Power to the People, Fight Gentrification

5 04 2017

The piece below this image was originally published by me back in 2015 in response to a cover story written by Kinsee Morlan. Here is a link to her City Beat article, the headline of the original article has been changed from “power to the people” to “A Renaissance on Logan Ave” http://sdcitybeat.com/culture/features/renaissance-logan-avenue/

DSC01378After having read the piece in City Beat Magazine (People Power, Barrio Logan, July 22, 2015), I felt the need to write a response and hopefully stir people to think more critically about what is really happening on Logan Avenue.

I was born and raised in San Diego, and I’ve been around long enough to know gentrification when I see it. Plain and simple, what is happening on Logan Avenue is a phase in that process.

I think what confuses people about what is happening is that you have brown folks   involved in the process, some are calling this “gente-fication”. But color is just one thing that informs our judgments; we have to consider how class intersects with this as well.  Don’t get me wrong I’m in favor of the arts and Brown people moving forward, but we have to consider the cost of so called progress and who ultimately benefits from that “progress”.   We must reflect how our actions are contributing to a larger situation that is beyond our control unless we have a highly organized, militant and complex response to what is happening. It may seem cool now, but capital isn’t interested in community empowerment, it’s interested in dollars and how to maximize profit.

You may be reading this and thinking what a *#!?!* hater.  But before you dismiss read on.

The article in City Beat seems to go back and forth around this issue of gentrification, whether it’s happening or not and whether it’s good or bad. Some of the points made lack depth and a clear analysis.

As John Alvarado mentions in the piece, much of Logan Avenue was “overlooked by bigtime developers/investors who wanted to swoop up cheap land close to downtown”, apparently that is changing “it wasn’t until last year that a lot of properties were sold on and around the block”. Alvarado is actually confirming the process of gentrification is taking place. Alvarado represents the small business interest in the neighborhood (or in Marxist terms the petty bourgeoisie) as the Director of the Logan Avenue Business Association.

According to another source for the article, Juan Martinez, a broker for a real estate firm located in Bonita, argues several properties were just sold, but not to worry about gentrification, “at least not for now, because the developers seem to be a good fit for the neighborhood”.  What the hell?  Who are these developers and why does Juan Martinez get to decide what is a good fit for the neighborhood? Were community members at the table when he was meeting developers that were interested in buying?  I doubt it.

Another investor Sasha Favelukis just purchased two properties on the block and plans to open up studios and a restaurant, but claims it’s in the interest of artist. I’m sorry but investors don’t put down hard cash because they are worried about the art scene in Barrio

Logan, they spend money to make money, bottom line.  Based on a recent ad for property  on Logan Avenue commercial property prices have jumped to $2.10 per square foot. This is double the price in some areas of San Diego from just a few years ago.

I’m glad to see someone in the article made sense, probably because he’s already seen it happen. David White was pushed out of his artist studio in North Park and says, “it’ll be difficult to protect the street from the kind of development that raises rent and forces artists out”. He predicts rents will increase dramatically in the next few years. I think White is correct in his prediction. One space is already struggling to keep up and is looking for artist to help cover the cost by leasing space at $300 a month and has even resorted to gofundme.org to raise additional money. Without support from the city the art spaces will have a difficult time keeping up with the cost of operating without bringing in some kind of revenue. [update, this space “The Church” closed soon after this article was published and had to move to a smaller space across the street]

However, the writer Kinsee Morlan tries to end the article on an upbeat note and includes  the voice of an architect Hector Perez. Perez along with other architects bought nine lots in the area not including a design school down the street. They designed a creative building with an image of Cesar Chavez on the side. He admits that the “development sharks” are circling, but thinks that the community can salvage its cultural identity and isn’t too worried.  Well, if I owned property on the block I wouldn’t be too worried either, because any property I owned would only increase in value as the area becomes more gentrified.

Imagery and icons from the Chicano community can be easily appropriated to fit the needs of developers or business interest in general. (see Urban Outfitters for the latest examples)

You can call it what you want, but culture is controlled by those who own the wealth in society and as property values continue to rise, poor and working class Raza will get pushed out. According to the census, the white population in 92113 has jumped from 11.7% to 32.8 from 2000 to 2010.

When a wealthier population moves into an area they will want to see and experience things that make them feel comfortable based not just on income, but also race and social background. So it’s only a matter of time before brown working class residents and artist get pushed out. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth. Perhaps this message will encourage the Raza that are there to think critically about what is happening and face the writing on the wall. If the community wants to save the Barrio than it has to implement guarantees that will protect the social, economic, cultural and political interest of the community that is quickly being displaced and the way to do this is through organization. More importantly these organizations must develop a clear analysis of their position in this process of gentrification or else they are just pawns in the development game.


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