Re: Ask The Mineshaft: Gentrification Edition

1

Pacing!


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 5:52 PM
horizontal rule
2

Oh for fucks sake.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 5:53 PM
horizontal rule
3

To answer Mr. D(reyer)'s question, there are two simple solutions: 1) get over it, or 2) start a crime wave.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 5:57 PM
horizontal rule
4

He should read Max Page's Creative Destruction of Manhattan. The thesis? 'Twas ever thus. And if that doesn't quiet his conscience, he can always burn shit down.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 5:58 PM
horizontal rule
5

Gentrification has it's own particular problems - the things landlords do to get rid of old tenants, for example - but neighborhood change, being a general process that's gone on forever, is not one of them.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 5:59 PM
horizontal rule
6

its


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 5:59 PM
horizontal rule
7

You fucking half-pwned me again, Jetpack. You know what? You're a little bitch.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:00 PM
horizontal rule
8

WMIBSALB?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:03 PM
horizontal rule
9

You know I don't know what that means, little bitch.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:05 PM
horizontal rule
10

he can always burn shit down.

For ordinary workaday problems, this is generally a good solution, but for history preservation, this might actually be counterproductive.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:06 PM
horizontal rule
11

I think I'm with eb in #5. I obviously disagree with his #6, however.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:06 PM
horizontal rule
12

You know who cares about gentrification? Poor people People who like the writings of Adam Gopnik and John Seabrook America's surplus graduate students Hippies.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:22 PM
horizontal rule
13

Affordable housing developers cannot stand historic preservationists. They call them the "hysterical societies". Me, I like old things, but time marches on and all that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:31 PM
horizontal rule
14

Societies for the preservation of historic places are themselves rather modern things (but naturally).


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:36 PM
horizontal rule
15

Using the local stores is good. Being friendly to the neighbors is also good.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:37 PM
horizontal rule
16

The big chains'll go bankrupt soon enough, anyhow.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:39 PM
horizontal rule
17

14: the thing that I think is a bit silly about them is that the mix of old and new has always been what makes cities interesting.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:44 PM
horizontal rule
18

17 is brief and semi-coherent. After dinner maybe I'll expand.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:45 PM
horizontal rule
19

I agree. All the same, a fully industrialized, late-capitalist rate of gnawing up the old and spitting out the new can be pretty fearsome.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:47 PM
horizontal rule
20

I'm not a fan of overly restrictive historical preservation rules, but in fairness, there have been some disastrous cases of beautiful old (landmark, so maybe not the kind of building that would have been used for affordable housing anyway) buildings taken down and replaced by crap. <cough>Penn Station</cough>


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:50 PM
horizontal rule
21

19: Yeah, I sort of like what the preservation societies do, but at the end of the day I don't want them to be too effective. Just a voice standing athwart history, yelling "Stop."


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:50 PM
horizontal rule
22

Neither the motivations behind nor the consequences of the creation of historical preservation societies were by any means an unmixed good (nor, I think, an unmixed ill). But it tickles me to know that their particular brand of conservatism/conservationism was itself very much a new technology (if you'll forgive me for stretching the term) of modernity.

In other news, I like parentheses.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:51 PM
horizontal rule
23

After dinner maybe I'll expand.

Perhaps smaller portions are in order.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:01 PM
horizontal rule
24

Preservationists gone mad.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:12 PM
horizontal rule
25

You had to mention Penn Station, eb. Now I'm going to spend the rest of the night weeping extravagantly.

Anyhow, you're a tool if you flee to the suburbs, you're a tool if you move to the city. To these we can add: you're a tool if you stay where you are. Fucking squatters.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:14 PM
horizontal rule
26

25: There is a banister leading down to tracks 1 and 2 in Penn Sta. that is apparently original. I always give it a little pat, poor thing.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:16 PM
horizontal rule
27

Googie architecture, also called populuxe or doo-wop, is a subdivision of futurist architecture, influenced by car culture and the Space Age and Atomic Age, originating from Southern California in the late 1940s and continuing approximately into the mid-1960s. The types of buildings that were most frequently designed in a Googie style were motels, coffee houses and bowling alleys.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:17 PM
horizontal rule
28

How could preserving Googie architecture not be a good ? Maybe it's an LA thing. I couldn't live without Pann's. So awesome.

I'm actually both active in my local historical association AND a bona fide gentrifier. I can rationalize both at length. Take that, haters!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:31 PM
horizontal rule
29

The Space Room in SE Portland is a retro Googie hipster hangout. The old Whizburger was the best Googie neon ever.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:34 PM
horizontal rule
30

Well, since Seattle already has the best-known Googie structure in the world, I don't think an abandoned Denny's is adding much to the mix.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:38 PM
horizontal rule
31

When PK gets tired he sometimes starts crying and/or yelling about wanting to move back to Seattle. He remembers nothing about the place except the Space Needle.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:41 PM
horizontal rule
32

Whizburger


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:41 PM
horizontal rule
33
Beauty indeed was the aim of the creator of the spire of Trinity Church, so cruelly overtopped and so barely distinguishable, from your train-bearing barge, as you stand off; in its abject helpless humility; and it may of course be asked how much of this superstition finds voice in the actual shrunken presence of that laudable effort. Where, for the eye, is the felicity of simplified Gothic, of noble pre-eminence, that once made of this highly-pleasing edifice the pride of the town and the feature of Broadway? The answer is, as obviously, that these charming elements are still there, just where they ever were, but that they have been mercilessly deprived of their visibility.



Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:46 PM
horizontal rule
34

30 -- Yeah, maybe. What I don't understand is why they didn't just designate the roof as a landmark and require the developer to build around that. Often a pretty good way of dealing with an iconic sign or the like without shutting off development completely.


Posted by: robert halford | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:47 PM
horizontal rule
35

The category error of talking about gentrification is that it's simply an aggregation of individual choices. Antid Oto at Left Behinds (retired, sadly) has been very good on this:

Taken to its extreme, this attitude leads to the nonsensical solution offered by a guest at a summer party of mine. She said she had a pair of friends who had decided, as a matter of principle, to pay as much in rent as they could possibly afford. And she looked genuinely confused when I laughed and said that was absolutely ridiculous. Attachment to the consumer model of self-empowerment runs deep.

He quotes urban theorist Damon Rich:

Greenpoint and Williamsburg are famous internationally as artistic communities, but they weren't always so popular, and their zoning reflected that. To address the new attraction of the area, it was rezoned last year to allow for larger developments and more residential buildings. The rezoning was heralded by officials as a model of gentrification that would benefit everyone. Thirty-three percent of the housing units to be created were estimated to be affordably priced, there was money set aside to assist tenants in relocating and for legal aid, and anti harassment laws were strengthened.

Yes, there is such a thing as churn and turnover. There are also such things as zoning laws and rent stabilization which encourage stability or change, and protect the interests of those who already live in a place or those who like them to leave.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:49 PM
horizontal rule
36

You don't want upzoning and new development then accept the inevitable consequences - more gentrification and more exurban sprawl. Historical preservation of attractive neighbourhoods makes sense on occasion, but not outside (e.g. Atlantic Ave.) or the sort of lowrise ugliness that characterizes Williamsburg and Greenpoint.


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:59 PM
horizontal rule
37

35: Ooh, that is quite good.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:00 PM
horizontal rule
38

You had to mention Penn Station, eb.

What? All I did was cough.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:06 PM
horizontal rule
39

I mostly agree with 5 (except for the "it's") but even beside actual harmful/criminal behavior, I think the rate of gentrification can sometimes be pernicious in a way that calls for moderation. I've been lucky enough, twice now, to live in neighborhoods right at the sweet spot of gentrification where it was no longer scary to be on the street at night, but the neighborhood still had the character that made it appealing in the first place. (It's great, but it doesn't last long). But the rate of gentrification in the neighborhood where I currently live has been kind of horrifying - the entire block across from me and most of the one I'm on have been leveled for new development.

It matters because human social networks are still somewhat geographically bound. If I located myself in a neighborhood because it was the best I could afford for the purpose of starting & raising my family, and within 5 years there's no longer anything there I can afford or anyone there who is like me, that's potentially disruptive in the way that unemployment or bankruptcy or a health crisis is disruptive, and the kind of risk that we seem to have decided we like to see smoothed out by social democracy.

So the reason I always get irritable when my fellow wyte libruls indulge in hating on "hipsters" and "yuppies" and other gentrifying types is that they're doing the same thing as what's-the-matter-with-kansans: blaming some out group for a problem for which policy makers are actually culpable. If you hate all the yuppies who are ruining your favorite cafe, then have a word with the council member who voted for the rezoning that brought them to the highrise of the developer who paid off the council member. Don't hate tacky wyte rich people for liking a good cafe.


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:13 PM
horizontal rule
40

motherfucker. thoroughly, and what hurts is, succinctly, pwned by 35.


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:14 PM
horizontal rule
41

and, in case it isn't obvious: I live in Williamsburg.


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:15 PM
horizontal rule
42

Yeah -- I'm not a huge fan of the hysterical preservationists myself. Also, gentrification is a bad word to use for "the opposite of historical preservation".

One thing that has been wild to see in Los Angeles is the floodgates opened by the adaptive reuse policy that allows moribund commercial buildings to go condo. People are pretty fucking gaga to live in an old office building.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:15 PM
horizontal rule
43

"Also, gentrification is a bad word to use for "the opposite of historical preservation".

Right. In my neighborhood, it's exactly the opposite -- strong historical preservation rules are exactly what's driving the gentrification.

More generally, the great thing (in my view) about local planning issues is how it forces you to think politically but not really ideologically. Being generically "pro" or "anti" development doesn't really get you very far in thinking about actually-existing land use issues at the local level.


Posted by: robert halford | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:24 PM
horizontal rule
44

42: boy are they ever. That one by MacArthur Park in particular: really? That's among the most desirable spots in the city?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:24 PM
horizontal rule
45

I dunno, 35 didn't seem to get that it was talking about market forces.

"...loft living is the spontaneous result of "market forces." The presence or supply of underused loft buildings supposedly inspired an inventive adaptation. Demand for lofts emerged among worthy, though unworldly, artists and performers..."

This story, according to Zukin, "is mythology, not urban history."

Soho's transformation occurred as the result of a deliberate alliance between advocates for artists and farseeing property owners interested in ousting their light-manufacturing tenants and turning their space to more lucrative purposes.

But the fact that there were more lucrative uses for their property IS HOW THE MARKET FORCES WORK! Geez, values for space get high because people want to live or work somewhere. Now yes, we could put rules into place that prevent new development or high rises or the such, but then you have to acknowledge that those rules are put into place to prevent market forces that would otherwise drive out most current residents and completely reshape the neighborhood.

By and large, I support gentrification. I want people moving into and staying in cities, especially upper class and middle class people, since they'd otherwise drive a lot of sprawl because they'll pay for lot size if they can't pay for culture and a pretty park nearby. Yeah, it results in neighborhoods getting changed at an amazing pace sometimes, but ultimately the new people who want to move into cities have to go somewhere, and the already super-expensive areas are pretty much packed. Some neighborhoods are going to change in order for the demographics of cities to change.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:26 PM
horizontal rule
46

I visited a friend in a new apartment in an old building in downtown LA a couple years ago. The intercom was not working, so I couldn't get into the garage and I ended up parking my car in a large lot next door. There was no one at the front desk when I got to the outer door so I got in when someone opened the door to leave. I got into the elevator with some residents and realized that you had to have a card key to get to any of the floors. On the fourth floor I got out when I realized I'd be the last one in the elevator; one of the residents realized I was trying to get to a different floor and used his key to get the elevator to go there. I commented on the extensive security system in the building and he said, "Yeah, but even so, sometimes homeless people get in." I almost, but did not say, "How do you know I'm not one of them."


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:27 PM
horizontal rule
47

Wrongshore's absolutely right, of course, that gentrification needs a pretty heavy regulatory hand if it's to happen in a way that's reasonably fair to existing residents. That said, increase the income diversity of neighborhoods, both high and low income, is a positive thing, and in lower income neighborhoods gentrification is how you try and achieve that. The hope is that you can do it without throwing everybody out and replacing them with baby boutiques, but the other option -- not to try -- leaves you with the same kind of abandoned-by-civic-infrastructure places you didn't want.

Which is leaving aside the fact that gentrification outside New York, insofar as it recreates livable, dense urbanism and cuts down on sprawl, is good for other reasons.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:28 PM
horizontal rule
48

Last year when I lived near the Takoma Metro station in DC, I walked by a large old, one story run-down building fenced off, a sign nearby advertising new condos. Just before I left in June they'd flattened the building. Today I went by on the Metro and saw that the condos are nearly done.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:29 PM
horizontal rule
49

I think 45, while well meaning, ignores a little bit that the poor people already living in the neighborhoods also have to go somewhere, and may, in fact, not want to go somewhere way far away and even crappier.

In my personal opinion the only way you can manage it is to build actual subsidized affordable and workforce housing early in the gentrification process -- the subsidies make it profitable enough that it won't be easily displaced as values rise -- but that's always a giant fight, especially with the yuppies who are movin' on in.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:31 PM
horizontal rule
50

I mostly agree with 35. My 5 about neighborhood turnover was just shorthand, not a statement about market forces. It's not like re-zoning and zoning in general is unique to gentrification.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:34 PM
horizontal rule
51

To reinforce po-mo's point, though, especially when you're talking about development and local zoning, market forces drive policy. A building owner isn't going to ask for a zoning variance because he or she is making plenty of money. They're going to do it because (a) they're rapacious capitalists or (b) they believe in the neighborhood's growth potential and don't want to get stuck with an albatross. If you don't work with them, as occasionally grody as that is, you end up with a donut of exurbs around a creamy, abandoned center.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:37 PM
horizontal rule
52

49 said very politely what I might have said less politely about 45.

The other prong to add to 49.2 is rent control, or more likely these days, stabilization. (The difference is whether the landlord can raise the price upon vacation of the unit; under stabilization, more common these days, he may.) You have a lot of situations where low-income and middle-class people said, "Damn, my neighborhood's a shithole!" They do things like neighborhood watch or agitate for better parks and then they get priced out.

I don't think 35 is naive about market forces. The situation you criticized was one in which light industrial properties had to be rezoned residential. That's a good way to drive the working class out of a city.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:38 PM
horizontal rule
53

In my personal opinion the only way you can manage it is to build actual subsidized affordable and workforce housing early in the gentrification process -- the subsidies make it profitable enough that it won't be easily displaced as values rise

Oh, that's true, absolutely. Good sets of legislation on affordable housing can work. Although the key is that, to make those kinds of developments work, you need scale. A lot of the old rehabs in Wicker Park and the ones going on now all around the currently gentrifying neighborhoods in Chicago are basically 3-story condos with one condo per floor, to fit in a classic 3-flat space and style. There's no real way to stick some affordable units in that small-scale of development unless you just require one of them to be subsidized housing, which would be really rough on the landlord. In big developments, it's easier to mingle in low-value housing, and I know there are some of them going up, though those are mostly on public land after the teardown of some of the more atrocious housing projects.

Building on a large enough scale to absorb a decent amount of subsidized units would require exactly the highrises or very large buildings that people seem to object to most in these gentrifying neighborhoods (and those buildings indeed would be very very difficult to build profitably in a truly gentrifying neighborhood as opposed to an already-gentrified neighborhood).


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:39 PM
horizontal rule
54

Yeah, I sort of like what the preservation societies do, but at the end of the day I don't want them to be too effective.

This nicely captures my ambivalent attitude. I live in on the fringe of a designated historical district in a historically significant (and aesthetically adorable) town. I cherish what has been preserved here. But I also want to live in a town, not a museum.

The price of clinging too tenaciously to old structures (or of eliminating all flexibility in their use) is that development is crowded out to available greenfield sites, which at last count comprised most of the states of Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Nevada, and Arizona.

The other thought that gives me pause is this: historicallly speaking, the best way to preserve large tracts of period architecture is for a town to experience a calamity that makes it economically irrelevant for a period of a couple of centuries or more. Look at Rothenburg, Germany (30 years war altered trade patterns), Brugge, Belgium (harbour silted in), Salzburg, Austria (salt no longer scarce), Luneburg, Germany (ditto), Carcassone, France (unification of France obviated its strategic location). Closer to home, Newburyport and New Bedford, Massachusetts (former whaling centers) fit the same pattern.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:41 PM
horizontal rule
55

"Inclusionary zoning" is the policy that requires x% of new apartments to be affordable, but I don't think it's ever applied to 3-flats.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:42 PM
horizontal rule
56

I'm a little confused. Can someone distinguish 'gentrification' from 'cities end up looking different over time as new industries and people move into neighborhoods and change them' and 'doing bad things with city policy to change neighborhoods' for me?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:42 PM
horizontal rule
57

54: Sag Harbor NY fits that model as well.

Pittsburgh is interesting in that there are more places to gentrify than gentrifiers. Makes for some interesting mixes, such as the Mexican War Streets where the Mattress Factory is located.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:45 PM
horizontal rule
58

The situation you criticized was one in which light industrial properties had to be rezoned residential. That's a good way to drive the working class out of a city.

How is this? Is the working class able to live in light industrial properties that yuppies can't?

I'm being sincere here. I know that some limited artist loft living is allowed in those zones, and I'm pretty sure the other light industrial buildings on the west side are split up into illegal numbers of living/studio lofts. Have those sorts of spaces ever been home to viable working class housing as opposed to just warehousing/workspace for smaller businesses?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:47 PM
horizontal rule
59

the best way to preserve large tracts of period architecture is for a town to experience a calamity that makes it economically irrelevant for a period of a couple of centuries or more.

On the flip side, some of the towns in Flanders devastated by the first World War were rebuilt according to the historical structures they used to have because they were too poor to get architects to plan and build differently after the war. Or so a tour guide claimed. This is different from rebuilding central Warsaw after WWII as a reproduction of its "old town" for more clearly preservationist reasons.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:47 PM
horizontal rule
60

53: that's really not true. For one thing, a lot of the current thrust in new affordable construction has been towards mixed-income townhouse style developements. While these, footprint-wise, are bigger than a triple decker, they aren't necessarily vast project-like high-rises, and especially if you're talking about Section 8 subsidized units, are often only vaguely differentiable from the surrounding neighborhood.

The other thing is that a lot of gentrifying neighborhoods already have a fair bit of affordable housing, but it was built 20 or 30 years ago, and without legislative and non-profit action the tax breaks and/or subsidies will run out and a strict cost-benefit calculation will argue against anybody but a fool or a saint keeping them affordable. The problem is, if you want to preserve these properties you have to get to them quickly, or all the subsidies in the world aren't going to get you over the twin humps of profitability and NIMBYism.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:48 PM
horizontal rule
61

Is the working class able to live in light industrial properties that yuppies can't?

No, but it can work in them.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:53 PM
horizontal rule
62

54: my god but New Bedford has unbelievably beautiful architecture. And is so ugly! When it comes back, look out.

Cala:
Can someone distinguish 'gentrification' from 'cities end up looking different over time as new industries and people move into neighborhoods and change them' and 'doing bad things with city policy to change neighborhoods' for me?

Gentrification is when a formerly nice but now run-down urban neighborhood becomes desirable again due to an influx of higher-income owners and renters. You'll notice that this creates a bit of a chicken and an egg problem.

Your second scenario is sort of the end state of gentrification; once an urban neighborhood becomes desirable enough, the things -- cool old architecture, funky stores, and so on -- that made it desirable to budget-conscious hipsters start to get wiped out by generic, upscale development that's followed the yuppie families that succeeded the hipsters in.

Your third scenario is sort of the "bad" way to do gentrification; in general neighborhoods are run-down due to either social forces (white flight, declining industry) or explicit policy decisions (building a freeway through the middle of town, blackballing mortgages, lack of services). In order to get the neighborhood "back" it is often necessary to change the zoning and provide incentives to get people back into neighborhoods. If you do this without concern for the existing character or population of the neighborhood, then you both displace existing residents and accelerate the transition from scenario (1) to scenario (2).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:54 PM
horizontal rule
63

"Inclusionary zoning" is the policy that requires x% of new apartments to be affordable, but I don't think it's ever applied to 3-flats.

Yeah, I wouldn't expect it to. And that's why I'm unsure how much it could have helped in the most recently gentrified areas I'm familiar with in Chicago. Here, large-scale buildings seem to only go up after an area is already expensive. Most of the old buildings and plots in the residential areas are just 3-story homes with minimal surroundings, and those are being bought up and replaced with new 3 or 4 story condo buildings one or maybe two plots at a time.

We actually have surprisingly few large industrial buildings suitable for lofts, and they're mostly out west on the green line or down on the south side in as-yet-ungentrified areas. I do keep hoping some eccentric multi-multi-millionaire would buy our old city mail center and turn it into an amazing, huge artist community.

The most fruitful mixed-income developments are actually being done on city land, and are possible because the city built public housing on lots of land convenient to downtown and mass transit back when no one wanted to live here.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:54 PM
horizontal rule
64

61: assuming there's an industry to occupy them, they can. Generally when you have loft conversions you're dealing with an area where industry's been declining, albeit often not nearly as quickly or as totally as residential converters would have you believe.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:55 PM
horizontal rule
65

63 really really makes me want to talk about some interesting stuff happening in Chicago, but it would be rather too much a breach of pseudonymity. Oh well.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:56 PM
horizontal rule
66

I will just say that Chicago has some excellent, excellent candidates for preservation, right now.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:57 PM
horizontal rule
67

56: I'm not sure if this answers your question, but the stereotypically bad version of gentrification is when no provision has been made for people displaced when they get priced out of their homes by higher rents.

Neighborhood change can include that, but lots of neighborhoods change for other reasons. New roads, business closures, unsavory things like white flight to get away from non-whites moving in etc. That's obviously been happening for a long time; gentrification as I understand it is a term used to describe particular recent developments.

On preview, Sifu is giving a more detailed answer.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:58 PM
horizontal rule
68

57: My sister and I got into a huge argument about the Mexican War Streets in the Mexican War Streets. She's screaming at me it's not safe (at 2 in the afternoon), I'm screaming at her to look at the goddamn Audis parked in front of the goddamn houses. I got the sense that it changed a lot block by block.

You'll notice that this creates a bit of a chicken and an egg problem.

Yeah, that was my sense of it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:59 PM
horizontal rule
69

Last year when I lived near the Takoma Metro station in DC, I walked by a large old, one story run-down building fenced off, a sign nearby advertising new condos. Just before I left in June they'd flattened the building. Today I went by on the Metro and saw that the condos are nearly done.

I'm not sure what's a big deal about this particular item. Takoma and Takoma Park are both already pretty expensive; I know those old run-down buildings, and they are genuinely run-down. Too many condos over there would be depressing and plasticky, but a little bit more high-density housing seems OK. Plus TP, at least, has a healthy strong local pushback on new development. I can imagine that the condos aren't really truly nearly done, too: a building can look very near done on the outside long before they're really done.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:03 PM
horizontal rule
70

Generally when you have loft conversions you're dealing with an area where industry's been declining

Declining, but not gone. If an industrial space is idle, it can return; if it's converted, it and the jobs it could provide -- usually better than the service jobs that are easiest to create -- are gone forever.

And if a thriving industrial space is next to an idle space that gets converted, suddenly it has a whole lot of neighbors who loudly and enwhitledly wonder if there's not some other place those trucks could be at 6 in the morning -- which doesn't bode well for revivifying any other declining, job-supporting industrial properties in that area.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:03 PM
horizontal rule
71

I'm not sure what's a big deal about this particular item.

Never said it was. Just something I noticed.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:04 PM
horizontal rule
72

60.1: Yeah, but that still requires one developer taking over a lot of land. Those are the sort of developments I talked about that are being undertaken near the old Cabrini Green projects. Chicago's gentrifying areas just plain don't have areas with enough plots that one could buy up in order to put up a 10-20 townhome development with a few of them reserved for affordable housing.

60.2: I didn't know that, it certainly makes a lot of sense to keep existing subsidies in place. Letting them lapse would absolutely make it impossible for people to stay in the neighborhood, and you're right it's almost impossible to wedge in affordable housing after the development and gentrification is done.

61: I guess, but I would be interested in seeing how many of the people in those neighborhoods actually worked in the light industrial spaces immediately pre-gentrification, versus having a cheap and convenient location close to downtown jobs by mass transit. I.e. the same reasons the early hipsters/artists move in.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:04 PM
horizontal rule
73

68: sorry, I meant to say that point 3 sort of unravels that chicken and egg problem; the policy decisions that can end up leading to bad gentrification are often the same ones designed to kickstart neighborhood rehabilitation in the first place.

As a side note: the number one most important factor in gentrification? A large gay population. High income earners with big dreams about living space and no (or anyhow, less) children. Detroit is currently explicitly trying to attract young, gay professionals to the city center.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:05 PM
horizontal rule
74

It occurs to me that the US urban renewal plan for Baghdad is sort of the bad kind of gentrification.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:05 PM
horizontal rule
75

There aren't that many industrial jobs left in NYC. Most of the working class works for the public or service sectors. And they're the ones getting pushed out by a lack of housing. Any sane liberal should be pushing for high density housing development, with requirements for large low income set asides and significant rental components alongside strengthening the rent stabilization laws. Regulatory power can be used to pressure developers, and not just in already gentrified neighbourhoods (Atlantic Yards was proposed well before Fort Greene and Prospect Heights had fully gentrified).


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:07 PM
horizontal rule
76

70 to 72.3, in prolepsis.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:07 PM
horizontal rule
77

Never said it was. Just something I noticed.

Oh, ok. I thought you were mentioning it to imply something in particular about its noteworthiness, and wondered what I was missing.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:07 PM
horizontal rule
78

75: I heartily agree with all of those prescriptions.

But I'd be surprised if there weren't considerable pockets among the five boroughs that still support light manufacturing.

Those are good jobs, frequently union, and as I said before: if their areas are rezoned residential, it's hard to bring industry back.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:11 PM
horizontal rule
79

74: Absolutely! Great insight.

The newest plan for Green Zone development generated one of the most post-ironic (and morally repugnant) NIMBY quotes I have ever seen:

"When you have $1 billion hanging out there and 1,000 employees lying around, you kind of want to know who your neighbors are. You want to influence what happens in your neighborhood over time," said Navy Capt. Thomas Karnowski, who led the team that created the development plan.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:12 PM
horizontal rule
80

Just for the sake of throwing something else into the mix, a sincere question: aren't urban industrial areas often an environmental hazard to city dwellers? Or have I got it backwards, and actually within cities that stuff tends to be better regulated than if you stick it out in the country where no one sees it?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:12 PM
horizontal rule
81

73: But that doesn't unravel it. It just makes it a bitch of a problem, at least in the first case. Industries that left years ago may not be coming back; attracting new buyers & people to a neighborhood is going to change it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:13 PM
horizontal rule
82

But I'd be surprised if there weren't considerable pockets among the five boroughs that still support light manufacturing.

Oh yes. There's a considerable light manufacturing sector in Queens around Long Island City. There's still a bit in Brooklyn by the Gowanus Canal. I paint in a studio on a block with a lumber yard, a bus depot, a couple of tile manufacturers, a non-profit science education center (?!), and a fucking Mac support store with the most annoying customers on God's Green Earth.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:16 PM
horizontal rule
83

Ah, 78 says "light manufacturing." Ignore 80, then.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:16 PM
horizontal rule
84

What if you call it "artisanal manufacturing"? Will that be enough to make the new residents like it?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:17 PM
horizontal rule
85

70: oh, I know. That's definitely a problem, but I think in some ways then you are dealing with market forces; vacant land ain't really a great thing for an urban center to have a lot of, and at a certain point you have to make decisions about what the tax and population base of your city is. Often very, very tough decisions. Which isn't to say it's not sometimes or often crassly done, but it's not like you can just sit there and hope the manufacturing comes back. Supporting low-income manufacturing workers most productively does not necessarily mean supporting the industry they were in, which is one of the things I wish vastly-more-pervasive unions were around to address; since the union is tied to the industry, things like retraining and so on often seem like distant goals, to me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:18 PM
horizontal rule
86

84: artisanal crafting


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:18 PM
horizontal rule
87

I paint in a studio

I didn't know you painted! Do you post pictures of any of your stuff?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:19 PM
horizontal rule
88

81: it unravels how the process starts (or can be started), not how to do it right. That's more of an ongoing process of running headlong into various walls.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:20 PM
horizontal rule
89

I should say, by the way, that I do find it infuriating when people move into industrial live work lofts and then start bitching about the industry next door. Where the fuck did you think you were moving, jackass?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:21 PM
horizontal rule
90

89: Assumes facts about human behavior not in evidence.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:22 PM
horizontal rule
91

I should say, by the way, that I do find it infuriating when people move into industrial live work lofts and then start bitching about the industry next door. Where the fuck did you think you were moving, jackass?

"And christ, 924 Gilman sure is loud! Who could have guessed it!"


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:22 PM
horizontal rule
92

How much gentrification is new housing built on previously non-housing land? And how much is simply existing units now occupied by people paying a lot more than the previous residents? Until this thread, I would have thought the latter kind of turnover dominated.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:25 PM
horizontal rule
93

87.---On my Flickr page. They're publicly accessable, but I'm not about to link to them.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:26 PM
horizontal rule
94

91: seriously. "You moved in next door to a facility that crushes cars into little cubes. You thought they accomplished this how, exactly?"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:26 PM
horizontal rule
95

Added to 92: but mixed in with some commercial development: more upscale stores, restaurants, etc.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:27 PM
horizontal rule
96

You thought they accomplished this how, exactly?

LOVE.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:27 PM
horizontal rule
97

Or, hell, maybe hate! The quiet, seething kind.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:27 PM
horizontal rule
98

92: the latter kind is what's more traditionally thought of as "gentrification", but in SF and other cities with declining manufacturing and a lot of housing pressure, live/work conversions can be just as big a deal, if not bigger.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:27 PM
horizontal rule
99

SF also has the double whammy of rent control and Proposition 13, both of which reduce population turnover.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:29 PM
horizontal rule
100

91: Oh that makes me nostalgic.

The same thing happened (famously, dreadfully) at the late lamented Lounge Ax.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:29 PM
horizontal rule
101

89: not to mention when people move into new luxury highrises on the LES then complain about the noise from the rock club 19 floors below -- when said rock club is what made their block attractive to developers in the first place.

this exact scenario happened a couple weeks ago.


Posted by: bw | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:33 PM
horizontal rule
102

A friend of mine moved to the Bronx in 2001 to a building that's been slowly gentrifying. She says that the weekends have gotten louder every year as more white people have moved in and started holding regular parties. She's not white, but could be considered to have moved there for gentrificationish reasons (she wanted to own, couldn't afford Manhattan, also wanted to be in a neighborhood that was slowly scaling up).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:39 PM
horizontal rule
103

They were right to declare that Denny's a landmark. It had a bar inside.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:50 PM
horizontal rule
104

A sociologist friend of mine does a lot of work on gentrification issues, whatever the fuck that means, and while I won't deny that this comment makes me a racist, this is an actual quote -- I've heard the interview tape myself:

Dominican apartment dweller in a Dominican neighborhood experiencing an influx of white renters: (awed tone) "White people are so CLEAN! They pick up after their dogs!"


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:53 PM
horizontal rule
105

actually, "awed" is probably a bit much. Change that to "appreciative."


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:54 PM
horizontal rule
106

102 - a lot of the gentrification is minority on minority. In my area (Clinton Hill) it was initially mostly black, same for Fort Greene next door. When I moved here six years ago I was generally the last white person on the train. It's changed, two or three years ago I had a 'where the fuck did all these white folks come from' moment - but that only started on a large scale when gentrification was pretty far advanced. White on white is standard as well, as my rodacy in Greenpoint are finding out


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:05 PM
horizontal rule
107

A word on behalf of preservationists, haters: my family has been into historic preservation for a long time; my younger brother and his wife make their livings at it, and one of my BsIL was heavily involved in saving this great building in the other Portland. People who work in historic preservation spend a lot of their time assessing properties for preservation-related tax breaks and doing similarly dry and relatively innocuous things. They tend to be fully aware of the adaptations structures undergo through changes in use and of the limited significance of historic buildings in the architectural fabric of cities and towns, and they generally have little power to stand in the way of developers. The linked piece about the old Denny's in Ballard says nothing about the actual consequences of the landmark designation, except that it upset developers. Well boo fucking hoo. In most places landmark designation is just a speed bump for development; if there's enough financial interest in tearing something down, it'll get torn down. Meanwhile, preservationists do their little bit to conserve buildings, maintain architectural diversity and maybe sometimes slow down the homogenous development that increasingly dominates the urban dweller's environment.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:43 PM
horizontal rule
108

107: I don't think there were any actual haters here.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:50 PM
horizontal rule
109

I see things in black and white, Tweety. It enhances my sense of clarity.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:51 PM
horizontal rule
110

I got the sense that [safety in the Mexican War Streets] changed a lot block by block.

The Mexican War Streets Historic District is pretty much detectable on the ground. Look on both sides of the street. Is one side full of gorgeous, beautifully-restored Victorian rowhouses, while the other side is full of gorgeous, run-down Victorian rowhouses? Then you're standing on a boundary street, and property values are at least 4X on the District side.

Thing about the "hysterical" preservationists is that they're hysterical in the same way that feminists are shrill and environmentalists are [suitable epithet]. Some preservationists want things cast in amber, but most see preservation as a valuable tool for civic, social, and aesthetic continuity. Like most tools, its use isn't determinative - sometimes it aids gentrification (by making it "safe" for yuppies to come in and buy up nice old properties, with no fear of tear-downs next door), and sometimes it works against it (by preventing the tear-down of properties that are less than optimally profitable).

Generally speaking, it's the most effective tool residents have in gaining a say in their communities. Sometimes those residents use that tool as a cudgel, but it's odd to me that people think of it as a major force affecting development - outside of tourist towns, no place in America has a meaningful percentage of its land protected by preservation ordinances.

It's like complaining about welfare cheats - OK, maybe that's 1% of recipients, so what's your angle that you're harping on the 1%?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:57 PM
horizontal rule
111

107: Rock on, Jesus.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:58 PM
horizontal rule
112

Racist.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:59 PM
horizontal rule
113

112 to 109.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:02 PM
horizontal rule
114

I will concede that my 42 is overstated and mainly the result of having been in a few meetings with developers & architects where the HP's on the review board objected to any design that didn't echo streamline moderne. But I like keeping the old buildings too.

Scientology is much beloved in Hollywood by the HP's -- they bought a couple of old buildings when Hollywood was the decline of Western Civilization, and spiffed 'em up nice for their blue suits to live in. The New Yorker caught wind of this recently.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:04 PM
horizontal rule
115

the HP's on the review board objected to any design that didn't echo streamline moderne.

This tends to be the hobbyists, not the professionals - the Secretary's Standards call for contemporary buildings to look contemporary, not historicish. This can be hard for hobbyists, and residents, to accept. But it's clearly the right decision.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:06 PM
horizontal rule
116

Wow, what a great idea for a thread. Wish I'd been around for it.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:16 PM
horizontal rule
117

It enhances my sense of claritycontrast.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:25 PM
horizontal rule
118

we could, like, talk more about it, wd.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:57 PM
horizontal rule
119

I reiterate my previous iterations.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:28 AM
horizontal rule
120

Whoa. I was skimming, and didn't realize until Wrongshore made me go look again: that's the Denny's that I can actually walk by, like ten or twelve blocks from Chez Baugh. I have no opinion at this time as to whether it was a historic sort of place, but I can say that even boarded up it was looking more inviting to customers and passersby than just about anything else around it. I appreciate the merits of dense construction, I just wish that it wasn't so aggressively ugly, so altogether hostile to people on the sidewalk, the way it almost always ends up in my experience.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:14 AM
horizontal rule
121

Oh, hey, Bruce. Thanks for the "Why does working at my computer hurt so much?" recommendation. I'm still hurting, but now I have stretches.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:35 AM
horizontal rule
122

Glad to help, Wrongshore. We suffer horribly and pass the savings on to you!


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:13 AM
horizontal rule
123

As a side note: the number one most important factor in gentrification? A large gay population. High income earners with big dreams about living space and no (or anyhow, less) children.

Oh yeah. The real estate developers cottoned on to this fact years ago. Gays are the shock troops of gentrification. When the first rainbow flag appears outside a rowhouse, start buying up the neighboring properties, while you still can.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:24 AM
horizontal rule
124

...big dreams about living space....

Some low-hanging fruit can't be picked, for fear of violating some dude's law.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:44 AM
horizontal rule
125

Generally speaking, it's the most effective tool residents have in gaining a say in their communities.

This may be part of why affordable developers find them so frustrating; nobody wants affordable housing right next door, they affordable developers often have a lot less clout, and they're often dealing with much skimpier budgets, so they are more often on the business end of the cudgel. Adaptive re-use of that cool old mill building into million dollar lofts is all fine and good, but you're going to tear down 60 year old tract housing to put in mixed-income townhomes? Oh no you don't, either.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:40 AM
horizontal rule
126

This may be part of why affordable developers find them so frustrating;

All I can do is say that this varies widely with city and circumstance; HP plays no role whatsoever in construction of affordable housing in my fair city. As I said, historic districts are a tiny fraction of the land area; the odds that any given affordable development must be in a District is tiny.

But I recognize that our status as an ever-shrinking city isn't typical nationwide. Although I find

you're going to tear down 60 year old tract housing to put in mixed-income townhomes? Oh no you don't, either.

surprising. In what city are 60 year old tract houses in a historic district? Designating districts is a long, hard slog, not something that can be conjured up in the weeks after the announcement of a potential development. I'm not denying NIMBYism, I'm just doubting the likelihood of undeserving districts springing up wherever affordable housing might be built.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:51 AM
horizontal rule
127

126.last: it's really more of a "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" approach, one that has people trying to end-run affordable developers by proposing historic districts in an effort to get the project tied up. In general, the range of excuses people will give for why a given project is a bad idea are quite startling; a city park is home to a population of rare deer who will surely be killed; necessary road widening will lead to the deaths of hundreds of local elderly per year; the character of a neighborhood of bland, recent, architecturally indistinct buildings will be destroyed; affordable development will eliminate safe bicycle routes for miles around; it is a literally impossible feat of civil engineering to extend the nearby water main to service the site.

(Most of those are real.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:57 AM
horizontal rule
128

102,127: If you look at the migration flows in Manhattan, the Bronx is by fair the largest recipient of the outflow, most of which is made up of very low income households. IIRC, the average household income for families leaving Manhattan for the Bronx is under $30k. It's caused mostly by the double whammy of rapid gentrification and that most City-supported revitalization initiatives are in neighborhoods like the South Bronx. It's also easier to build new mixed income districts there because there's still vacant/underutilized land and little community resistance of the kind that Sifu mentions. The residents actually want quality affordable housing and economic development.


Posted by: Gump | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:06 AM
horizontal rule
129

The residents actually want quality affordable housing and economic development.

Yeah, see this is the world I'm accustomed to. The community paper touts affordable housing as a great new thing, because the only other news in housing for the last 60 years has been deterioration.

That said, 127 is certainly familiar to me in general terms: people are incredibly stupid about change, and can find a reason to oppose virtually anything. I live across from a private hospital that's been vacant for 5+ years, and is now a sort of mixed-use homeless camp/drug market*. A private school** wanted to come in and build on the site, and the neighbors on the other side of the avenue - in the already gentrified neighborhood - opposed it as if it were a halfway house for violent felons. "The buses might shortcut down our street!" Get a fucking grip, people.

* It's not as bad as that sounds, but that is literally true

** Not a fancy one, obvs.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:37 AM
horizontal rule
130

129: I was witness recently to the wildly objecting opposition to a meteorological test tower which might -- in two years! -- lead to a conclusion that a wind turbine could -- not will, could -- be built another several years down the road, given a further set of zoning approvals. "But it'll block the view!" Yes, it'll block your view of the auto shop, what with being three inches wide. Good point.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:40 AM
horizontal rule
131

I'm with Jesus and JRoth in liking historic preservation, but there's a wide range of types. My grandfather, the archivist, did some historic preservation consulting to show that it didn't have to be incredibly expensive.

I mourn the loss of some of the beautiful office buildings downtown.

On Beacon Hill, historic preservation is bout making sure that everyone has the exact same shutters, and somewhere like Newport , RI can be just as bad about tiny, petty things.

On the other hand, respecting the scale of a neighborhood even as you put new buildings in is something I wholeheartedly endorse.

Also, do you ever notice that a lot of the buildings from the 70's were temporary construction? They're ugly, they don't fit, and they fall apart after 30 years. Really dumb in an institutional setting.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:50 AM
horizontal rule
132

On the other hand, respecting the scale of a neighborhood even as you put new buildings in is something I wholeheartedly endorse.

The problem is that this, when you're talking about urban neighborhoods, pretty directly leads to exurban sprawl.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:52 AM
horizontal rule
133

The problem is that this, when you're talking about urban neighborhoods, pretty directly leads to exurban sprawl.

Boston, 1950: 801,444

Boston, 2000: 590,763

Historic preservation and contextual scale development have not prevented people from living in Boston.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:57 AM
horizontal rule
134

I'd have to see actual pictures of proposals to know. I think that it is possible to buildd bigger buildings in such a way that they don't overwhelm te neighborhood around them, but I'm not an architect.

And in smaller rural towns (like Telluride, CO pre ski ultra(beyond) gentrificaation) the choices wasn't between rehabbing an old building and putting up a skyskraper, it was between rehabbing a gorgeous run-down building and replacing it with a generic Rite Aid with a parking lot.


An example of a dumb, dumb choice in a well off neighbprhood:

There were some lovely train stations designed by H.H. Richardson. I think that there was one in Wellesley. When they decided that they needed a post office, they tore it down and built a cookie cutter post office that was the same size. They should have converted the gorgeous building.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:01 AM
horizontal rule
135

I'd have to see actual pictures of proposals to know. I think that it is possible to buildd bigger buildings in such a way that they don't overwhelm te neighborhood around them, but I'm not an architect.

Oh, absolutely. I was thinking of a fight my friends happened to be on the wrong side of, where they were bound and determined that no multifamily be built on an empty lot in a neighborhood of old Craftsman houses. Admittedtly, the neighborhood was really pretty and suburban, but it was also close to the urban center and accessible to transit (in LA!), two things which almost mandate trying to densify.

133: they haven't prevented a lot of negative consequences from urban sprawl, either.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:06 AM
horizontal rule
136

135: It's really a problem of restrictive zoning, no? Many suburban New York towns by law prevent the development of multi-family units. What happens in a lot of places is that developers assemble land for a market-rate development they know will get denied, so they'll purposefully include a small amount of affordable housing in the program. Once it predictably gets denied, they can successfully sue the town for blocking affordable housing, and the whole hideous project gets approved. Basically, around here, in the absence of activist governments, you're left with a choice between Brownsville, Paterson or the Poconos.


Posted by: Gump | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:15 AM
horizontal rule
137

136: actually the project met the area zoning requirements (8 units per lot); they still beat it back.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:19 AM
horizontal rule
138

they haven't prevented a lot of negative consequences from urban sprawl, either.

That's neither here nor there; urban sprawl is a phenomenon that predates and is unrelated to historic preservation and, for the most part, zoning (most city zoning codes were first written in the 50s, and actually enshrined suburban-style development, to the benefit of no one; but they certainly didn't force people out of cities in order to buy ranch houses).

In the Northeast, almost every city (strictly defined) could increase its population by 50% or more without changing its existing built density. That would undo a shitload of sprawl. Insofar as people want to live in big apt. buildings, there's more than enough unprotected areas where it can be done to accommodate another big chunk of population. But I'm on the record here advocating not more people in the big center cities, but in the smaller, peripheral cities that could be connected by fast rail.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:46 AM
horizontal rule
139

Further: let's follow the history of gentrification and preservation and developer fights.

Neighborhoods A and B: similar, even adjacent, old city neighbs, rundown, but with nice old housing and a largely vacant commercial area. Gays start colonizing A, for whatever reason - nicer stock, the presence of some particular business, a visionary individual who personally rehabs several properties on one block - and it begins to gentrify. B stays pat - anyone who's tempted by the area will pick A over B. Eventually you get a critical mass, and A becomes known as a desirable place. Even run-down properties start to go for big bucks. Across Borderline Ave., pries in B tick up a bit, but not much - all the action is in A, and B features Those People.

At this point, developers become interested. So do preservationists. Here's the thing: the only reasons to develop in A are its character and the work done by people who were drawn by its character. So if development wins out over preservation, you end up with a neighborhood that no longer has its defining character. The preservationists aren't fighting some inevitable improvement to the neighb; they're fighting the destruction of the neighb that they effectively created. Once the last rowhouse is demolished, none of the things that made A marketable will be left. And B will sit there, either undeveloped, or destined to repeat the history of A.

I'm not sure what ethic says that people have no right to defend the community they create. I know that's a bit of a strawman - no one here has claimed that they have no such right - but I think that part of the pervasive capitalist ethic in our culture leads people to implicitly assume that of course the people who spend their time, sweat, and money creating a community should get screwed over and pushed out. It's the American way.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:03 AM
horizontal rule
140

139: well, you don't seem to be thinking much about the opinions of Those People, is all I'd say. Again, I'm arguing mostly from the perspective of trying to do things that are affordable.

Also again, nobody here is actually arguing against historic preservation per se as a concept.

Also also again, I think the gentrification tends to work against sprawl, but when you're talking about an a desirable neighborhood that's close to transit, I think increasing density should be weighed heavily against keeping the "character" of the neighborhood "pure", especially if what's driving the character is its relatively low density.

I think there's an equally pernicious idea that of course the people who spent the time, sweat, and energy to make a neighborhood desirable to them should have be-all-end-all control over what happens to it. Cities need planning, planning often enough means doing things individual property owners -- even plucky, pioneering ones -- might think of as bad ideas on their face.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:15 AM
horizontal rule
141

Also I don't really think that your example of a neighborhood gentrifying to the point that it's not desirable any more is a real one; where has this happened? From my perspective, gentrifying urban neighborhoods tend to become more and more valuable, and less accessible to the people who originally "colonized' them, but they don't, like, empty back out.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:17 AM
horizontal rule
142

The problems with gentrification are more the product of underestimating or ignoring the impacts of development. In New York, Bloomberg's crew have notoriously ignored a whole host of social and economic impacts from schools to subwayssubway lines to local retail rents. In total, a laissez-faire, developer friendly gentrification tends to produce a signifcantly less livable neighborhood, to say nothing of collapsing cranes, etc.


Posted by: Gump | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:30 AM
horizontal rule
143

NIMBYism sucks. There are lousy development projects, but the default should be that housing in the city is a good thing. No one wants the deep fryer venting onto their apartment, but a generalized opposition to giving restaurants liquor licenses seems nutty to me.

Chicago is very odd compared to the Northeast: people actually seem to be generally in favor of building stuff. Towers sprouting up like crazy. And I like the old-buildings-next-to-modern-ones form of preservation much better than the "our seven eleven must have a quaint wooden sign" school.

I may be biased by working briefly for a newspaper in the Back Bay. God, they were annoying.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:36 AM
horizontal rule
144

141: No, I'm saying it no longer has the character that made it desirable, not that it has nothing desirable. Once the chains drive out the funky boutiques, people who like chains can move in. On some level, that's fine, but of course the chains already existed elsewhere, whereas the boutiques are just gone.

Cookie cutter development can occur anywhere; organic communities have to be built up, and can't simply be relocated when developers get a whiff.

the opinions of Those People

Other than their resentment of the people on the other side of Boundary Ave.? Seriously, though I don't see what you're getting at. Those People don't benefit from the colonizers nor the developers. The proper thing for the city and its development agency to do is to support/promote/finance affordable rehabs on the other side of Boundary Ave., to build off of the success of A and buck up B. But the extent to which they succeed, it will be undone by gentrifiers moving into B and driving out Those People.

I would note that there's a large, mostly poor neighb here in Pittsburgh that is a Historic District, driven by long-time residents who saw a District as a tool to save buildings for themselves, not for colonizers. It's pretty successful, but it remains pretty poor - likely an effect of Pittsburgh's general population loss, rather than anything about the District. Comparable nearby areas are in worse condition.

when you're talking about an a desirable neighborhood that's close to transit

I made a point of not including that as one of the reasons for A becoming desirable (although, of course, B would also be near transit). Train/busway stops should obviously be the nucleus of denser development, and I would generally weigh that consideration more heavily than preservation (of buildings or communities).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:38 AM
horizontal rule
145

And I like the old-buildings-next-to-modern-ones form of preservation much better than the "our seven eleven must have a quaint wooden sign" school.

Yup. One of my favorite things about Boston (obviously, not applicable to the Back Bay) is how you can be standing somewhere and see construction from three centuries.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:38 AM
horizontal rule
146

Cities need planning

I married a City Planner, Tweety. You're preaching to the choir.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:38 AM
horizontal rule
147

Cities need planning

Tell that to Houston. (please)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:40 AM
horizontal rule
148

146: yeah I don't think we particularly disagree about anything.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:40 AM
horizontal rule
149

a generalized opposition to giving restaurants liquor licenses seems nutty to me.

Agreed in principle, but I can tell you that our city's most successful District - one that is studied nationwide as a model Main Street district - is being destroyed by bars. It has always had a significant bar & restaurant component, but it has become much more of a draw to college students, and the increase in bars in recent years has been stunning. The bars tend to be dead storefronts during the day, and are generally bad neighbors (ignoring district guidelines, bending codes and laws, etc.). Thing is, the street was healthy and stable* for at least 15 years before this recent change - it's not a matter of an inevitable next step.

Anyway, it's being addressed.

* I should say, at equilibrium; continuous change, but stable character


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:48 AM
horizontal rule
150

149: In Boston, it's not just bars, it's restaurants too.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:50 AM
horizontal rule
151

Banned in Boston!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:02 AM
horizontal rule
152

In Boston everywhere has already been ruined by college students, so it's hardly going to get worse.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
153

There is a scene in the second season of the Wire about white on white gentrification and that seems to be happening in Baltimore. The gentrification is moving into traditionally white working class neighborhoods rather than moving into black neighborhoods, even though the housing stock in the black neighborhoods is much better.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:15 AM
horizontal rule
154

Oooh, this is a great thread to read right now, while I'm on vacation in Tucson. I am almost completely ignorant of land-use issues here, but I'm getting the sense that the Wild West stereotype of low regulation may be true.

I have a whopping three data points to support this: first, the place where I'm staying has neither a fan nor a window in the bathroom (this is would make it an illegal rental where I live); second, it lacks smoke detectors (ditto, and also illegal to sell/transfer the property without them).

And third, the local paper had a prominent article about the dreadful problem of 50-60% of businesses lacking an occupancy permit. The proposed solution is to make the landlord responsible for informing commercial tenants of the need for the permit. I find the idea that a business owner could be unaware (as opposed to deliberately noncompliant) about as plausible as not knowing that one generally has to pay one's employees.

There are plenty of problems with the East Coast hyper-regulatory model, but I have to say that these sorts of things are worrisome if you don't want Tucson to look like Phoenix in 15 years.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:24 AM
horizontal rule
155

Oooh, this is a great thread to read right now, while I'm on vacation in Tucson. I am almost completely ignorant of land-use issues here, but I'm getting the sense that the Wild West stereotype of low regulation may be true.

I have a whopping three data points to support this: first, the place where I'm staying has neither a fan nor a window in the bathroom (this is would make it an illegal rental where I live); second, it lacks smoke detectors (ditto, and also illegal to sell/transfer the property without them).

And third, the local paper had a prominent article about the dreadful problem of 50-60% of businesses lacking an occupancy permit. The proposed solution is to make the landlord responsible for informing commercial tenants of the need for the permit. I find the idea that a business owner could be unaware (as opposed to deliberately noncompliant) about as plausible as not knowing that one generally has to pay one's employees.

There are plenty of problems with the East Coast hyper-regulatory model, but I have to say that these sorts of things are worrisome if you don't want Tucson to look like Phoenix in 15 years.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:24 AM
horizontal rule
156

Wow, double post and runaway italics. I'm on someone else's computer! It's not my fault!


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:26 AM
horizontal rule
157

Wow, double post and runaway italics. I'm on someone else's computer! It's not my fault!


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:26 AM
horizontal rule
158

It's all McCain's fault.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:27 AM
horizontal rule
159

155: you also have a problem of massive building in unincorporated areas, something that's much more difficult to do in the northeast.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:58 AM
horizontal rule
160

39: so is "wyte" the new "ghey"?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:33 PM
horizontal rule
161

159: Yeah. "Unincorporated areas? What are those?"
(the place I lived in Loudoun was, like most of the county, unincorporated, but the scale was such that county government mostly existed and would have been a good tool for the job of managing development. They didn't, but it's not because they didn't know about it or have the power.)


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:42 PM
horizontal rule