joint in my hometown?”
        versus
        “You banned pickup trucks? no Way! Totally voting against that!”Report

      • Kim, I agree, though that’s arguably a display of my own biases. It’s not as though there is any shortage of people wanting to tighten rather than loosening.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Sam
      Ignored
      says:

      [Lee]’s demanding that what has been the case in the neighborhood for years remain the case the newcomers who want to settle there. The special privileges you’re decrying are the ones being demanded by the newcomers. This becomes all the more problematic when the newcomers are white.

      @sam ,My claim is that the current residents of the community set the rules for the community. I admit that I have no respect for how many decades a neighborhood has been run a certain way. If the current residents want things to change, then they should be able to change it regardless of whether they consist primarily of newcomers or long-term residents.

      I also would assert that this should be the case regardless of the races of the newcomers as compared to long-term residents. Of course, if it just so happens that a handful of whites are able to carry undue influence, then this is a problem, but that is a problem regardless of which set of residents are new and which are old.

      For instance, if you’ve lived in a black neighborhood for 40+ years and not been able to get the police to show up for even heinous crimes, you might be a little frustrated when your new white neighbors are able to get the police to show up because you’re “loud.”

      Agreed. But compare this to a pretend neighborhood that has always been culturally diverse. In the pretend neighborhood black residents aren’t able to get police to show up, but police show up to harass them about noise complaints. I would find this situation no less bad. Because the real problem then is a lack of equal access to resources, not that new people moved in.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        Of course, if it just so happens that a handful of whites are able to carry undue influence, then this is a problem, but that is a problem regardless of which set of residents are new and which are old.

        My impression is very much that Lee’s rant implied that his problem was that a relative handful of newcomers (whatever their race) were having this effect. I don’t really see where in what he says it’s implied that this is not what drives his anger. So if it turned out that this is the nature of his anger, then you’re prepared to switch your view and agree that he’s justified?

        More generally, do you agree with the basic view that people newly moving into a neighborhood with an established culture and ways of doing things should be respectful of those practices, so long as doing so doesn’t impose some particular burden on them we could discuss (i.e. denying them respect, ability to live without having basic, reasonable desires frustrated, etc.)?

        I.e., is the expectation that they refrain from fully pursuing their every preference for how the neighborhood change to suit them to the utmost is reasonable, at least until that culture no longer enjoys majority buy-in reasonable? Or do think that people should just advocate for their preferences and make no effort to respect established culture when they’re new and in the minority (in not associating with that culture – race or other minority identifiers being entirely incidental here)?

        My guess is that you are underestimating how easily these established practices can be upset by a small minority of vocal newcomers. I don’t think it takes a majority to compel a culture to change. If the established culture places any kind of a burden (even if not one past whatever threshold we might agree on as I alluded to), my guess is that a small group of mobilized newcomers can get the culture to change with what will in fact be reasonable arguments about why those burdens on them aren’t strictly justified. It won’t take a majority or even a major change in the composition of the neighborhood. (I don’t have evidence to support that except impressions of places I have been, and I’m not asserting it so mauch as asking you to consider that it’s plausible.)

        the question really is one, then of what we should expect from people who are moving into a place that has an established culture, given that it’s very possible that they could get the culture changed without actually significantlt changing the balance of feeling on the matter if tabulated by counting noses.

        Another way of asking the question might simply be to ask how we would know when “the current residents want things to change” (emphasis added). Who are “the” residents? Any majority>? Any minority who is simply able to get things changed? What values are you setting out here in terms of informal process? Rough majoritarianism? Pluralitarianism? Surely you don’t think every area of community life should be subject to a majority or even plurality veto.

        Realistically, I would guess small minorities of newcomers are likely who get the bulk of the kinds of changes we’re discussing done. It’s only when those have been accomplished that the composition changes to the point of near-majority turnover. Most gentrifiers aren’t cultural pioneers. They just go where it’s comfortable and cheap – after it’s already been made comfortable but while it’s still relatively cheap.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        My impression is very much that Lee’s rant implied that his problem was that a relative handful of newcomers (whatever their race) were having this effect. I don’t really see where in what he says it’s implied that this is not what drives his anger. So if it turned out that this is the nature of his anger, then you’re prepared to switch your view and agree that he’s justified?

        If a relative handful of newcomers are overruling the majority of residents, then, yes, I’d agree with him. If, on the other hand, the newcomers are now in the majority, then I think he’s out of luck. Even if that is the case, I would still say the newcomers should probably be more tolerant of their neighbors. As I suggested though, even in such a case, I think the newcomers probably should be gracious and tolerant. I merely think that they have the ultimate right to decide not to be tolerant if they so decide.

        people newly moving into a neighborhood with an established culture and ways of doing things should be respectful of those practices

        Yes, I think they should. (In general.)

        My guess is that you are underestimating how easily these established practices can be upset by a small minority of vocal newcomers. I don’t think it takes a majority to compel a culture to change.

        This is a fair critique, as are your comments on the issues in determining what it really is that current residents want. I’ve long heard that HOAs tend to be dominated by the busiest bodies in the neighborhood, so it is certainly possible for this to occur in other venues as well.

        My defense with respect to this post would be that this is a standard problem with democratic institutions and isn’t a direct result of the minority being newcomers to a neighborhood. If the minority that were dictating things all happened to be Libras, it would be just as problematic.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Vikram Bath
        Ignored
        says:

        I guess we really do have a disagreement, as I don’t think that if a small group of people long-established in the community were to change their mind about something and cause practices to change, that that would be as problematic as if the same number of complete newcomers were to do so. It might be problematic, but not as much so.Report

  18. Avatar j r
    Ignored
    says:

    It isn’t unreasonable – is it? – to demand that those insisting upon moving into a neighborhood make some attempt to fit into it, rather than demanding the special privilege of having the neighborhood change to reflect the newcomer’s needs.

    This is not a question that can be answered generally.

    Lee’s rant works great as a rant. It expresses quite well the frustrations of the older residents of a gentrifying neighborhood and reminds newcomers that it is often best to tread lightly. However, it doesn’t work very well once you try to turn in into an ethical principle.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      It actually opens up a whole bunch of interesting questions. When my wife and I moved to Mormonland, what were our obligations? Was my wife wrong to object the apparent custom of many of the doctors to refer to her by her first name instead of as Dr Lastname as they did with the male doctors? To what extent would they have been right to insist that I follow their customs with regard to alcohol and smoking? When they decided not to do fireworks on the Fourth of July on July 4 because it fell on a Sunday, would I have been wrong for launching my own fireworks display?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Especially since Mormons are a historically oppressed minority who live in Utah because they were driven out of all the settled states.Report

      • Avatar Sam in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Brandon,

        How many other minorities have been viciously oppressed into getting their own state where they could do whatever it was that they wanted?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        It seems like being referred to by her first name was an act of disrespect. They can have their customs but open disrespect seems worthy of pushing back on. Drinking: personal matter that doesn’t effect them. Fireworks, well maybe you shouldn’t do that since it is a public display that, in whatever small manner, effects them and pokes at their community on a holy day. That seems like showing respect for them.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        And don’t start conversations with “What’s the deal about Sunday? It’s not like you guys are Christians.”Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Native Americans, except that it never lasted.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        It’s a matter of respect by our norms. What if, by their norms, women are respected but that their role is different? There is definitely a public component to alcohol and smoke consumption. At least, if I do it in public, talk about doing it, and so on. Bad public example.

        With regard to Mormons, there is no reading of history that fairly suggests that they have not been a bitterly persecuted minority. That they moved out in the middle of nowhere and formed their own society doesn’t negate the fact that (among other things) they left Missouri under the threat of extermination.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Also Liberia, but that really didn’t work out as planned. (Thanks, Monroe!)Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Different cultures always have some conflict. Someone has to give or modify. Even if in Mormon Doc culture they see her differently, which might deserve some respect, it is still the 21st century in the US and she had the same credential. Personal disrespect is, well, more personal so should be avoided. Drinking in your own house wouldn’t even be known, assuming some discretion, by others so there is no personal disrespect or even community poke in the eye. They so sell booze and cigs in Mormonville, so someone is using it and it isn’t just tourists and heathens.

        Cultures exist in a variety of overlapping circles: Mormon, male, Utah, USA, 21st century, etc. There will always be friction where the lines meet. It is best if we all try to be polite to each other since that helps a society function smoothly and peacefully. However personal insults are a key conflict and often a reason to disrupt the peace.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Greg, I pretty much agree about the overlapping circles. Certainly with regards to my wife’s treatment.

        They do sell booze and cigarettes in Mormonland, though mostly to non-Mormons. The prevalence of such places is quite an example of people coming in and changing the culture. It’s actually sort of an example of what Vik points to in his second-to-last paragraph: We forced you into a corner of the country with the threat of violence, and now that you’ve built a lovely state, we want to move there and advocate that it be more like the rest of the country. (If nothing else, we’ll come in and kind of mock it for the ways that it’s different up to and including the weak-ass beer.)Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Being part of pluralistic multi-cultural society is a pain in the rumpus for lots of people. Not that they could have picked up Utah and taken it someplace else, but they did become a state. They get the benefits and irritations of the rest of us american doofwads. They did get forced out of the mid-west but they didn’t exactly move into completely empty lands. They benefited from the good ol US of A’s policy towards Native American’s.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Greg, quite so. If I’m driving at any sort of point here, it’s that sprawling multipolar and multicultural societies are complicated. That leaves me sort of understanding the resentment of the Mormons and feeling it not wholly unjustified, though at the same time not sacrificing my rights and identity to their culture because we’re all under the American umbrella. These don’t mirror my views of the San Francisco inhabitants entirely, though the dynamics involved are larger than any one situation (and not simple, in my view).Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        The example that popped into my mind was the whole “language” issue. Is it fair to expect immigrants to speak the language? Is it fair to expect them to adopt the new culture? Is it fair to tell them that things have been done a certain way the last few decades and you should do more to change to adapt than expect them to adapt to you?

        Because it seems to me that if we want to say something like “some cultures are better than others”, we can reach one answer. If we want to say something like “all cultures are equal in the eyes of atheist god”, we can reach another. And, hell, if we want to say something like “let everybody live together and evolution will decide!”, we can reach quite another indeed. Well, assuming we weren’t using “better” in a new and exciting way in the first question.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Good questions!
        I’d say language is a really hard one, if only because it’s hard for someone to learn, particularly when they’re old.

        Culture? Well, i’m somewhat more sanguine about that. particularly the parts that folks don’t care if they change (does anyone really hold nosepicking as a part of their cultural heritage?)Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Weren’t Lee’s objections mostly to situations where the established culture was actually interfered with, not just not personally followed by the newcomers?

        And aren’t norms in a cosmopolitan profession like medicine something rather different than the culture of life in public spaces and in neighborhoods?

        I think you and Spike Lee could agree that the newcomers deserve basic respect themselves. I don’t think it’s difficult to see how not calling a doctor by her title at work is a basic denial of respect in a way that playing bass at night is not in the context where a newcomer is not familiar. Even now, I don’t consider someone playing music loudly late at night to be a failure to show me basic personal respect. It’s more like a failure to observe a relatively weak social grace (i.e. in rental life, this kind of thing is obviously commonplace, and I’d even venture that eventually just about everyone eventually ends up being the offending party.)

        The intervention against the party for Michael Jackson seems even more problematic. How is that a denial of basic respect for the new residents? How is it respectful to the established culture? Would you or your wife have even conceived of trying to prevent a celebration of the people who were there before you came? It doesn’t seem like we’re comparing like with like here.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Different people respond to the noise issue differently. I am sometimes unhappy about it, but it would rarely occur to me to do much of anything about it because hey, it’s a free country. I also tend to look sourly at noise ordinances. My wife, on the other hand, is the person who has complained and, in Arapaho, did call the cops.

        There is a reason that noise ordinances pass. It’s because these things really do bother people more than they might bother you and me. That’s more than an issue of a weakly enforced norm.

        Another example might be smoking. In Idaho, it seems like every letter to the editor in favor of a statewide smoking ban started with “I moved to Idaho in…” While obviously there are health concerns with smoking that don’t exist with noise, the culture of public smoking is a thing that is (even if we view this as a good thing) snuffed out (no pun intended).

        I mean, if you want to argue against things like noise ordinances and their enforcement in general, I am probably on your side. But it’s among the things that lead me to a different political philosophy in general than a lot of folks here.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Will,
        I’m actually pro-noise ordinance when you’re above a certain decibel level.

        Installing an oil derrick in your front lawn, and running it 24/7, while moving away while it is operational?? Yeah, I’d say that might warrant an ordinance or two. Or at least higher taxes.

        [Not a hypothetical]Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        Kim, that’s fair. Iam referring more to strict versus loose rather than the existence or complete non-existence of such regs.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        For or against noise ordinances as a general matter is not really the point. The point is how you act while you’re new and in the minority in small but well-defined cultural enclave. Do you respect it (up to a point), or do you just do your thing? If you’re a bass player who moves into a building filled with 9-5 (or 6-6) professionals, do you respect, or do you do your thing? Why? Just because of a noise ordinance? What if you’re willing to pay?

        I don’t personally view an entire state as such an enclave. Nor, actually, do I see writing a letter to an editor as not respecting culture. If the person who didn’t respect Lee’s dad’s playing’s place in the established culture (which itself might be questionable – this might be a bad example in which lee is elevating a personal gripe to the level of cultural practice – perhaps there was an ongoing battle within the community about this, and the newcomers tipped it in a certain direction. I’d view that somewhat differently, though maybe not entirely.), I would actually say that might have been the most respectful way to address the situation while still advocating for one’s interests. The letter might have acknowledged an exiting culture and called for a conversation about what are appropriate kinds of requests to make, and what is more important to respect as important to the culture. (Again, I suspect that one musician’s late-night practicing might well have fallen on the “reasonable request” side of the ledger.)

        The party in the park, though, seem to me like the kind of thing you respect. the issue is the degree of respect for an existing community’s practices.Report

  19. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    No, no- Spike Lee is not claiming unearned privilege here, in this striking argument for cultural traditionalism:

    “I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here? Get the fuck outta here. Can’t do that!”

    This is not about privilege at all. He’s making the conservative argument, to be sure, but the misunderstanding here is that deep rooted local cultures do not have power; they have authority. This is what he’s claiming for them.Report

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