Yuppies Try, Fail, to Save Their Vision of Eagle Rock. Tears.

Oh no!  The yuppies are losing!!
Gentrification Bingo: Oh, no! The yuppies are losing!!

From the New York Times:

WHEN Emily Cook, a screenwriter, bought a house four years ago in Eagle Rock, a neighborhood on the Northeast side of Los Angeles, she fantasized what the area might look like in a year or two, with cafes and boutiques replacing tattered old businesses. “It was like fantasy football,” said Ms. Cook, 38, who also sings in a band named Fonda.

A sad flower shop on the corner, she thought, could become a miniature Whole Foods. An upholstery store could be a gastropub where she and friends would grab a beer, and a neglected 1940s diner could become a retro spot for a quick meal.

According to the article, when Ms. Cook and similar yuppie transplants realized that they could not play Sim City with their adopted neighborhood, they were, shall we say, a wee bit disappointed.  What happens to the poor yuppies when the process of turning a neighborhood like Eagle Rock into a street like Montana Ave, Santa Monica is paralyzed?  Or, as the paper frames it, it’s a “rattling question of identity: What happens to bourgeois bohemia when the bourgeois part drops out?”

Gentrification is a topic that is best flavored with shots of whiskey, just so that every once in a while, there’s an unpredicted and off the wall outburst that will stop everyone from killing each other.  From the (classist) (incredibly classist) perspective of the New York Times, the rapid closures of Eagle Rock’s newish boutique shops are significant because of the tragic effects it will have on the new class.  Rather than a bohemian paradise, Eagle Rock “would return … to being a Los Angeles version of flyover country. And its [yuppie] residents would live a different life than they expected.”  Having to see their consumerist, pastel-colored facade of a neighborhood give way to more rooted institutions, the article’s subjects are flipping out that the shoe is slowly making its way to the other foot.

Before someone pounces on me for liberally bashing gentrification – take that whiskey shot now – I am first to admit that there are certainly positive aspects of the process (i.e., economic revitalization (to a point) and crime reduction (which itself is a function of a number of factors related to gentrification)).  And I for one like the good food that gentrification often fosters, discovers, or re-discovers.  You can make fun of gelato shops all you want, but when it’s good, it’s great.

But, can yuppie transplants do without the gods-ly arrogance of completely remaking a neighborhood in their image?  Can someone point to a neighborhood in LA where the economic benefits of gentrification did not result in mass displacement, where there is a fine balance of revitalization and conservation, and where both old and new residents appreciate the benefits of the other’s contributions?  Because I’m coming up empty on all counts.

“Gentrification Bingo” created by Miss Heather over at New York Shitty.

12 Replies to “Yuppies Try, Fail, to Save Their Vision of Eagle Rock. Tears.”

  1. Pardon me, but I think both the NYT and queequeg are seriously overdramatizing the state of things in Eagle Rock.

    I’m not even sure “gentrification” is the right word for the past few years in ER, as it was never really poor to begin with. (I also think “yuppie” is an incorrect term here; the stereotypical young upwardly mobile professional did not move to ER, but rather to Hermosa Beach, Playa Vista, maybe even downtown.) And I’m sure many of the older ER citizens are also happy to be able to walk to a nice meal on the corner where once stood just an auto parts shop. Eagle Rock is actually little-changed in the grand scheme of things. This is no Culver City. Some hip places have been added to lengthy Colorado Blvd. but that’s about it. I don’t live there but I’ve been there often over the years, and it is simply not evident that any smug, self-congratulatory “scene” emerged. Just a handful of nice new shops and restaurants added to what indeed was previously a dull, lifeless suburban street, Casa Bianca notwithstanding.

  2. Yeah, I think a bit of exaggeration of the article. No one really seems to be “flipping out.” But I did have to laugh at the description of the couple who “are more likely to get together at friends’ homes with food from Trader Joe’s” than go out to eat. Oh noes!

  3. “For long-time residents, the return to pre-boom rents may be a blessing.”

    From what I understood, some cities are having dropping rents, but in L.A. just the opposite was happening. Rents are going up and there are less rentals open. Is this accurate? I’ve seen conflicting stories on this.

  4. Not too sure. I’ll be the first to admit that my grasp on economics is shaky, but it seems to me that a decline in the housing market would/could easily lead to an increased demand in rentals, driving rents higher. But I’ve also read a lot of things talking about a decline in rentals across the country.

  5. Screenwriters are considered “yuppies”? I always thought they had enough creative cred to take them out of that realm. Perhaps in Los Angeles they are simply considered corporate fodder and thus qualify as yuppies.

    As far as rental economics, it may be that fewer home purchases would lead to an increase in demand for apartment rentals, and thus an increase in prices, assuming that the number of people living in the area isn’t declining. However, I have a feeling that more would-be renters are going lo-rent rather than luxe. This might mean having roommates, going for smaller, cheaper places, etc., which would tend to offset increases in average rental prices brought on by increased overall demand. Just a guess.

  6. Rents are dropping here, too. Previously owner-occupied units are being added to the rental supply and people are taking in extra roommates and moving in with family.

    One of the things that makes California different in terms of the process of gentrification is the property tax laws. In the rest of the country gentrification actively pushes out long time residents as increasing property values drive up their tax obligations making it difficult for them to afford to keep living in their long-time homes*. Since property taxes can only rise very slowly in California, instead of people being pushed out they stay in newly mixed neighborhoods longer with turn-over coming instead through attrition and cashing out.

    *Though when they move, they also sell for a hefty profit and get to buy a nicer place in their new neighborhood.

  7. On a related note, I walked into the Gold Room in Echo Park on Tuesday night, and heard a huge group of people singing ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey.

  8. I actually do think of the newer breed (as in, moved there in the last eight years or so) Eagle Rockers are yuppies and aging hipsters. They may not fit all the old classic definitions of “yuppie” created in the 80s but it’s a different time now, and they slot just fine into that niche. I think a lot of people had high hopes for ER to change into some hipster paradise, but it’s just not built for that, it’s just not ZONED for that.

    And as for this question…: “ Can someone point to a neighborhood in LA where the economic benefits of gentrification did not result in mass displacement, where there is a fine balance of revitalization and conservation, and where both old and new residents appreciate the benefits of the other’s contributions?

    …I can’t think of a damned one either. :(

  9. There is definitely a culture gap in Eagle Rock between the long-time middle class residents and the influx of yuppies from around the city. One common complaint I heard from friends was that the restaurants got really loud. I don’t know what it is about hipster/yuppies/whatever but some of them like to hear themselves speak and talk in really loud voices while they eat! It’s very annoying.

  10. “I actually do think of the newer breed (as in, moved there in the last eight years or so) Eagle Rockers are yuppies and aging hipsters. They may not fit all the old classic definitions of “yuppie” created in the 80s but it’s a different time now, and they slot just fine into that niche.”

    I typically disagree with everything he writes, but David Brooks nailed it, I think, in coining the term “bobos”–for bourgeois bohemians. People with money who don’t necessarily buy a BMW or a Mercedes, but a Prius instead, very socially conscious, liberal, environmentalist, and not really interested in flaunting their wealth like yuppies (the Curbed LA post on this NYT article used “Bourgeois Bohemian” in the title).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bourgeois_bohemian

  11. Finally got a chance to read the whole story, and while yes yes I see the whole point, I am most amused that the writer quoted one of my friends, Apryl Lundsten, in regards to her changing lifestyle.

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