Social Question

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

Is gentrification a good or bad thing?

Asked by Aesthetic_Mess (7892points) April 20th, 2011

What are your thoughts on gentrification in big cities?
People seem to have vastly differing views on it.

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18 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Obviously, it’s good for the gentrifiers (who tend to be young, upwardly-mobile and white) but has terrible consequences for those whose communities they destroy.

anartist's avatar

Well, being someone who loves old architecture, I say it is a good thing. When neighborhoods are gentrified, the historicity and architecture of the area is preserved. It’s a typical scenario, first the artists move in because it is cheap and change the nature of the area, then the lawyers move in.

I am not all that concerned that people who don’t appreciate the historic architecture and can’t afford to care for the buildings might be relocated. In many cases they would be getting a better deal too. Newer places with more working systems like AC, dishwashers, microwave ovens, reliable plumbing, no collapsing roofs or cracking plaster, no crumbling lead paint,

IMNSHO the uneducated poor generally do not care about the niceties of hand-crafted wainscoting and would rather be in air-conditioned rat-free places.

Of course this may make me seem elitist and arrogant. I would probably be lumped with warmongers who lobby for anti-personnel weapons that are less likely to destroy historic treasures. So be it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@anartist You’re right. The comment above does make you sound elitist and arrogant. You place ‘architecture’ above people, real breathing invididuals. You don’t see how problematic it is that preservation efforts only start when the white people move in and never before. If you think people being relocated are getting a ‘better deal’, then why are the artists moving in where the ‘uneducated poor’ are supposedly worse off, their homes of decades? Please provide a link that shows that the places they’re being moved to (and they’re not being moved to anywhere in any concerted fashion, they’re just priced out of their ‘cheap apartments’ that are no longer cheap because landlords can charge naive newcomers higher prices) are supposedly better than places/homes they’re being forced to leave.

anartist's avatar

The gentrifiers have the MONEY to rebuild the neighborhoods. The poor do not.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@anartist My god, of course they have the money. Duh, why else would anyone give a shit about them? And hardly do they rebuild neighborhoods. They basially just leech on existing communities until the area is deemed hip enough for developers.

anartist's avatar

Because the artists can see the beauty and can cope with the rats. Artists can live funky. This article about an artist friend of mine goes into fascinating detail about the gentrification process.

The preservation process doesn’t START with the city or the state giving them a handout. It starts with the people who invest money and labor into restoring their properties. The city doesn’t get involved until they see evidence of restoration and revitalization of the neighborhood.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@anartist “Most of her old friends in the Beverly Court Apartments—now the Beverly Court Cooperative—have moved out or died. Their former apartments now harbor a pleasant mix of political activists, lawyers, doctors, a math teacher, a tennis pro, and “fresh young things,” says Cleary.” – what can I respond to a person who speaks of people with less affection that they do of rats?

All I can tell you that some of my favorite artists come from neighborhoods that haven’t been gentrified or are under threat of – their artistry is no less, their talents raw and truthful and all things beautiful.

anartist's avatar

That’s exactly what I am talking about. Artists move in before gentrification. They can adapt to raggedy beauty and cope with unpleasant situations. I once lived in a 4-room apartment with windows 10 feet tall that you could slide up and walk onto the worn paint-peeled veranda and see all the old raggedy rose bushes blooming carelessly and ungroomed. It was only $75 dollars a month. But there was something nasty about the plumbing and mushrooms grew on the bathroom wall. The tradeoff in beauty was worth it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@anartist I feel like you and I are discussing different levels of the problem. You’re taking a look from the personal, I’m taking a look from the political. You are speaking of your own experiences and that of your friend, I’m talking about racial and economic inequality. And the artists I speak of were always there.

anartist's avatar

Also artists, especially young artists, rarely have kids. They can’t afford to. If they had kids, they might be more persnickety about the condition of their living quarters.

anartist's avatar

I’m gone. Im not here for a polemic.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@anartist Perhaps you don’t know what polemic means. It means an argument where one person (I suppose you’re pointing your finger at me) refutes another’s opinions outright without hearing. What I was doing was engaging you in a conversation, a conversation you yourself admitted you’d get into since you knew how arrogant you sounded and ‘so be it’. Now, when I tried to tell you that we’re simply looking at things from different planes, you’re done? Have fun being funky.

sinscriven's avatar

In my experience, gentrification is pretty culturally and socially destructive.

Successful and beloved local businesses that have been in the community for decades had themselves bought out and or forcibly removed through abusing eminent domain laws, they even went to the lengths to raze an old looking neighborhood market in a residential area that’s on a major street for no apparent good reason. it was fought against for years and the owners eventually lost. That land is still an empty lot years later.

It’s also creeping into the “lower income” areas that have major black and Hispanic populations, more new stuff goes up and the cost of living there rises and the cost of maintaining businesses there rises and people are priced out of their own businesses and homes and they have to leave. A small ice cream and drink shop that I liked that specialized in latin-american flavors and desserts had to closer its doors because of the rent. It’s now replaced by a starbucks. Just in case I didn’t need one 3 minutes ago when I last saw one.

And that’s a bigger problem with gentrification. Aside from the economic suffering it causes, it saps any sense of personality from a community. When I visit a new city I want to experience the local culture, I want Roscoe’s chicken and waffles, not Ihop. City planners sacrifice the soul of the community for perceived long term profit.

anartist's avatar

@sinscriven go when the artists move in. They adapt well to the locals and add their own charm.

bkcunningham's avatar

“fresh young things,” says Cleary.” @Simone_De_Beauvoir what does that mean. I’m too laid back right now to look it up.

dialectical1's avatar

Fresh young things may be an equivalent to ‘bright young things’, a term that was in common use in the 192os era. Then it described rich, young people living glamorous lifestyles (the sort which could be just prolifigate enough to be exciting, but never enough to risk such severe trouble their immense privilege couldn’t get them out of). They’d either be – or at least run in the same circles as – the children of aristocrats & wealthy, society parents.

dialectical1's avatar

I adore well-kempt historical architecture more than most. (To the point where I should be embarassed over my enthusiasm for good examples I pass by, I might add.)

However, culture is created by people who live in vibrant communities. Crushing communities in order to forcibly install “trendy” yet homogenous & inauthentic opportunities to wealthy people who already have their own communities is gross. A culture that is not rooted in the place it grows is apt to be like an invasive species, one that could easily destroy its ‘adopted’ ecosystem (excepting instances when it changes as much to its environment as it causes its new surroundings to alter, like some artist/activist communities).

Is it really so worthwhile to have yet another trendy, overpriced spot in town – one that, if not now, definitely in the future, is hardly distinct from another spot in another major city on the other side of the country? Is that really worth screwing over not just hundreds of individuals, but destroying an entire network of support, community & culture? The livelihoods of many families?

Even if you come back with the ‘hey, I bet you social-justice minded hippie would just love to be sipping fair trade teas at the cafe’s they’d build there!’ argument, it’d be a self-destructing one. As much as I love nice tea, that’s a pretty stupid thing to value over the survival (or even wellbeing & self-sufficiency) of communities, which is the entire purpose behind fair trade efforts.

dialectical1's avatar

Re: “IMNSHO the uneducated poor generally do not care about the niceties of hand-crafted wainscoting and would rather be in air-conditioned rat-free places.”

Dude, I love nice architectural details. I’m past caring what people thing when they see me literally jump & blather for minutes about the virtues of the architecture in the era a local gem was built.

But even being born to relative advantage, having had the usual financial insecurity of an early 20-something newly off on their own in this economy, it’d be beyond stupid for me to pay extra to get to live somewhere that has anything but incidental old-school architectural details (nothing built since the 70’s has any worth anything, speaking generously). When you live in economic conditions where you’re lucky to have a job that you hate that pays enough to get by and have a bit left over to spend on decompressing off such a job, it’d be far, far more stupid to spend money restoring a home you’re on crisis away from not being able to afford, or the extensive labor it’d take to do some of it yourself.

[Also, I think it’s bullshit for anyone shit on people for not being able to afford to support hobbies you value, while valuing those hobbies more than whether or not these families manage to eat, get jobs or keep the culture & community they’ve built.]

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