Affordable housing = gentrification, apparently

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.

6 thoughts on “Affordable housing = gentrification, apparently

  1. Eric

    Yet another example of worthless “journalism” on the part of the Chronicle. And they wonder why no one buys a paper subscription anymore? Sometimes their staff can’t even correctly report the most basic of facts. I wish I had a dime every time the Chronicle, when reporting on Oakland, confused 49th Ave with 49th Street, as though the two were equivalent. In one other case recently involving a hit-and-run, they actually completely changed all the facts 10 hours after originally posting an article, without a word of acknowledgment or apology.

    Also: thanks for the link! I dig your new design, with the 2-column side bar and the header image on the right.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    Eric -

    It’s really frustrating to read things that are just plain wrong in the newspaper over and over and over. I’ve been enjoying your blog, so I was happy to add the link.

    I’m glad you like the redesign. For those who are having trouble viewing it: I tested the redesign on several browsers and operating systems before launching and didn’t have any problems. If you tell me what browser and OS you’re using (and specifically, what versions- that is, “Internet Explorer 7 on Windows Vista” helps me more than “Internet Explorer on a PC”), I should be able to figure out why you can’t see the text and fix it.

  3. Wlliam

    Hi there,

    A neighbor of mine sent me the link to your site, and I have to tell you, your writing is right on track. My partenr and I live here in West Oakland, and we along with many of our neighbors and friends share your frustrations. We also have a mini park (pocket park) at 34 and Peralta that until recently had become a haven for drug users, prostitues, and a public toilet. I contacted the Director of Parcs and Recreation for the city, and together with her and her team, and along with Willow Rosenthal of City Slickers Farms and several neighbors, we are in the process of reclaiming our little park for the community.

    Keep up the great work. You can find other like-minded folks on our yahoo group, dogtown.

    William