Omen of Coming Gentrification

The day began as it had for months. Rattling steam rollers and smoky construction men1 crowded the street beside Louis’s house acting as the most inescapable of alarms.

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He clambered to his feet breathing in the sullied air, forgetting for an instant the pile of unpaid appliance and mortgage bills2 that furnished the corner of his apartment. His home, generously titled “cozy”, sat on the corner of mission and 6th an area in which the struggle to keep one’s house3 was not an activity reserved solely for Louis.

He trudged into the kitchen, bashing his shin almost ceremoniously against the cupboard. He twisted and flailed desperately grabbing the air which proved useless as he fell slowly towards the kitchen floor spattered with old coffee beans and pasta dinners. While on the floor Louis caught a glimpse of his reflection against the chrome exterior of his fridge. He crawled over to his mirrored image and began to use his doppleganger to prop himself up, returning to his morning routine.

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After primping and pressing himself, Louis pushed out the door welcoming in piles of dust the workmen had neatly gathered outside. Squinting through the haze, he found his surroundings unfamiliar, abodes that peppered his previously welcoming neighborhood were now gone and in their place stood looming four bedrooms furnished with gaudy lamps and chairs that met every need but comfort. It began slowly, new neighbors piling in with their compilation of trust funds and entrepreneurial spirits, but as they settled, their middle class pheromones called to the nearby deserts of Palo Alto and San Mateo constructing an unrecognizable district4 around Louis’s house.

Moving around the block Louis found that with the removal of cultured victorians and weathered town houses, a certain amount of humanity had been drained from the cul de sac. The smiling faces that comforted and reacted accordingly to his own were now replaced with vacant stares of engineers, bread without emotional functionality5. There was a yearning however, a need amongst the lifelike androids to evade their social agnosia and achieve something abstract and cultural6. Their attempts required immense support from emotional experts, therapists. This massive uptake in demand for a shrink lead the prices to skyrocket leaving poor Louis floundering to afford the help he so desperately needed.

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Scooting down busy streets pressed up against coffee drinkers and unconventional bicycles, Louis was rushed pushed and shoved to the looming glass doors of a whole foods (the omen7 of coming gentrification). When inside Louis perused the shelves and counters staring down the comically high price tags that strapped themselves to disproportionately small amounts of food. Upon encountering one of the Whole Foods staff he innocently inquired, “What makes your food so whole?” The clerk responded with wells and you sees, but their response remained vacant, tiptoeing around the blunt question. She gathered herself once more and proceeded to summarize the mission statement of the store, “We are here to bring a fresh and organic foods to our surrounding community, to build up the wilting culture around us with grains and sodium, there is no end to that which whole foods provides, we are here to make you whole again.” Taken back by the proclamation, Louis reviewed the key aspects of the presentation in his head. “Fresh, organic, community, whole,” it all sounded well and good but how true to their word did this major conglomerate stay? Louis proceeded to prod, “My community, ma’am, with all do respect, is far less whole since you moved in, construction all the time, strange neighbors, and no one says hello on the street anymore, the curtesy has completely gone, and you preach wholeness, if I didn’t know any better I would say that this is a detached organizations that uses the front of family values and healthy eating to create the most profitable and dominating food chain since the creation of fast food.” The woman winced, speechless as Louis slipped down the aisle.  

Louis left the store with an arguably undeserved sense of achievement. He had battled the beast that dwelled in parking lots littered with electric cars and emerged victorious, shattering their charade, exposing them for the modernist mongers that they truly are.

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Back on the street Louis found his black and white views regarding gentrifiers shrouded in a murky grey haze. Where there used to be gas stations there were now public parks and commissioned art pieces. Influential buildings that were slowly deteriorating built up and restored to their former glory8. Everything was seemingly better than it once was. Conflicted by his observations Louis collapsed on a nearby park bench, rationalizing the associated costs of gentrification.

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“Well, I do like the changes that are being made, but I resent the removal of all those good people who made San Francisco the iconic place that it is. However their inability to keep up with the modernization isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault; it’s just urban evolution.” He flip flopped from one side to the other finding explanations both for and against every presented topic.

Louis returned home conflicted and desperate for an explanation to the predicament he was confronted with. Leaping to the internet for answers, Louis found with the corroboration of several sources that gentrification was no new dilemma; this was a timeless topic of interest. Despite its recurrence there were no answers imbedded with its documentation, even the most prominent urban sociologists could only state opinions and thoughts, never reaching a pure explanation.

Leaving his fixation, Louis found solitude in a warm shower. “There really isn’t an answer, is there,”Louis murmured to himself. The words settled with the falling water and as they began to circle down the drain his words took the shape of the only feasible explanation to this pressing issue. “It’s a cycle9.” he squawked. “ There is no response to the processes because it’s an inevitable cycle, artists flock into rundown urban areas and begin to grow them, bringing out the best each destination has to offer. Once fertile, it is adopted by a cultural vampire that begins sucking the community dry in time for a new artistic settlement to be forged and the cycle to start over again.” Upon arriving at this conclusion Louis inquired, “Now the question isn’t how do we stop gentrification, rather how can we come to terms with the idea that is an irrefutably constant pattern?”

  1. The cost of housing is out of control, in part because of record job creation, but also because housing construction in the city and the region has failed to meet demand. With thousands of jobs being added every month in San Francisco alone, housing construction is shockingly sluggish, with only 3,500 new units added in 2015.” (San Francisco enters Confederation)
  2. That density, combined with the continued influx of people into San Francisco, has led to an epic housing crisis. In 2015, the median house price in San Francisco was six times higher than the median price of existing homes in the US.”(Matt Weinberger)
  3. “For many years, the mission has been the battleground for protests over evictions, tech shuttles, gentrification, and the soaring cost of living.”(Joe Garofoli and Carolyn Said)
  4. “A new report shows that more new homes were sold in July than in nearly a decade.” (Neil Irwin)
  5. Managers see really talented engineers mess up projects because they don’t know how to work well with others.Their emotional maturity is on the lower side.”(April Dembosky)
  6. There are more and more people that have the affluence that they can afford therapy, and they have enough stress where therapy becomes more of a need.”(April Dembosky)
  7. “With hundreds of locations nationwide, gourmet grocery chains like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are a staple of wealthy communities. But these chains have begun to pop up in many underserved neighborhoods as well. While the takeover of specialty grocers has not always been well-received, there’s reason to believe these high-end chains may actually increase the desirability of an area.”(Aria Bendix)
  8. Before getting into the changing lifestyle and culture in neighborhoods, it is essential to take a look at the effects of gentrification on housing. With the new wave of high-income families moving into old neighborhoods, the landlords restore or repair the old buildings. So as the housing improves, the neighborhood becomes visually pleasing and more livable.”(Deniz Glass)
  9. “The seeders are drawn to a neighborhood like Red Hook precisely because it’s not Carroll Gardens or Boerum Hill or whatever Williamsburg has become. They like the idea of a new frontier. The irony of gentrification, though, is that while the seeders drive the cycle, they plant the seeds of their own obsolescence. They arrive to be eventually driven out. The couple who opened the Good Fork, for example, love Red Hook just as it is—that’s what drew them there—but places like the Good Fork are exactly what draws the next wave of people, the harvesters, who are attracted to what Red Hook might become.” (Adam Sternbergh)
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