Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The G-word

From Time magazine:

Gentrification: Not Ousting the Poor?

People tend to think gentrification goes like this: rich, educated white people move into a low-income minority neighborhood and drive out its original residents, who can no longer afford to live there. As it turns out, that's not typically true.

A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Pittsburgh and Duke University, examined Census data from more than 15,000 neighborhoods across the U.S. in 1990 and 2000, and found that low-income non-white households did not disproportionately leave gentrifying areas. In fact, researchers found that at least one group of residents, high school–educated blacks, were actually more likely to remain in gentrifying neighborhoods than in similar neighborhoods that didn't gentrify — even increasing as a fraction of the neighborhood population, and seeing larger-than-expected gains in income.


The new study found that while gentrification did not necessarily push out original residents, it did create neighborhoods that middle-class minorities moved to. The addition of white college graduates, especially those under 40 without children, was a hallmark of gentrifying neighborhoods — that much fit the conventional wisdom — but so was the influx of college-educated blacks and Hispanics, who moved to gentrifying neighborhoods more often than they to did similar, more static areas. Two other groups tended to move more often into upwardly mobile neighborhoods as well: 40-to-60-year-old Hispanics without a high-school degree, and similarly uneducated Hispanics aged 20 to 40 with children — a counterpoint to the common conception of gentrification, if there ever was one. The only group that was less likely to move to a gentrifying area was high school–educated whites aged 20 to 40 with kids.

Really fascinating. I guess I fit the profile since I'm a college-educated Nuyorican who's lived in gentrified neighborhoods most of her adult life (with a brief detour in Brentwood when I first moved to LA--aiee!). I've always enjoyed living in neighborhoods that are economically and culturally diverse, and that's what you find in gentrified neighborhoods.

It's also interesting in the context of the Historic Core since this is not your typical gentrifying neighborhood. Most of the loft buildings were abandoned before developers came in and renovated them. Very few people have been displaced and the residency hotels show no signs of going away. Even the retail businesses catering to poor/working class Latinos shows no signs of going away anytime soon. Bert Green insists that it's not gentrification but revitalization, and I think he has a point.

Update: A developer's POV on gentrification. Via the LA Times.


Anonymous said...

I'm conflicted about downtown. I like what they've done with it really, it's safer, its cleaner, but they've attracted alot of people who to me want to live in the suburbs.

I grew up in Silver Lake and Los Feliz, the people in that section of the city are artsy and creative and open minded, I moved here thinking that I would find that and I don't find that to be the case.

I wish more people in downtown appreciated art and culture. We have lots of galleries, but I get the strong feeling the vast majority of the people don't know what they are looking at and don't care that they don't know. It's all become like a big party and my big fear is that when the money runs out, there will be nothing artistic left here, because there seems to be no soul here.

I think it's great that we have the LA Opera and the ALOUD series, but it seems like the people who live here aren't that concerned about those kinds of things. You can't even have a conversation with people about music or literature.

I'm really very surprised at the kind of people who have decided to move here, but I guess they were the ones that could afford it.

Maybe I'm old or crazy. Maybe I have odd priorities in life. Maybe safety, retirement and tv shows are important and I just don't get it.

My opinion, I could be completely off base, but that's my observation.


Li said...

Browne, I think that the real estate crash and up-fuckedness state of the economy are going to change the dynamics of downtown. I already see it in my building, which is really diverse. Lots of Latinos and blacks, lots of working artists and artisans, and I think it's because the rents have gotten dramatically cheaper. Hell, that's why we're here.

The boring yuppies tend to live in South Park and City West. The Historic Core is a lot more dynamic and interesting. For example, my husband and I went for drinks at 626 Reserve and struck up a conversation with three older black gentleman, one of whom is the chair of the sociology department at UC Northridge. He told us stories of his time in the Peace Corps and about his daughter who works as a teacher in Harlem in NYC. It was so great to talk to people who weren't hipsters.

Of course there are shallow assholes everywhere, but I still think Downtown is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in LA.

Anonymous said...

Well, I feel a little vindicated as this research supports my larger point about revitalization. I already knew that anecdotally (I've spent loads of time in so-called gentrifying neighborhoods throughout the u.s. over the past couple of years), but it's great to have some research on point dealing with it.

bgfa said...

My experience is the opposite of Browne's. I lived in Los Feliz before this, and San Francisco and New York before that. Downtown is far smarter than Silver Lake, which I agree with Li, is a narrow-minded NIMBY paradise.

This place is an open book, you make of it what you will. I meet and spend time with smart, engaged people every day, and don't meet many of the shallow types I used to see all over Los Feliz and Silver Lake.

But I don't spend much time at bars or clubs either, and I don't even have a TV.

Anonymous said...

The only problem I have with downtown Bert is the odd racist overtone of this area. I'm trying to make the most of downtown, but sometimes when I walk down the street cops slow down for no reason.

I never had any problems just walking around being black in Los Feliz or Silver Lake and in downtown this is a problem a problem that comes up over and over again.

Cops coming into Starbucks while I'm on my computer harassing me?

I actually was making the most of downtown, getting a paper, went inside Starbucks and a cop actually stopped his car went inside talked to the staff and asked me if I had a problem.

What is that? How exactly can I make that not happen? (seriously if you know of something I can do, let me know.)

I'm 30 years old. It's 6:00am. I have a ibook and I had on a cute outfit.

So possibly Los Feliz and Silver Lake are closed minded in some ways, but not in the ways that matter to me. The whole cops thing and people thinking I'm a prostitute or a homeless person is beginning to get on my nerves a little.

I guess I should get a 9-5 and only come out during

I read Li's take on SL and it was totally funny and totally true and totally awesome, BUT at least they don't have the serious race problem they have in downtown.

I'm starting to bring a little camera everywhere I go, so I can start giving a visual documentation (so i guess that's sort of looking on the bright side and making the most of my new status as scary minority.) I mean in that regards its kind of awesome in regards to blogging. I mean pretty much I know when I walk out of my house if I go to a place where people have never seen me before and I don't have my trusty white boyfriend I have a 50% chance of some kind of odd racial incident.

I noticed every Latino and black person who lives down here pretty much gives you their resume in regards to "i went to college, i'm an urban professional..." It's an obsession. I mean what the hell do I care where you went to school or where you work. I'm not career builder. I was wondering why they did that, because that's really freakin weird, but I guess it's because if you don't and you aren't working as one of those clean up people they throw you out the neighborhood for not having "papers" that state you're ok and not one of them, you know them being the homeless or a drug dealer or whatever I don't know...I mean I'm kind of being funny, but it's kind of weird, since you know in SL and LF, that pretty never ever happened.

And I think that is a pretty pathetic state of affairs in regards to downtown.

It's not like I hate downtown, but I am pretty sure that I should be treated like everyone else, I do shower (most days...)


BusTard said...

Being not a Nuyorican but merely a former New Yorker (from E. 9th, not far from THE Nuyorican on 3rd), I have kept tabs on LES and The Bowery. What continues to happen there is scary, and it colours my perspective of what is happening in L.A.
An example is the schmuck on Spring who was running his dog a few mornings ago. As he sprinted rapidly north on Spring, he literally ran into and entwined two guys in his dog's leash. That the schmo in question failed to realise that there may be someone walking up 5th toward Broadway apparently did not occur to the boy; he did not even state an apology. A purple-shirted "safety" officer witnessed the incident from some four feet away, and said nothing before he darted away (from my glance, to be sure) on his bicycle. The following day (Thursday, 3 July), I watched an LAPD motorman stop traffic (including Metro buses) on 5th on the other side of the street, so as to admonish loudly a man who had in dropped his paper-filled case. The cop under review practically yelled at the guy to get his "shit off the sidewalk, and I mean NOW" for nearly two minutes. In both cases, the people who were humiliated were black and not very well-to-do at all. But they were caught up in the bullshit that is happening, and despite the reports, I find that the attitude of former suburbanites is clashing badly with folk who have lived here for some time.

As for the former SROs and residential hotels, I have to admit that as much as I find LA CAN questionable, it is this organisation that has helped maintain the area's low-cost housing. The lack of foresight by developers wishing only to cash in on the residential is dreadful. Where will the service employees for the semi-lavish lifestyles of the newbies, reside after having been displaced and their family members industries being forced to move out? Over in Brooklyn, a similar case has developed near where I usta live, in Red Hook. An ex-cop realised that there has to be a balance, and the property he bough some years ago for half a million, he decided to sell to Ikea rather than condo developers. He understood that there has to be a balance. There is no such thing in downtown, I feel. To wit: who walks to a grocery store, and to which grocery store do you walk? That should tell a lot. Anyhow, that ex-cop's case can be found in last week's New York Observer on the page 40 bit.

Lastly, we should not forget why downtown is the way it is: Hollywood and the car culture, both of which screwed this place by abandoning it decades ago. Now the new generations want it back, I feel, but do not want it to be truly "edgy" despite the fact that that is too often the perspective they advance when talk to their former West L.A., Valley and flyover friends.

Anonymous said...

In 1964, British sociologist Ruth Glass coined the now widely used term “gentrification” to describe the funneling of middle- and upper-class money, cultural capital, and persons into a working-class or poverty-stricken area of a city - a process which leads to the displacement of the original inhabitants of that area (xviii). The definition of the concept has not changed much over the last forty-odd years; however many attempts have been made to rename the concept in a more positive or candy-coated way, such as urban renewal, revitalization, or redevelopment.
Logically it makes sense that with a massive influx of people to a fixed space there will be some displacement of the original inhabitants of the area. This is especially true when the influxes of people are of a higher-socioeconomic status than the original residents. Despite consistent evidence of residential displacement in areas being gentrified, there are a few scholars who insist that minimal displacement occurs in these areas, as evidenced by the Time article. However, when the quantitative methodology used by these scholars are examined many flaws are found; flaws that make the results unreliable. For the most part, the relationship between gentrification and displacement is well supported and accepted (see Lees, Slater, & Wyly, 2008; Newman & Wyly, 2006; Smith, 1996; Smith & Williams, 1986). To believe otherwise seems a ridiculous exercise in self-delusion.

bgfa said...

"To believe otherwise seems a ridiculous exercise in self-delusion"

Downtown Los Angeles was largely cleared of residents over the past 50 years, so that there are VERY FEW people living here compared to the past.

In order for there to be displacement, there has to be a residential population to be displaced. Other than the population of Skid Row, which is protected, who is being displaced?

There is no real comparison to be made here to places like New York, which had hundreds of thousands of people living in the areas which became gentrified.

This attitude is pretty typical of people who know little to nothing about Downtown LA.

Anonymous said...

Just because there weren't a lot of people in downtown doesn't mean that the one's who were here aren't being displaced. Take for example, the Alexandria and the Rosslyn hotels. They used to be full. Now with renovations taking place entire floors stand empty - where did all the people go? They aren't living in the hotel anymore, a place that many of them called home for ten even twenty years. Hmmm, I'm not sure but I think that's called displacement. However, there are some legal "protections" in place to prevent or ease the displacement of these residents, but the law as always can be manipulated and has been by the management at both the Rossyln and the Alexandia. Both hotel's either have been sued or are being sued - try "28-shuffle" and discrimination. All I'm trying to say is that we all need to take a minute and scratch beneath the surface sometimes and try to find out what is really going on.

Anonymous said...

I think just because you have been at a place four years longer than another person doesn't make your experience more valuable or the person with less time under their belt's experience irrelevant. I mean really I lived in Los Feliz for over 15 years, went to high school there, spent my twenties there, does that mean that people who have had less time there don't know what they are talking about? I'm going to say no.

I think the issue I have with the new downtown is how even in the "community" paper, they talk about a babyboom, as if there were not people here with kids before. Of course they were working class Latinas, but unless they passed a new ordinance last time I looked working class people of color (POC) are still people.

I think the thing about downtown is that being practically a LA native is that LA is one of the most diverse towns, in regards to urban cites. More diverse than SF or NY. LA's cosmo areas from my experience being a person of color has been one of the most tolerant.

The thing I found shocking about NY, last time I went there was that it was a real separation between race and class. Rich white people got to enjoy the city and poor poc and ethnic white people got to clean. It was bizarre, very bizarre. In LA we're not like that. I have never, ever felt uncomfortable or been disrespected anywhere in LA. Even in Beverly Hills, I have always been treated (at least on the surface) like everyone else. I went to Pinot Cafe by the Library the other day for lunch and the hostess said this to me, "What do you want?"

Not two for lunch, but "What do you want?" with an attitude.

Is that how you treat customers at a place with overpriced bad food? I know exactly why that happened, because it has happened so many times since I have been in downtown LA.

Yes I know of 626, but is this 1950s Montgomery am I only allowed to hang out in one section of the city?

I think being from LA and seeing such a division in downtown in regards to race in class, especially for a person who is a LA native, it's just a bit disturbing. And people were living here, maybe they weren't on the census, but I remember visiting people and their being a community in downtown before 2000.

In NY this kind of behavior is typical (people from NY tell me about the black guy cab stories and things like that, we're not that obvious out here in Los Angeles,) in LA this is not ok.

In fact this kind of behavior is unheard of in LA (at least for someone who came of age in the 1990s) I don't know why downtown decided to import this ugly aspect of NY and not the great art or literary scene of NY.