Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Beginning of the End

This was one of the first gentry boxes I ever saw. It is on Northwestern with an expansive view of the Metro train tracks.
I think it must be the guy who got the biggest $ from the train boondoggle.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mike Martinez: King of the Gentrifiers

High atop a hill in the middle of the Austin,Texas varrio sits the first castle built in the 21st century.
Austin City Councilman's Man, Mike Martinez is building a 2.5 million dollar mansion in what he hopes will be one of the Latino districts in Austin's near future switch to district specific voting. Martinez currently lives in a less opulent home built for him by his campaign benefactors in the future Black district.
The new home has nine bedrooms, six bathrooms and two garages, one for cars and one for boats. It towers over his neighbors' modest homes except for a hideous, salmon gentrybox directly across from his boat garage.
Mike Martinez was elected by the working class neighbors who now cower in the shadow of his new castle. He had put himself out there as a working class fire-fighter, sympathetic to people and democracy. Now he's a millionaire bent on the gentrification of all of East Austin and has turned his back on the very people who installed him in more hopeful days, voting against them on the Capital Metro Board of directors and the Austin City Council. He quadrupled bus fares, gave a quarter billion to Domain developers and supported the slaying of Nat Sanders.
The question now is how will we who created this monster be able slay him in the next, last May election?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

We're losing Windsor Park!

Yard of the Month? It's just gravel!









The Benz complements the home security sign perfectly.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

an article from Sociation Today

Originally posted at: http://www.ncsociology.org/sociationtoday/v42/gent.htm

Gentrification, Displacement and New Urbanism:
The Next Racial Project*
by
Olivia Hetzler, Veronica E. Medina, and David Overfelt
University of Missouri-Columbia

The "new social movements" of the 1950s and 1960s made calls for racial equality in the public sphere and these movements gained a number of concessions from the federal government that expanded the rights of minorities in the United States (Omi and Winant 1994). However, just as soon as these movements gained legal rights for minorities there was an immediate backlash from conservative America. This conservative backlash, beginning in the early 1970s, rearticulated the meanings of racism and turned whites into the victims of racism. In this new era of racism, colorblindness, an ideology defined by its opposition to "preferential treatment" and its lack of racial consideration (Omi and Winant 1994), became the method for removing race from future policy discussions. By recoding formerly racist terminology into less offensive and seemingly race-neutral language, those on the right revived old racist ideologies in new forms. Racial formation during this period is implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, racist because it is organized around “creat[ing] and reproduc[ing] structures of domination based on essentialist categories of race (Omi and Winant 1994, p. 71)." This racial project started out as a project to develop broader rights for minorities in the 1950s and 1960s and ended up as a conservative colorblind backlash that started in the 1970s and continues today.

The general failure of liberal programs that had been developed to promote greater racial equality created this conservative rearticulation that led directly to an attack on the state. This is significant because, as Omi and Winant (1994) argue, "The state from its very inception has been concerned with the politics of race. For most of U.S. history, the state's main objective in its racial policy was repression and exclusion (p. 81)." Through this attack, those on the right promoted lower levels of state intervention in all aspects of life. The continuous rearticulation of racial equality, coupled with a continuous push for lower levels of state intervention, aligns nearly perfectly with Neil Smith's waves of gentrification. None of these processes has a clear cut beginning and end, but instead the waves serve to orient the reader in time and demonstrate the evolution of the modern racist project applied to urban development.

According to Smith (1996), wave one was sporadic and developed in the 1950s through the 1970s. This wave consisted of central city revitalization driven by state investment and grounded in a utilitarian argument that an improved center city was best for everyone in the city, majority group and racial minorities alike. In this wave the state, with so much capital invested in central city improvement, had a large stake in a positive outcomes in both economic and racial equality.

Interestingly, this first wave of gentrification happens nearly simultaneously with the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. As people were starting to make new demands for greater equality the state intervened and attempted to forge urban equality through gentrification. Overall, this method of gentrification failed to give the desired payoffs of economic or racial equality and simply led to increased inequalities within, and a whitening of, central cities. It was during this stage that "gentrification," as a word, gained its negative connotations as a highly classist and racist process that hurts poor minorities and helps rich white people; furthermore, the failure of this first wave of gentrification coupled with the failure of left wing racial equality programs gave the conservative backlash more ammunition with which to argue for less state intervention and colorblind (read: racist) policies. For example, Omi and Winant (1994) note that the beginning of the 1970s ushered in systematic "setbacks in the domestic economy and U.S. reversals on the international level [which] were 'explained' by attacking the liberal interventionist state. Many of these criticisms had racial subtexts (p.114)."

Progressing from wave one, wave two began in the 1970s and continued through the 1990s when gentrification became increasingly entwined with wider processes of colorblind "free market" urban, economic, and policy restructuring. Omi and Winant (1994) concur that a market ideology with regard to the state's functions was emerging during this decade. They write, "The state was the obvious target of criticism for the economy's poor performance... Indeed, the state was blamed for obstructing the economy's ‘natural’ tendencies toward recovery (p. 115)." The second wave of gentrification essentially functioned as a transition stage to, and an ideological background for, wave three and it is best understood as the period in which conservative free market colorblind arguments gained their foothold in both the public discourse and the policy development and implementation processes.

Wave three emerged in the 1990s and continues to the present day. In this wave, gentrification becomes a part of "New Urbanism" (Smith 2002), a development strategy that uses colorblind neoliberal free market ideologies to justify its policies. This shift separates cities and individuals from the state by eliminating state subsidies for housing and urban development. New Urbanism has two immediate consequences; first, it forces U.S. cities into an era of global city-to-city competition for capital--the creation of the "World-City" (Villanueva et al. 2000) -- and, second, it forces individuals to fend for themselves in a "free market." In this New Urban context, the city must sell itself to the highest bidder and development is no longer focused around industry. The city no longer directly engages in physical gentrification, but instead proposes colorblind neoliberal development policies and zoning ordinances that encourage free market gentrification, making cities an open global market for developers and development. This creates what is known as "property-led" economic development (Wolf-Powers 2005). In this current general policy trend, all responsibilities for inequalities are shifted to the market and individuals, allowing policy makers to deemphasize issues of race while they continue with the implicitly racist (and still explicitly classist) New Urbanism/new gentrification project.

This third wave of gentrification claims to reduce sprawl by bringing people back into the center city. However, the reality of the situation is that third-wave gentrification produces cities that are colonized by white people through "mixed-use zoning," a development trend in which the colonizers target neighborhoods that have been previously occupied by economically disadvantaged people of color. Mixed-use zoning is a slight improvement from the past waves of gentrification policy that simply removed all lower class people from a neighborhood. Mixed-use zoning supposedly enforces building restrictions that require the construction of multi-family dwellings alongside the more traditional, and more expensive, single-family units that gentrification has tended to produce in the past. With mixed-use zoning, affordable housing is subsidized by the state for approximately ten to twenty years (Columbia Daily Tribune, October 12, 2005) after which the properties become available "on the market." Since the period for which subsidies are guaranteed varies, this creates an environment in which the negative and racist consequences of gentrification are spread out over time.

While the policy strategy has improved, the targets of gentrification, lower-class neighborhoods populated with minorities, remain the same today as they have in the past. The targeting of these races and places is due to the fact that these areas have urban qualities (e.g. historical architecture) that are desirable to middle- and upper-class consumers and developers; however, these areas lack high aesthetic quality and therefore are in need of "revitalization and healing (Smith 1996)." It is, in a sense, a type of social engineering, a racist project that carries out global urban apartheid under the name of colorblind neoliberal development. This implicit character allows for the persistence of property-led economic development in the name of the free-market and equal opportunity. Considered critically, this wave represents the attempted geographical extermination of particular target groups, including immigrants and marginalized minority urban dwellers that are considered disposable and not tied to the community.

A United Nations report (2005) has recently stated that neoliberal development policy creates a situation of modern urban apartheid, especially in the face of increasing Gross Domestic Product. This New Urbanism focuses its energies on "the best and highest use (Smith 2002)" and is coupled with the trend of mixed-use zoning and property-led economic development (Wolf-Powers 2005). Although there is supposed to be enforcement of rules that require low income multi-family dwellings to be in the gentrifying areas, "the best and highest use" nonetheless becomes loft apartments, small businesses, and service jobs in place of even the lightest industry that formerly employed the low income and minority populations. Some argue that the departure of industry and the subsequent entry of service sector employment from urban centers is a natural trend (Freeman and Braconi 2004).

On the other hand Wolf-Powers (2005) argues, at least in New York City, that this trend is encouraged through neoliberal (and we suggest, colorblind) development policies that create a situation called "property-led" economic development in which property owners are made the most powerful actors. There is no reason to expect this trend to be any different elsewhere as long as neoliberal colorblindness rules the policy arena. In this process developers are encouraged, through colorblind neoliberal zoning and tax ordinances, to create a neighborhood full of "the best and highest uses." When this trend begins, landlords will break zoning laws with the (correct) assumption that they will get special exception permits from the planning and zoning committee.

New Urbanist policies have generated more positive economic outcomes for cities than past gentrification policies have ever been able to accomplish by focusing on this "best and highest use." However, the consequences of this policy on the resident (and frequently minority) populations have barely received attention, despite the cities' receipt of reports from residents of gentrifying communities who wish to outline their own visions for the development of the neighborhoods in which they reside. Employing this method implies that the consequences for locals are factored into the development process.

Unfortunately, as detailed by Davila (2003) and Wolf-Powers (2005), this is better characterized as a trend of paying lip service to the local community. While taking development advising reports from the community is a step forward in the urban development process, it is far from a final and all-encompassing democratic development solution. The biggest issue thus far is that the city has simply used these reports in order to justify applying colorblind neoliberal development policies to a community and offering development contracts to particularly wealthy powerful land owners and businesspeople. In these cases, the city planners seem to be flipping the development process around. They work backwards from the opinion that colorblind neoliberal growth policies are the epitome of development strategies to the information coming from the community report: it is a tautological argument. It does not matter what the report itself says or what the community believes is best. The end result is for the city to take control, TELL everyone what is best, and make prescriptions based on the opinions of the planners and developers without ever fully justifying the policy or considering the destructive consequences for people that already live in the soon-to-be gentrifying neighborhood.

Residents who make these community development reports, reports which represent their goals and desires for their neighborhood futures, want their communities to be better but they do not necessarily want their communities to become "diverse" and they most certainly do not want to lose their jobs or their homes to the service economy and loft apartments that gentrification inevitably brings. In the end, the UN report is very accurate in characterizing colorblind neoliberal gentrification as modern urban apartheid; New Urbanist policies and mixed-use zoning have merely added a pretty, color-blind facade to mask the segregationist tendencies of gentrification. While the rhetoric of creating a multi-class, multi-race, and industry/service mix sounds wonderful, the end result once again becomes, not surprisingly, property owners doing as they please and breaking the developmental path that all others must follow.

"Abuse It and Lose It"
or
Gentrification

Mixed-use, public-private residential communities have been proposed as a solution to the problems of urban decay and have been commonly employed in the third wave of gentrification in cities such as St. Louis, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Ann Arbor, and Boston. The outcome of these developments has yet to be determined, but established projects appear to be problematic. Two such developments have taken shape in St. Louis, MO. Mixed-use communities have been justified as benefiting to the poor, and proponents state that the poor have been segregated with no role models, and therefore, without motivation for change. Gentrification in these terms is a type of moral crusade to save the poor. Residents, however, claim that plans have been falsified and they fear that the land that has been set aside for public housing will be sold to the highest bidder. Former tenants of public housing have sued housing authorities over claims of displacement, and although residents are told replacement housing will be provided, it is has not been offered on a one-to-one basis (Columbia Daily Tribune, October 12, 2005). Most areas are subsidized for 15 to 20 years (10 years in New York) and then sold off to developers, possibly resulting in further displacement of the poor, but at a slower rate.

In Atlanta, Georgia, whites are the driving force behind gentrification. Within ten years, between 1990 and 2000, the white population of three predominately black neighborhoods doubled in a reverse trend from what was seen between the 1960s and 1970s. The population rose from 1% white to 14% white in the Kirkwood area. In 1960 the white population was 97%; by 1970 the area was 97% black (Williams and Adelman 2003). The median sales price of homes has risen 275% in the past 10 years, resulting in unaffordable taxes for the residents.

What is happening in Harlem, New York, differs in several ways from integration of the more familiar black-to-white form as demonstrated by the Atlanta case. For example, when blacks moved into white neighborhoods, there were, in most cases, few income or class differences between the two groups. But when middle- or upper-middle-class people move into lower-income, minority communities, what takes place is as much class -- as racial -- integration. Whereas whites may have feared that the arrival of black neighbors would provoke white flight into suburbs and depress property values, Black residents of gentrifying neighborhoods in Harlem fear rising property values will force them out. If they do not believe they are under the risk of actual displacement, they may worry about a loss of political control and the erosion of customs, rituals and institutions -- what Monique Taylor calls "a way of living in black communities (Scott 2001)."

The neighborhood of West Town, located in Chicago, has also experienced a shift in composition over the past decade. The area was primarily white before a period of white flight beginning in the 1960s, when it was transformed from a primarily white area to a predominately Latino area, incorporating other racial groups as well. As jobs have recently shifted to white collar and service sector jobs, whites are now returning to West Town and the area's white population has increased from 27.4% in 1990 to 39.39% in 2000. Coinciding with this shift is a decrease in the Latino population from 59.0% in 1990 to 46.85% in 2000. During this period the average West Town property price has escalated 83% and the median price has doubled. The escalating property prices affect property owners who are seeking to remain in the area and results in a forced dislocation if the property taxes become unaffordable. For example, between 1995 and 1996 property taxes rose 117% in the West Town neighborhood (Natalie Voorhees Center 2001).

A similar trend has taken place in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ann Arbor has experienced significant changes in its landscape over the past few decades, shifting from a predominately manufacturing economy to a knowledge economy. Dolgon (1999) describes this shift as "a celebration of the new bourgeoisie" within the city. Development is taking place within the city, however it is seen as highly selective as to who will receive the benefits of this new type of place. As new jobs targeted towards the new bourgeoisie have been established within the city, the city has had an influx of new residents. The influx appears to coincide with a change in the demographics of the city through the displacement of the Black working class. For over a century the North-Central area of Ann Arbor had been comprised of mainly African Americans. These areas have been targeted by newcomers and developers for residence particularly for this reason. Residents have been drawn to the area for its "ethnic past" and "racial mix" commodifying the historical aesthetics of the area. These factors have drawn new residents in but, at the same time, these new residents are displacing the ethnic and racial mix which was the area's initial appeal. The area of North-Central Ann Arbor has experienced an increase in white population and levels of education among residents, altering the character of the neighborhood and simultaneously contributing to a growth in the homeless population (Dolgon 1999).

Neighborhoods that possess an ethnic character have suffered in redevelopment projects. Ann Arbor, Michigan, as mentioned above, is an example of gentrifiers' desire for culturally rich areas. Those who are returning to the central city are also drawn by the cultural character of these areas, citing the rich heritage of the area and the history that encompasses it. However, the incoming residents do not desire for the populations from whom the cultural character of these neighborhoods originates to remain, as the persons that have constructed this "character" are typically low income, minority groups. The new residents desire true cultural character, but not an area with an ethnic past that is plagued by the "problems" associated with minority groups. Areas with high concentrations of ethnic groups are experiencing what amounts to ethnic cleansing, in which minorities are being forced out of their areas and replaced with a new whiter, and less ethnic, population. The result is an area with a rich cultural past that is now comprised of a majority of high income whites (Dolgon 1999).

Areas near the central city business districts have become much more appealing to middle class and upper middle class persons over the past decade, after a lengthy period of white flight from these areas. As these areas become more appealing the city begins efforts to attract and maintain the desirability of both residents and business. These efforts are often accompanied by “urban cleansing” in which the city attempts to revamp its image through the creation of "quality of life" ordinances aimed at controlling less desirable populations. Wyly and Hammel (2003) determined that "gentrified enclaves claim a prominent place in elite housing markets where municipal policy incorporates provisions to cleanse the city of certain people and behaviors (p. 9)." A trend was established in cities with the largest share of affluent central city buyers choosing gentrified neighborhoods in which the cities with the highest percentage of these persons were also cities deemed the "meanest cities" in terms of "quality of life" ordinance development and enforcement (Wyly and Hammel 2003).

"Keepin' It Clean"
Homelessness and Aesthetics in
the New Urbanism

The actions related to gentrification have been directly related to displacement and, at times, results in homelessness. Areas that are frequently targeted in redevelopment are also areas comprised mainly of minorities and lower income residents who are often without the financial means to afford increasing rents and secure new housing if forced out of their homes. The treatment of low income residents in gentrified areas is analogous to the treatment of already homeless populations. Redevelopment plans do not consider the outcomes for low income residents who are residing in these gentrifying areas: how will they afford new rents, how will they subsist, and if they cannot, where will they go, and how will they get there? The main concern of the gentrifiers is with the transformation of space rather than the lives of people. Although there are regulations requiring replacement of low income housing on a one-to-one basis, as well as assistance in replacement housing for displaced residents, the truth about the enforcement on these polices is unknown. The lack of planning and enforcement of policies results in displacement for some and homelessness for others. In their interviews, Newman and Wyly (2005) noted a frequency of displaced low income residents being forced to enter the shelter system, citing a shortage in housing as the reason. There is also a problem in numeration of the displaced when considering the hidden homeless, in which persons move in with others to avoid “pure” homelessness or when several families double up to resist neighborhood displacement.

Lee et al. (2003) determined that high rents boost homelessness, determining that homelessness is not related to the size of the community but place-specific characteristics of the housing market. Homelessness is related to a decline in affordable units which limits the housing options of low income renters; price inflation (as well as other raced issues such as lending and discriminatory rental policies) has resulted low income minorities facing difficulties in home ownership and increased competition for rental units. Urban renewal and gentrification accelerate this competition by converting rental units from low income to mid and upper level income rental units.

The solution to rising homeless populations has not been a proactive one in which the city has attempted to assist these persons toward subsistence, but rather one of spatial extermination. The main concern of indifferent policies toward homelessness is to render the displaced invisible, without regard for their well-being and survival. Policies targeting the survival behaviors of the homeless have been enacted nationwide. Behaviors frequently cited are sleeping, urinating or defecating, and bathing in public spaces (Mitchell 2003). It is important to note that the homeless have no alternative place to perform these activities. These policies are related to cities' attempts to create a sanitized space with the goal of attracting new development and tourists who are shielded from the realities of homelessness and poverty.

Gentrification projects reflect an equivalent desire towards aesthetics, creating the look of an economically stable and aesthetically pleasing community requires ridding the space of poverty stricken areas and persons. As with homeless policies, redevelopment projects have reflected a similar lack of planning. The interest is neither in maintaining nor assisting these populations, but in the extermination of these populations through unjust redevelopment, displacement, and lack of replacement housing. Residents are left to their own devices as to how to maintain their current, though increasing unaffordable, housing or to attempt to locate affordable housing in an era of increasing rents. The goals of redevelopment have in mind the removal of poverty stricken areas and the residents that inhabit them from both the city and from sight.

Aesthetic concerns are related to globalization. The streets are being cleansed of those left behind by globalization and other economic changes (Mitchell 1997). The homeless and urban poor are seen as threats to capitalism if they remain visible because they are constant reminders of capitalism's failures, thereby producing a need to remove evidence of poverty from sight (Amster 2003). The Disneyfication of public space creates a clean and sterile community in which the poor and homeless are unwanted.

The rise of tourism promotion of the "World City" is important in the decision for cities to begin redevelopment projects. Downtown areas are being revitalized in order to attract new business, high income residents, and tourism to boost the economy. In relation, attempts are being made to expel the unattractive elements and relieve the features of urban decay (Aguirre and Brooks 2001). Elements of the city that are not considered positive to economic growth are excluded from the benefits of development or are simply evicted, creating a disadvantage for low income minority groups and opening opportunities for the incoming middle and upper classes. ''Our thinking is that a healthy middle class is important to the city,'' said Geoffrey Lewis, assistant director of policy at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which has overseen the building of hundreds of units reserved for middle income earners. ''We want to keep these people in Boston; they are the glue in the neighborhoods and the glue in the economy as well (Murphy 2005)." While this sentiment is specific to development in Boston, we argue that it is generalizable to all gentrifying cities.

This New Urbanist policy has created a "revanchist city" in which the rhetoric surrounding development focuses on healing the geographical area that has fallen into disrepute and disrepair due to the lack of attention from and the criminal tendencies of its racialized and lower class inhabitants (Smith 1996). Throughout the history of gentrification, the local media, in conjunction with planning and development advocates and officials, create a "geography of exclusion (Sibley 1995)" and a cancerous space through the use of a rhetoric that demonizes the residents and how they have used their spatial area (often a neighborhood or public spaces within a neighborhood). Through this dual process, the people within a neighborhood become characterized as undeserving lazy minorities who have already been given too much public assistance (Omi and Winant 1994) and the space they inhabit becomes characterized as misused and abused (Smith 1996).

In order for this "abused" space to be able to offer a positive contribution to the city, the space must be "saved" by middle class altruists (read: gentrifiers) who will "heal" the space by improving its appearance and increasing rents. In New York City, for instance, contemporary mixed-use development planning committees have opened up the policy development process a little by giving these "undeserving" people a small voice in the resident reports about their desires for community development (Wolf-Powers 2005). As we have seen, even when the planning boards do take these development reports from local communities, they do not take them seriously and it becomes a simple act of paying lip service to the community (Wolf-Powers 2005). The city officials will unfailingly do what they feel is best. Since neoliberal development policies are, in effect, colorblind, the opinions and concerns of minority residents are disregarded resulting in policy advantages for wealthy developers and citizens who, by their "healing" hands and self righteous altruism, whiten gentrifying neighborhoods.

"Lose It, Then Move It"
or Displacement

In the past gentrification consisted of higher income white residents replacing lower income African Americans in the city center. This trend is no longer clearly black and white and now includes a variety of ethnicities as gentrifiers. The adverse effects of gentrification, such as displacement, still fall heavily on the shoulders of minorities as in the past.

Consequences of gentrification are the involuntary or voluntary displacement of renters, homeowners and local businesses, increased real estate values, increased tax revenue, deconcentration of poverty, changing cultural fabric of the community, changing leadership and power structure of community, and an increased value put on the neighborhood by outsiders (The Brookings Institution 2001). Displacement occurs in varying forms. Residents may be displaced within the neighborhood by moving from their original residence to an apartment within the same neighborhood with a lower rent, doubling up with other families and combining households to maintain their place and afford rent, or simply paying more than the standard 30 percent of income reserved for rent (Wyly and Hammel 1999). This type of displacement is inward as the resident does not leave the neighborhood. Displacement also occurs outwardly when the residents are pushed out of the neighborhood, they are no longer able to afford the rents, and cannot find replacement housing within the neighborhood, thus becoming urban refugees.

Past research on displacement has been inconclusive or presents displacement as an insignificant concern in relation to gentrification. Freeman and Braconi (2004) conclude that gentrification has not been the driving force of displacement, but that displacement is occurring due to normal succession of low income persons who have higher mobility rates than persons of other classes. Freeman and Braconi (2004) argue that poor persons residing in gentrifying areas are 19% less likely to move than poor residents residing in non-gentrifying areas; additionally, they found that increases in rent are related to a lower probability of moving. Demographic changes in neighborhoods have also been attributed to normal succession rather than gentrification. Further, there is a slower rate of exit from gentrifying areas. Although it is acknowledged that rising rents may be related to a decision to move, it is suggested that these moves are within neighborhoods and therefore do not constitute "true" displacement.

In this line of reasoning neighborhoods can gentrify without direct displacement as long as in-movers are of a higher economic status than out-movers. Freeman and Braconi’s research has been widely cited in support of redevelopment by providing findings that suggest displacement does not, in fact, occur as a side effect of redevelopment. However, it is important to keep in mind that Freeman is an assistant professor in the Urban Planning Department of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University and Braconi is the executive director of New York City's Citizen Housing and Planning Council. Their association with these particular departments and organizations and their wide citation in pro-gentrification literature suggest a biased view of displacement and a vested interest in their version of urban development; furthermore, their methodology is less than transparent. Viewing redevelopment and displacement through their lens takes it out of its social context and does not account for imposing factors such as economic and policy changes that disproportionately affect low income minorities. Succession cannot be seen as an individual neighborhood phenomenon, but a part of a larger process that cannot be separated from shifts in policy and economics (Aldrich 1975).

There are two distinct forms of displacement. Direct forms of displacement are property clearance and converting housing to new use; indirect forms occur when land prices rise and rents are bid-up to a level unaffordable to the neighborhood's prior residents. Although in the third wave of gentrification redevelopment is typically left to private developers and reflects low government involvement, the states have assisted in these policies by supporting redevelopment through eminent domain laws. Eminent domain, the governmental power to appropriate private property for public use, has been used recently to take private homes and businesses and replace them with more profitable developments, exemplifying "the best and highest use" principle noted by Smith (1996). A central question in these practices is: what is considered public use that would entail the condemnation of these areas and who is defining this? Courts have cited a growing tax base for the community as the public use needed in order to seize these properties (Mansnerus 2001). Areas are condemned through the claim of blight and then transferred to private redevelopers.

There have been growing contestations to these practices of using eminent domain to seize private property. Law professor Marci A. Hamilton filed a petition on behalf of tenant owners of an office complex who lost their building after it was condemned as blighted. After it was condemned, the building and lot were scheduled for demolition so that a new site for the New York Times could be built. Hamilton claimed that "the purpose of transferring private property to another, more powerful and 'connected' private owner" was not the original intent of eminent domain law (Dunlap 2003). In response, Empire State Development dismissed the federal claim as preposterous. "No case has ever held that a pretextual blight finding is sufficient to satisfy the constitutional public use requirement," New York State legal officials said in their brief, prepared by Carter, Ledyard & Milburn (Dunlap 2003).

This case exemplifies the lack of power that residents and small business owners have in resisting the power of redevelopment by mega-developers in their areas. Although cases have been on the rise, there has been little success by residents in retaining their private property. Residents are typically given compensation for their displacement, although typically not an equivalent sum for the value of the property. Connecticut had only 11 new redevelopment condemnation cases between 1989 and 1990. Over the next ten years, 146 cases were filed, and between 2003 and 2004, 84 were filed (Salzman 2005). Although there have been contestations to these actions, residents are limited in their ability to legally battle the state over the right to their property primarily because of a lack of political and legal power and the financial capacity to pursue their frustrations. As stated before, the losers in gentrification are often minorities and the economically disadvantaged.

Investments needed to attract new residents and businesses to boost the neighborhood often result in the displacement of residents through forced relocation. One-to-one replacement is a federal guideline left to state and local housing authorities who often fail to apply restrictions on private development. Affordable housing and home ownership programs and relocation assistance are often used as mitigating tools for potential displacement by private developers. Urban renewal of the past led to direct displacement but the private development of the present third wave gentrification results in indirect displacement of residents by conversion and increase in rents. The displaced depend on the housing market to find new housing, although some homeowners voluntarily sell or move from the area. In order to determine whether "true" displacement is occurring, it must be determined whether continued occupancy is financially possible. Gentrification, in this light, creates a vicious cycle: homelessness and poverty are important social issues that affect the value and function of communities but the destruction and gentrification of low income and minority communities contributes to homelessness and poverty while simultaneously improving the aesthetic and financial qualities of these areas (Koebel 1996).

As neoliberal ideologies come to dominate our political arenas, colorblindness, too, comes to dominate the way we perceive economic and social outcomes. It is important to note that colorblindness sets the backdrop for redevelopment discussions-- no one talks about the r-word, at least not explicitly. New Urbanism does not escape this critique. It is evident from our discussion that race must take a central place in the discussion on displacement that results from neoliberal redevelopment processes. The displaced are disproportionately low income racial and ethnic urban minorities. Class is not the sole variable; race matters.

*Footnote

Authors' Note: We have chosen to list our names alphabetically rather than utilizing the positions of first, second, and third authorship to reflect the collaborative nature of this paper and the unique contributions each of us make to its development. We would like to thank Dr. David L. Brunsma and the students of Sociology 8087, Graduate Seminar on Critical Race Theory, Fall 2005, for their comments and suggestions. We would also like to thank Dr. George Conklin and our anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions in improving this paper.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

East of the Highway

Will Martin's new movie explores gentrification.

"East Of The Highway" trailer from Will Martin on Vimeo.