When I read this in the Chronicle today, my immediate response was confusion. I realized my error after puzzling over the item for a few minutes and sending it to a friend for a second opinon, and I could have kicked myself. It was so simple! My problem was that I was assuming a news item printed in the local newspaper would be intended to reflect reality. Silly me!
A tiny street-corner park just north of downtown Oakland has become a casualty of a nasty mix of drug violence and the mortgage meltdown that has slowed the city’s once-rapid gentrification…Nadel said that as the neighborhood improved, residents thought it would be easier to keep the park clean and safe, but the gentrification process has stalled.
Can something stall if it never starts? I happened to find myself, not entirely happily, quite near the 25th Street mini park a few nights ago. If police sirens, vacant and crumbling buildings, auto-repair shops, liquor stores, and the dulcet tones of gunfire in the background are signs of gentrification, then I’d say the neighborhood is well on its way. However, more traditional markers of gentrification, like market rate development and private investment in an area, remain noticeably absent. The closest thing anytime recently is a couple of affordable housing projects. Don’t get me wrong – I think the Northgate Apartments are great, but if our ideas about growth and change in this city have become so skewed that subsidized housing for low and very low income families are considered gentrification, well…I really don’t know what to do about that.
I’m not saying that neighborhood residents don’t deserve better. They absolutely do (although I’d say that even with ChronicleWatch on their side, they might not want to hold their breath. July’s park capital improvement survey puts the 25th Street mini park pretty near the bottom of our priorities list. Not exactly a surprise at an estimated $680,000 to clean up 1/4 acre.). But the problems in this park have absolutely nothing to do with the mortgage melt-down or the failures of “gentrification” to clean up an area. The entire premise of the item is false.
Meanwhile, Nadel has apparently decided to give up on addressing the gang and drug activity surrounding the park, telling the Chronicle “No matter what we tried to do, we couldn’t clean it up,” and move on to more pressing public safety issues, like banning smoking in plays and private residences.