9 Oct 2016

The articles about gentrification in San Francisco and L.A. bring up a lot of the same issues that we have discussed in class about gentrification in New York — former residents being priced or forced out, racial tension, and economic and cultural diversity in neighborhoods. In San Francisco, skyrocketing housing and rent prices and rapidly changing the culture and pushing out Latino residents. In L.A., a similar process is happening, where former ‘inner-city’ areas are becoming much more expensive, safe, and yuppie/hipster friendly.

The article about L.A. that was allegedly presenting two different arguments about gentrification seemed like an ironic joke. The first half of the article, which was loaded with rudely creative descriptions of L.A. residents, was so politically incorrect that it wasn’t really believable. The argument is focused on how capital accumulation and massive new wealth in an area improves it by making it safer and more diverse. The writer describes anti-gentrifiers as a “self-entitled”, “hipster-hating mob”, delegitimizing their argument by portraying them as hateful and privileged, and afraid of change.

The heroes in the writer’s gentrification story are “middle-class” and “hipster”, two terms that the writer never feels the need to define, regardless of how arbitrary they are. Nowhere is the perspective of lower income or nonwhite people who may be negatively affected by gentrification addressed. The first part of the article dismisses the “urban poor” quickly, after briefly mentioning a 20-plus year old study about New York which proved that residents moved less in gentrifying neighborhoods.

The argument also fails to discuss any flaws in the process of new money moving into neighborhoods. It asserts that “gentrification is multiculturalism” without backing up this claim in any way. Gentrification is assumed by the author to imbue a city with an inclusive “type of community cohesion”. This is an assumption, and the writer makes no attempt to prove that it is actually the case. The only example of community cohesion as a result of gentrification that the author mentions is that public transportation connects people of different economic status — the working class is riding trains with the creative class. This relates to how gentrification desegregates neighborhoods in a process of cultural exchange, dique. In another ridiculously unfounded assertion, the author claims that the ethnocentrism of L.A.’s neighborhoods is like a “cultural Jim Crow”, without examining the actual ethnic or cultural breakdown of neighborhoods, or whether they resemble self-selected enclaves or forced ghettos.

What I got out of this article about L.A. was not an argument for gentrification, but an argument against it. Gentrification can sometimes promote certain types of diversity, and it can bring a few new cultures to an area, but too often it forces people out. The new hipster culture that has infected L.A. and many other cities is not necessarily inclusive, but is often a form of whitewashing that replaces one type of culture — in terms of housing, food, recreation, and people of one background — with another. I personally identify with a lot of the aspects of this type of living, but I don’t think the fact that I am a vegetarian that looks for punk music venues and resale clothes stores in my neighborhood gives me the right take over a place and culture.

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