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.