121 Comment

  • What is Janice talking about when she says that gentrification has caused the loss of grocery stores and local banks and that the closest Giant is now in MD?

    • My reaction exactly- first the closest Giant is 5 minutes away in Columbia Heights. Second even if there was a giant at some point that closed –how do we know the counter factual –would it have remained opened if no gentrification took place? Finally i guess Yes! does not count as grocery store for some.

      • Yeah, what the heck is she talking about?! The Safeway in Petworth hasn’t gone anywhere, indeed residents want it to expand and be renovated. The Giant in Columbia Heights is just down the road. She has to go to MD to go grocery shopping? No way…

        • saf

          “indeed residents want it to expand and be renovated”

          Let us amend that please: Indeed, some residents want ti to expand and be renovated, while other residents just want to see it replaced by anything NOT Safeway.

          Thank you.

  • Gentrification is not synonymous with impoverished or declining neighborhoods. Neighborhoods that are healthy and thriving can still become gentrified if or when their residents get priced out because the neighborhoods have been discovered by people with higher incomes. It’s not always a matter of replacing ruin and blight.

  • Watching this, I realize that I see you all of the time and didn’t know it. Ha!

  • I purchased a home that had been vacant for 12 years. The long time owner grew old, passed away, left the home for the grandkids and they neither rented it nor lived in it. As the housing boom reached its peak they decided to renovate and sell (fortunately for me not completing the renovation until prices began to drop quite a bit).

    Does that make me a gentrifier? Who exactly did I push out?

    • my situation as well. I bought a house that had been vacant for 2 years and it was in severe disrepair needing a lot of work. With my savings i made it comfortable and plan staying here for the long run.

  • You can’t price out a resident that already lives in the neighborhood. Between rent control and owning your own home, there’s no way to actually price you out. Now groceries and goods get more expensive with time, but that is true whether “gentrifiers” move into your neighborhood or not. National/world market forces dictate the prices of groceries.

    I see the anti-gentrification movement as a misplaced anger at the surprise that you can’t live on a fixed income for 30+ years anywhere in the world. All these old folks think that the young rich white people are coming in and bring their high prices with them. Well I’d be happy to pay the old prices, but it’s not in my control. I’d be happy to pay $30k for my house just like you did in 1974, if only you’d sell it at that price. I’d be happy to pay $0.02 for an orange, but that price doesn’t really exist anywhere in the US.

    People are blaming new people for the inflation that is occurring, but in reality DC was living in an unhealthy stagnant economy for 20 years with no job growth. The rest of the country moved on while DC stayed stagnant. DC isn’t an island where the economy can be dictated from the Mayor’s office. Now the pressure is backflowing into the city and the residents are unprepared.

    • I agree with much of this.

      Still, one major issue I have is that you don’t seem to address the non-rent control renters who are forced out.
      This is especially problematic when rents go up much faster than inflation.

      You are right to cite the stagnant economy, and I would say that the economy for locals with poor economic backgrounds and lousy education are no match for the influx of middle to upper class people from the rest of the country (and the world).

      Think about it– loads of 20-30 year olds come to DC with at least one university degree, often take poorly paid or unpaid internships/ entry level positions, and are often supported by their family economically until they land the better job.

      • meant to say
        “… the economy for locals with poor economic backgrounds and lousy education is different from the economy for transplants.

        Locals cannot match the economic power of the influx of middle to upper class people from the rest of the country (and the world). “

        • First: All neighborhoods turn over like this. A generation starts dying off and the neighborhood turns to young families in the blink of an eye. It has happened all over America for as long as we’ve had neighborhoods.

          Second: I don’t necessarily believe everyone who says something’s true just because they said it. I have two elderly black neighbors that have no intention of moving out of their houses and seem to be doing ok on their incomes. They’re not buying mercedes, but they’re out gardening all the time. So it’s not some universal constant that every old person in this city is getting pushed out.

          Thirdly: There are a ton of folks living just across the border in MD and VA for much less money than it costs to live in DC. I’m not sure DC bears the responsibility for providing for 100% of folks who didn’t plan for their future properly. Most families provide for their parents when they get old. Either they take them into their homes, or they provide other options. That’s why we have families. It’s not like folks are broke, they’re still getting generous social security checks that you and I are already paying for.

          Finally: this generation that’s complaining left this city a mess. They bankrupted it’s finances, they let the schools deteriorate and hired their friends regardless of competence because of their political ties, they ignored infrastructure so that its crumbling around us, and they basically thumbed their noses at the world around them. I have a lot of sympathy for the kids who had to go to DCPS schools, but I have absolutely none for the adults who were minding the ship through all this. They can reap what they sowed.

          As for the kids, almost no one grows up in this town and thrives in a career. Most of us have to move away, work somewhere else, and build our careers to lead us back here. Practically everyone I know who I grew up with had to follow this model.

          I think we have a pretty substantial social safety net right now and I don’t think it’s going to the people who need it most: school aged kids. I think it’s funding a lot of folks who really were never interested in doing much but complaining about what they don’t have.

          • No argument here.
            I agree with much of what you’re saying. Gentrification happens.

            …and I certainly agree with the statement that “almost no one grows up in this town and thrives in a career”

          • I agree with most of what you said but I want to say that I am one of the people who grew up in this town (4405 5th), went to the public schools (Barnard, Rabaut, Roosevelt)and still lives here (Cap Hill) and has a thriving career and a graduate degree (GWU Class of 2010)! So it can be done.

    • Ragged Dog for city council! He is one of the few consistently reasonable voices on this blog when discussing touchy topics. If you don’t understand his position, review your notes from econ 101 (yeah, I know that some PoP readers somehow think that basic economics is somehow racist, classist, etc.)

    • my parents are facing the fixed income dillemma. They pay more in taxes now than they did on both taxes and mortgage when they paid off their mortgage. We’re talking hundreds of dollars per month. They aren’t getting forced out, but it’s a little stickier than I think you’re letting on.

      • Taxes I can sympathize with, although moving in from PA, I’m astonished that my tax rate is as low as it is. Houses there appraised at less than 250 are paying more than my 500k appraisal.

  • +1. I bought a renovated rowhouse on a loud busy block. It had been empty for 3 years and the long-time neighbors said the whole basement was furry with mold. From random mail that would arrive to my address from a variety of people not known by neighbors or the developer, this place was no good to the ‘hood before being “flipped”.

  • PoP’s definition of gentrification: “The economic development of a neighborhood that has previously fallen on hard time”

    PoP, I think you do have to mention the issue of displacement — that is the only part of the gentrification issue that makes it controversial and the only reason that the word has a negative connotation.

    Of course “everybody wants a safe, clean, comfortable environment” and of course gentrification leads to a “safer, cleaner and more attractive neighborhood” ..

    Once neighborhoods become more attractive, it is harder for people to remain living there if their rents go up and, in some cases, if their property taxes go up. The real winners are the property owners (who get the higher value and the amenities). The renters get the amenities, but they pay for them in terms of higher rents when their leases are up for renewal.

    (BTW I think the issue of property taxes as a cause of displacement is exaggerated – excuse me if I don’t feel too much sympathy for someone who has a completely paid-for house in a neighborhood that has skyrocketed in value. I think a lot of the stories of people on low/fixed incomes moving due to property taxes are really just people saving face when they cash in and move out to the ‘burbs).

    Sorry, what is Janice talking about? The development of Columbia Heights/Petworth.. BROUGHT A GIANT for crying out loud.

    It’s a little interesting piece but I have no idea why the final cut had a quote from Janice that essentially made her look clueless and uninformed.

    Also wonder why it didn’t include a quote of PoP acknowledging the issue of displacement.

    • We have rent control. There’s only displacement if you decide to leave your apartment. But ‘gentrification’ just reflects the economic reality of the area. Would you say that the state of California “gentrified” because their economy grew? Yes rents go up, but rents go up all the time for everyone; at least in DC, they are a fixed amount that does not keep up with inflation.

      And we’re all competing against the same inflationary pressure. The prices are the same whether you are white or black, old or young. Old people had 30-40-50+ working years to prepare themselves. People always retire to places that are less expensive than their current places. My grandmother didn’t stay in her house, she moved someplace with a cheaper cost of living. No matter how you cut it, a healthy city is never going to have a low cost of living. You either prepare for it when you’re in your young healthy working days, or you plan to make a move later.

      Old folks aren’t being displaced. They’re dying off, and they’re selling the equity in their house to live off of, but that’s to be expected. That’s how the system works.

    • Oops, this is my post – I typed the wrong name

      • The original one is my post, I meant to say

        I don’t really know how well rent control is enforced in DC. What I do know is that when neighborhoods become more desirable, landlords will try to charge more if they can get away with it. I don’t have statistics on it or even very many anecdotes, but I imagine it’s hard to keep a dirt cheap apartment in a part of the city that is getting very very expensive and valuable all around you.

        • Upon further reflection, I think this piece is not really “interesting” – it is pretty bad. I don’t think it touched on any of the serious issues and half the video is composed of nonsensical and blatantly wrong quotes from Janice.

          I hope AU does not consider this graduate school caliber work..

          Serious issues it could have touched on:
          – Displacement of renters due to higher rents
          – Displacement of owners on fixed incomes due to property taxes / how serious is this problem?
          – (Possible?) psychological discomfort from watching the makeup of your neighbors change from being primarily people that are racially/economically/culturally similar to you to having very little in common with you (aside from the common humanity we all share) and watching businesses that cater to you close and seeing businesses that cater to other people (either price-wise or culturally) open up instead.
          – Maybe examining the trauma of actually having to pack up and leave friends and neighbors due to being priced out
          – Are communities broken up by the phenomenon of many individuals being gradually priced out of neighborhoods? Do these communities re-form in other affordable neighborhoods or are they permanently dispersed?

          Very weak video. I learned nothing from it, but I am thankful it was posted because it gave me another opportunity to reflect on the issue of gentrification.

          • I agree, the work is awful and the kind of work I was doing in undergrad.

          • Your third bullet point, I think, gets to the real issue people have with gentrification: the loss of a sense of cultural ownership over a place.

    • It was inappropriate for the filmmaker to allow Janice to say that without refuting the statement. From what I learned in film class we’d call that unethical filmmaking.

  • dan: thanks and kudos for pointing out that the neighborhood was also “historically” white, jewish, etc. (you know, the same history applies to trinidad as petworth. kind of mirror neighborhoods in that respect!)

    it all depends on your perspective and timeframe on what a neighborhood “traditionally” was, and i’m glad to see that a fuller story is given by getting your points in here.

    also, i would like an explanation from ms. smith how “gentrification” caused grocery stores and banks to close? things close because of neighborhood disinvestment (like you alluded to), not because of new investment.

    plus, there’s a brand new giant a couple blocks away. it’s frustrating to hear uninformed opinions trotted out as some sort of fact.

    • hey, how do you bold? test

    • why is it important that white folk lived there before? what is special about a big nice working class neighborhood of white people that its so important to mention?

      • It is relevant because the history of racial dynamics in this city are not so simple as rich white people displacing african-americans, but many people look at the issue strictly as this narrative. For example, how about the incredibly racially divisive comments of Myla Moss regarding attempts to turn a blighted, vacant rooming house into condos for the middle class in ledroit park:


        To quote Ms. Moss – “I respond to the people. I am not out to kill Grant Epstein’s project. But I’m also not out to make Grant Epstein a jillionaire at the expense of the birthplace of the black intelligentsia.”

        Makes it very hard to constructively discuss the future of the neighborhood when the past is distorted in an emotionally charged way.

      • It was important to me to learn that my block was a whites-only block when black teenagers yelled at me for moving into a “Black neighborhood.” I felt weird about that for like 4 years before a neighbor talked about this woman, the daughter of the doctor who integrated the neighborhood. When I was like, “this was a whites only block?” she gave me a look like “You dumb white kid” but in fact I doubt any black person under age 30 knew or admitted that.

        • There was already a Giant in Columbia Heights…

          and I see what you are saying with this post, but the issue of gentrification is always one that has been problematic for me when reading this blog. My parents bought a home in historic Mt Pleasant in the 1970s–when it was a much more dangerous place. I went away to college and then graduate school, and now seeing the changes in the neighborhood excite and unnerve me. It’s great that we have more economic interest in the area now, it was horrible to see perfectly wonderful public services like a neighborhood post office, public school or recreational center fall into crime, disrepair, or become completely ignored by the local government.

          It was clear that this was not just an economic issue in the area, but a race issue, which has become even clearer to me now as of late, because no one could be bothered to invest in these areas, rebuild a working post office, police the region, or rebuild homes until the flow of money changed. Along with that came the changing faces of our residents, a reversal of the abandonment of properties on the 1600 block of Park Road when Blacks first moved into the area.

          The district has been a divisive city since the end of slavery. Black neighborhoods always experienced an extraction of capital with little in return. I’m hoping that the revitalization of Mt. Pleasant doesn’t suffer the same fate as Hispanic residents see their rents go up. There are some low-income housing zones in CH and MP that may remain untouched. I couldn’t see my friends from college moving into my childhood neighborhood twenty years ago. It’s great that I see them doing it now, but I also see all of this as a mixed blessing when my childhood friends must move away.

          Also–I’m sorry if this was repeated, I had an issue with the comment box. What gives you the idea that residents in the area don’t know about it’s past? And given the integration battle and the subsequent disinvestment in the region, including the process of long-time Black residents moving away due to higher prices, falling incomes–it comes as no surprise that people would be hostile.

          I’m not justifying that hostility, but I think it is good that newcomers to the District know why there is so much racial tension in neighborhoods here. Investment didn’t come back until the faces of color started to leave. People don’t forget that process.

          • The DC Government under Barry made a conscious decision to make DC a horrible place to do business. Graft for permits, high taxes, uncontrolled personal and property crime were all tolerated or thought of as fair retribution. He was continuously reelected. This is the city that these folks wanted. They wanted the lowest prices and cost structure, not the best. They didn’t try to attract investment. The actively tried to push it out of the city to make room for “local” businesses. Well the local population wasn’t prepared yet to take on that responsibility. The local businesses, despite an unchecked flow of money just wasted it all. The water and sewer authority had to be taken out of the city government so that Barry would stop raiding it for cash. He overpaid everyone in city government expecting to just be able to get more an more cash to cover the cost. At one point he stopped plowing roads and fixing pot holes to try to get congress to give him more money. It was a colossal failure of governance, but it was popular and it played well. “Us vs. the man”. Failed. Spectacularly.

            You’re looking at the current situation solely through the prism of a victimized people, and I can tell you, having lived here that these folks were 100% fully empowered and intelligent enough to make better decisions and they chose not to. Anything that was done to them was nothing compared to what they did to themselves consciously and with forethought. Marion Barry might be lampooned for his poor choices, but he’s one of the most clever and intelligent politicians this country has ever seen. He knew exactly what he was doing.

            So this broad stroke undergraduate sociology thesis that you present falls flat on it’s face when you consider that the poor black folks were 100% in control of their own destiny. It was like the story of the Ant and Grasshopper.

            And it’s strange that you lump poor hispanics and poor blacks together. Because they are very different populations with very different characteristics. The hispanic population is completely resented by the black population and I’m not sure the broad stroke brush stroke “gentrification” problem is applicable or relevant.

          • For some reason I cannot reply to your comment Ragged Dog, but I grew up in Mt. Pleasant for over 20 years. “It’s strange that you lump Hispanic and Black populations together…”

            Really? I think you are talking about a cross-section of the population. I have Black and Hispanic friends from the local community. Your perception of hostility is a little short-changed. There is prejudice on both sides, but I question how familiar you are in the area, with mixed populations at local community centers, Sacred Heart Church being one of them and shared apartment buildings and neighborhoods.

            The communities also share a common problem with education and employment, with some of the lowest graduation rates and wages in the country. Suffering through the same schools together–it wasn’t until the late 1990s that Mt.Pleasant largely turned over to a Hispanic neighborhood, but many of the same Black families continued to send their children to local schools or came back to community churchs. Sacred Heart Church for one, is a prominent part of the community.

            Your comments strike me as closed-minded. I also come from a very politically active family that’s worked in the area since the 1970s. This is not a case of minorities deciding they just don’t care about the quality of care they receive or the state of their local parks, properties and schools.

            I remember taking DC buses to high school with friends, many of whom were from the Hispanic community as we heatedly debated what would become the revitalization of Columbia Heights and what would happen to many of their families as priests in the local churches were already fighting efforts by landlords to throw people out. Landlords who for the most part lived out of the city and refused to upgrade slums! The reason why you have such a bad roach problem in this city is because the very people you are patting on the back to revitalize the area are the ones who cut corners so they wouldn’t have to provide a decent living space for the people there.

            I’m not denying the economics of this problem–better conditions cost more–but I am certainly not denying what a lot of those politically active residents fought for (that you blame for not taking care of the city) saw as a product of race-based politics.

            As for Marion Barry–the reason why so many people supported him was because he brought the poorest DC families initiatives like DC Summer Works, which gave young kids the opportunity to work in a professional environment and explore careers while bringing money home to their families. I don’t even like the guy, but you have to understand where local politics come from.

            Broad stroke undergraduate thesis–I’ll also tell you that I did my MA thesis on a 2 year study of economic development and the forces behind revitalization in CH and MtP. How many city planners and politicians did you interview?

            It might sound like a “victim’s perspective” but I don’t think you quite understand the multitude of forces that contributed to the skepticism about redevelopment in this region. The District continues to suffer from political corruption, but to forget the people of this community who fought in the Multicultural Coalition or Neighbors Consejo or any number of the political or religious community organizations to support and strengthen economic growth in this community for the past 30 years is simply irresponsible.

    • Lets not assume she lives a few blocks away from the new Giant. Unless I missed something I dont think she stated what street she was on. If she is at the northeastern tip of Petworth (closer to Kennedy & Missouri) then yes the closest grocery store to her probably is the Giant on Riggs Rd (MD side).

      • ocho: well, since she said she lives on ingraham street, there’s a good chance the giant at riggs and eastern is the closest giant to her house.

        • Ok i missed that part, thanks for pointing it out…so what was the point of your final sentence then? Were you addressing Mrs. Smith or a commenter?

          • i was addressing her. maybe that wasn’t quite right. but her point was (broadly) that (somehow) “gentrification” had caused grocery stores to close, so that’s why she was having to go out to maryland to get her groceries now.

            that syntax makes me think that she used to get her groceries in the city. and grocery stores in the city haven’t started closing because people with money are moving in—on the contrary, they’re opening seemingly every month.

            basically, i might have been wrong to think that the columbia heights giant was close to her location, but everything else she said about stores and investments in the neighborhood makes no sense.

      • Yeah, but there’s a Safeway on GA ave?

    • Thanks IMGoph! That irritated me as well. I frequently hear time and again that this or that neighborhood was “historically” black, yet know that means its been a solidly African American neighborhood since somewhere between 1948 and 1965. The earlier white history is ignored as if it never happened. Its a very narrow view of history.

      The reality is that neighorhoods change over time and what is here today may not be here tomorrow.

  • What’s that expression “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. Is this part of a longer video? I hope… not much value in something as short as this.

  • And let’s not forget that PG County has Gentrified A LOT and it’s due to wealthy black folks.

    • whats important about that to not forget?

      • I think he was reacting to the common stereotype of young white gentrifiers displacing old black long time residents – it’s not just about race

        • but that’s not really the point about why people in dc are bitter about gentrification.

          it IS about race in dc.

          • oh HO, it’s a LOT MORE about race in PG County than it is in DC let me tell you!!!

          • About race in that, any black resident with money got the hell out of the district. Most of the old lady’s on my block all talk about how they managed to get their kids through school and into the military, college, etc and are glad they visit their grand kids out in the county.

            It wasn’t just white flight from DC that left holes in the neighborhood.

            cattcha: roadwork emigration

  • I just don’t see how gentrification is a bad thing for anyone? Let’s say you are renting in a bad neighborhood with high crime, blight,no services, etc but your rent is cheap. Then the neighborhood gets gentrified and you are priced out. Can’t you just move to another bad neighborhood where the rents are low? And if you own then you can sell it for a nice profit then buy another house in a bad neighborhood for much less money.

    • The idea is that it breaks communities apart. In theory everyone could move to an entirely different bad neighborhood to keep your community intact, but that is a huge inconvenience of time and monetary cost. If people can’t afford to spend more on rent, they would probably rather just live in their cheap neighborhood with their family and neighbors and not have to deal with the disruption of higher prices and rents.

      • What community? I think that people are nostalgic about a time that never really was all that great. There was rampant drug use, kids getting shot every single night and almost no city services. It was a complete cluster here.

        No one “owns” community and community isn’t stagnant anywhere in the country. I feel like you’re inventing something that doesn’t really exist in the way you have described it. Communities that behave as you describe always self destruct. They offer nothing to the next generation and that’s patently unfair.

        • I’m talking about friendships, bonds, support between people that know each other and live near each other as neighbors

          Yes there are lots of other problems in low-income areas that result in their residents not really getting a full shot at a fulfilling life, but I don’t know how you remedy that by pricing people out of a bad neighborhood with a bunch of people they know and rely on to a different bad neighborhood without anyone they know and rely on

  • And of course those who own in neighborhoods that become more desirable are the biggest winners of all.

    I think the gentrification debate is really about the disruption in communities’ and individuals’ lives about not being able to afford where you live anymore and having to move.

    I mean could you imagine how stressful it would be if you were truly priced out of your neighborhood? Moves are bad enough as it is when you are voluntarily packing up all your stuff and leaving your friends and neighbors. Imagine having to do it in response to a rent increase..

    Also, I don’t think many people on this website have psychologically felt the feeling of watching your neighborhood become less and less suited to you and going from having most neighbor being like you (racially, economically, culturally) and every business catering you to feeling like a minority in your own neighborhood and feeling like you don’t belong in certain businesses that have opened up (fancy bars/restaurants for example). I have not personally felt the emotions associated with this, but I imagine it could be quite jarring or uncomfortable? I don’t know.

    • most neighbors* and catering to you* – typos

    • I think you just hit the nail on the head my friend. Now just to piggyback, a lot of ppl like to speak on issues they have never experienced w/ a simple (get over it). Put yourself in another person’s position for once and maybe you may get what the real issues are in this debate.

    • Thanks Ocho. I would be fascinated to hear more stories about what it feels like to see your neighborhood change around you to something that is maybe less comfortable, familiar and suited to you.

      The questions about the trauma to individuals and neighborhoods that are sometimes priced out are very interesting too.

      • So it’s ok for whites to not want blacks in their hoods because it makes them feel uncomfortable?? You can’t have it both ways. Racist.

        • haha. I will have to remember your username in order to not take any of your future posts seriously.

          I am not talking about racism. I am saying that it might be jarring to see your neighborhood change from something that is entirely suited to you and your community’s needs to a neighborhood that is fashioned to serve the needs and desires of a different group of people. And losing your friends/neighbors and having them replaced with people that have very little in common with you culturally or economically. The fact that they are a different race also just happens to be very common in DC and is also possibly visually symbolic of the change your neighborhood is going through (race is highly correlated with socioeconomic factors in DC).

          I have never lived in an area that was “taken over” by another group, but I imagine there could be a lot about it that is uncomfortable or stressful.

          Everyone likes diversity, but most people on this blog talk about diversity in the context of moving into someone else’s “diverse” neighborhood.

          I just think a lot of people on this blog haven’t fully thought through all of the tough-to-deal-with consequences of gentrification.

          • I have nothing constructive to say except that i really appreciate your perspective on this blog. The diversity issue can get a bit frustrating at times.

  • lets say you were a tree in a world of dogs.
    lets say that everywhere you went you felt like you were being watched and someone wanted to piss on you. lets say thats been the history of your entire ancestry as far back as anyone could remember.

    lets say that in a few places in your own country there were groves of trees that were not getting pissed on by dogs. and what if you found that you could really be yourself there. and they everyone had the sense of protecting each other, and you knew what everyone else was going through.

    and sure you had to leave that area sometimes, to go through areas with dogs. but what if you had a whole forest of trees that didnt have to think about dogs.
    amazing! except you did. because it was a nation of dogs. but you had your oasis of trees. in fact, you lived in the largest oasis there was.

    now what if dogs started moving into your neighborhood?
    what if it was a drought and they brought buckets of water ?

    what if they started to outnumber the trees?

    now i’m one to place humans above our racial divides. but then again, i never needed that protection that community offered.

    • Trees can walk?

    • Can I get some of your drugs?

    • ‘bjump bstart’ – I don’t want to piss on the ‘trees’, but I don’t want the ‘trees’ to stab me in the face when I walk down the street after a late meal at a restaurant. I also don’t want the ‘trees’ to call me a ‘fag*oty a$$ fag*ot when I am jogging down the street minding my own business. I also don’t see too many ‘trees’ volunteering at the local elementary school to read to ‘tree’ children trying to help give theme a future. Seems to me like the old, neglected, rotten ‘trees’ need to be cut down so that some new saplings can take root.

      • Yes, totally agree.

      • i am not offering excuses. i understand and agree. i’m merely offering a suggestion as to the perception of some. this is from talking to people, not just here, but in other cities and other countries. most of us born after the profound humiliation of segregation, and especially those of us that were raised amongst diverse peoples feel very differently.

        it is easy to judge others, and i think we should b wary of that. you want to understand why people are resistant to gentrification? don’t make up answers. go talk to your neighbors.

      • thanks for replying with seriousness. and i agree with you. there is no excuse to not being able to freely and safely walk down the street. there is never an excuse for such violence, physical or verbal. and we live today.not yesterday. but if you want to understand resistance to gentrification and the reactions white people moving into black communities, then you need to understand the perspective of people within these communities. for those of us born after the humiliation of segregation, it is difficult and requires a lot of listening. though most people seem to rather make up things and be defensive or not really give a damn either way.

  • I think whoever did this assignment just wanted to meet PoP.

  • In this city, gentrification is about race, and place, and power (or loss thereof), and the battle for turf, and attempted cutting down of the opponents through fear and hostility. (Why else do the blacks call the whites gentries?) And poor manners and crime. But it’s also about the shared beauty, and acceptance, and openness to changes in the landscape and the people in it. Hopefully in the case of Petworth, the entrenched folks who seem to not like people of non-color will start being more kind to the new neighbors (who, as Dan says) basically share in the same desires for goodness (less the crack dens and gunplay so cherished by some in this city).

  • When are we going to just see, recognize, and respect people in any neighborhood for the individuals that they are, and the good or bad neighbor that they are, or can be, regardless of race or ethnicity ?

    Let’s just stop categorizing people and putting them in convenient boxes.

    Simply see them and respect them for the individual they are, and just stop categorizing each individual as part of some group.

    I ask for nothing else. No patronizing. No special treatment. No favoritism. No prejudice. -Just respect for the individual as it should be.

  • This seem to be incomplete… And that could be to limits place upon the project.

    Just because a community experiences a socio-cultural change, doesn’t mean that a community was economically impoverished. Which is part of the reason that Petworth has not experienced wholesale changes in it demographical make-up like some other communities in DC. Text book Gentrification needs three thing (see below) for it to happen, and Petworth doesn’t have all three of these factors across the board which is a underlaying factors that outsiders looking in did not get or understand.

    1) Economical and/or Distress housing stock.

    When it comes to the housing stock in Petworth, families whom owned and/or inherited property in the community didn’t always sale that property, instead they choose to either live in the properties, rent them, or just holding them until the market realized there true value, but that caused three issues. First due to the way that homes are valued, in that its based on prior sales of comparably properties, but the lack of sales data depressed/restricted home values in Petworth. The second issues has to do with the size of Petworth as a whole, in that Petworth is one of they largest neighborhood/community grouping of homes in DC, and its housing stock because of its size is also one of the most diverse in styles and types. The third issue is purely an issue with perception, in that if people whom don’t look like me don’t live there it must not be safe or a great place to live, shop, or hangout/dine.

    2) Lack of retail and personal services.

    As Petworth is a working class community of mobile and educated individuals (with most having at least a high school education or greater) within the community, chose to not shop, dinner, and/or uses personal services within the community that they saw as substandard (ie.. the Safeway, dry cleaners, the corner stores, the carry-outs, etc..), the one exception to that are barber and beauty solons. This meant that business community assumed that the Petworth community could not support them and chose to locate there business elsewhere ( This is sometimes referred to a Retail Redlining-http://www.consumerequality.org/pubs/05_retail_redlining.pdf ).

    3) Organized community members and groups

    Again, as stated in the piece “Petworth has always been a working class community”, which means that the community members are busy working for a living and receive little to no government assistance, unlike other communities that have experienced text book gentrification. Which means that community members and groups are normally formed in small groupings of blocks (sometimes referred to as block clubs) and/or grouping of neighboring streets. This has lead to a fragmentation of Petworth when it comes to civic involvement and mixed signals for the city government as to the goals, desires, and services needs of the Petworth community.

    Hopefully this video and posting starts/continues the conversation in Petworth.. As we can’t continue to rely on the same bullshit reality and stereo types that have been passed on for generations to generation after generation based on sex, race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age or disability….. As we all have something to add to the Petworth community.

  • I agree that this was a limited look at a complex topic. As others have touched on, gentrification can take several forms such as class gentrification or race gentrification. From my experience, people use issues of the latter to explain the former and they’re different concerns in my opinion.

    Gentrification doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially when the new people moving in actually invest in being a part of the community rather than displacing the community that existed. But it can also negatively impact a community and reflect sinister reasons for why certain neighborhoods are considered desirable (which in NYC usually means race gentrification while in DC class gentrification plays more of a role I’ve noticed). I moved away from a neighborhood in NYC that went through gentrification and it was sad how the newer people had no sense of investment in the community and how strangely uncomfortable they were going to corner bodegas and local businesses. They’d rather import from Whole Foods and trek down to CVS than trust the local businesses that had been servicing the community for years. That’s a shame.

    • I think you’re being naive about local businesses. A lot of them robbed the local population for years.

      • And the local population, in turn, robbed the local businesses for years. Hence the proliferation of bulletproof glass in your neighborhood establishments.

    • why is it a shame? Why should someone support inefficient businesses that do not offer anything special?

      When I moved onto my block about a month later I took a walk and visited every store, read every menu and I was shocked- 6 of the stores were utter junk shops that were robbing the residents- just trash. I found, also, another 6 really cool little stores. 15 years later 5 of the 6 junk shops are closed and 5 of the 6 cool little stores are still in business with one changing hands.

      Smart people support the cool stores but if a CVS sells products more efficiently then the bodega needs to find a niche or die. If the bodega REALLY knew their neighborhood they would be MUCH MORE efficient in providing what the residents want than CVS. CVS is a lumbering behemoth that doesn’t get that 5 gay couples just bought houses within 2 blocks or that 12 families just had babies. the bodega, if they aren’t screw ups, should know that. If they don’t then they screwed up.

  • I agree that tis video seems incomplete and doesn’t offer varying viewpoints. In addition, it assumes that new development displaces a large amount of lower-income existing residents. This is an issue that I have with the District. DC lacks a comprehensive affordable and workforce housing program. It seems to me that there are numerous ways that the District can avoid displacement among publicly owned housing complexes, lower-income rental units, and owner occupied units, however, they lack the political will to implement such programs.

    Also, the issue of locally owned stores was brought up (i.e., closed local banks). I find it funny that she was upset over a Giant when she was eluding to small businesses development and retention. I don’t see a Giant as a small business or one that really invests in their neighborhood. Again, these are all issues that the District needs to improve on.

    The overall mixing on income levels, densities, and other socio-demogrpahic characteristics will hopefully give Petworth more stability in the future, as long as the District realizes the importance of the existing residents and their role in the community, economy, and family.

  • I think in some ways people are talking about different things– gentrification is the changing of a neighborhood by class, which in America also usually means race; revitalization is the changing of a neighborhood to include things that PoP pointed out– less crime, less litter, more services, etc. The problem is that in DC one generally doesn’t happen without the other.

    What I think is often misrepresented about “gentrification” is the connection of services to wealthier people and/or whites. Even PoP did some conflating of gentrification (or: rich white people coming) and better, safer neighborhoods. People who have lived somewhere for 30 years should have access to fresh, affordable, nutritious food in their neighborhood– they shouldn’t have to wait for a different demographic to come in order for them to have it.

    So, I think what gets people worked up is the “fairweathering” of neighborhoods, if you will– I live in Bloomingdale and I’m sure a lot of long time residents are intrigued by Yoga District… but where were the yoga studios 10 (or even 5) years ago when the same building was empty? It’s hard to see these changes as improvements for the entire neighborhood when businesses, services, and people wouldn’t come until a certain group of people came to the neighborhood. Ditto for the farmer’s market and the maybe soon-to-be pizza place.

    People have been advocating for less litter, less crime, more services for years–it’s just a little too convenient that it only comes when the whites do to consider it anything other than racial. That’s not revitalization, that’s gentrification.

    • Do old time residents go to the Yoga district?
      The reason these businesses (yoga studios, farmers’ markets, pizza places) were not there is because the old residents would patronize them.

    • There were no yoga studios 5 or 10 years ago for the same reason there isn’t a braids salon or soul food restaurant in Chevy Chase. And why there isn’t an arthouse cinema in Southern town I grew up in. Businesses–at least successful businesses–locate near a population that demands and will pay for their goods or services. While there may have been one or two people in Bloomingdale in 1999 that would have been interested enough in Yoga District to pay for their services, there weren’t enough to make it profitable for Yoga District. Likewise, when enough people in Chevy Chase want and are willing to pay for braids, someone will open a braids salon there.

    • THANK you for bringing up city responses to citizen concern/complaints and conflation of these phenomena. Not to be unfair, but that was a big gaping hole in this video. It should inspire questions, not be considered definitive or authoritative in any way.

      There are dozens of books and academic papers on this for people who REALLY want to understand and not score racial points (from “either” side). Google.

    • I hate to say it, but who is littering? Committing crime? If white people move to a neighborhood and start demanding that litter get picked up (or not tossed in the first place) and the police crack down on crime, don’t blame the white people. If blacks were not getting city services in DC, it is pretty hard to blame anyone but yourselves, this city has been governed by the black middle class since the 1980s…The man may be keeping you down, but the man was Marion Barry, the man was your local crack dealer that you did not want to “snitch” on.

    • I have a perfect example. Jim Graham’s office helped me out on an issue, a big issue, and they did a great job. I asked his staffer to put me on his campaign mailing list. When they sent a reelection mailer out I wrote him a check for $50 and included a letter that listed my top priorities for my block.

      Now, a baby boomer resident whined to me about snow removal- which was great, by the way but she was unhappy. She told me the mayor should do X, Y and Z. I asked her if she called Jim Graham’s office. She didn’t and kept saying it was the Mayor’s responsibility to know.

      So, here’s a long-term resident of the community and I call myself a midterm resident (15 years). She complains about city services but has not paid for them via campaign contributions. I did.

      I have signs on my lawn for every candidate who helped me.

      For all I know she thinks that once white people moved in the council started to act. From my perspective she never ever asked for these services to be performed.

      Her inability to communicate outside of her porch is NOT MY PROBLEM. In fact, if she was the loser in the 1980s it’s her problem.

  • Part of the disagreements stem from perceptions of the value in neighborhoods. Some believe value is pretty yards, clever shoppes, and property assessments. Others find it in deep social roots and interconnection that develop over generations in place.

    Another part is predicated on cultural differences between those already present and those arriving.

    • But no one, not one single person, values both clean yards and deep social roots? I have to tell the elderly lady with the flowers on her porch that she just doesn’t love her grandkids coming over.

      • i haven’t suggested anything of the sort. But in my experience that is the defining characteristic of the hostilities.

  • Very nice film.

  • My street was white middle class in 1920, then it became black middle class in the 40 and 50s. Then the neighborhood got burned down in the 1968 riots. The black middle class left, the neighborhood was poor, black and neglected by the black leadership of the city (Barry) and became violent due to the crack epidemic. Poor Latinos moved in. The neighborhood was a mix of poor black and Latino. City still neglected it. Then white and black gay men who could not afford Dupont circle moved on to the block. Then white straights who could not afford MtP followed.

    The era of black middle class, black intelligensia, all that, it was in the 50s and 60. Sure, that is probably an era worthy of being nostalgic for. But, the whites did not ruin that, the riots did, the crack did, Barry did. The era of a “historically black” neighborhood where everyone looked out for each other and black residents could “be themselves” and thrive was destroyed by riots, black flight, integration of the neighborhood by Latinos (not that I think that is negative, but it “undermined” the blackness of the place). The whites who moved in to Columbia Heights were not the “rich” whites, they were artists, teachers, chefs, small business owners, then government workers, and now lawyers and doctors. I’m guessing a lot of people moved here b/c they wanted an integrated neighborhood; I know a lot of mixed race couples (straight and gay). But, the real economic elite do not live here, the white folks on my block can no more afford to live in Cleveland Park than the Blacks.

    The idea that whites moved into and “ruined” it really irks me. The whites, the gays, AND the blacks on my block want a safe, clean, place to raise a family. They don’t want to be shot, stabbed, mugged, called a “F*G, they want good schools for their kids. Unfortunately, people like Janice (and a lot of other people) make it sound like wishing for those things is racist b/c it changes the neighborhood.

  • Regardless of what most of the posters on this forum say, and I’d assume most of you are white and gentrifiers, if more than a few people feel this way about gentrification, then it can’t be some total conspiracy to ‘blame the white man’.

    There’s a lot of truth to what they’re saying, even if your posters don’t agree. I mean, it’s hard to admit oppression in any fashion.

    Your posters will not agree with me and probably attack me because that’s what they usually do as a defense mechanism.

    You really can’t dismiss these folks opinions though.

    • Which part is true. I don’t dismiss true opinions, but if someone says the gentrification drove out the grocery stores, I’m going to call BS. If someone says that whites are to blame for crap city services in black neighborhoods, I’m going to call BS. If someone calls gangs of unsupervised 10 year olds throwing rocks at cars and tipping over trash cans, and gang of 15 year olds selling drugs a shooting each other, “multigenerational” roots in a neighborhood, I’m going to call BS.

      FWIW, I do understand the issue of renters in non-rent controlled apartments being driven out of the neighborhood as prices rise. But, I’m not sure of the long term solution. But home owners are not driven out by tax increase, DC property taxes are very low and only go up by 10% per year, and there is an exception for nearly every circumstance.

      • The reason the rents are low in some neighborhoods is due to high crime rates. If you prefer low rent and don’t mind the crime then once you’re priced out of a neighborhood you move to another one with a high crime rent and low rent. It’s not like there are no dangerous neighborhoods in this city anymore. There are houses and apartments in Anacostia for $100,000.

    • Basically I could repeat the exact same thing to anyone who is blaming gentrifiers.

      I once knew a white racist who grew up around what is now called Mitchellville and she hated what happened to her poor farm community. Her idea of “The Plan” was the forced integration of PG County and the removal of poor white folks. She talked about it all the time.

      Compare that to “The Plan” in DC. There is no more “truth” to that than there is in PG County.

  • Listen Up !!

    ‘These’ people are upset and their numbers are growing daily. It is not wise nor neighborly to dismiss their sentiment even though there might be inaccuracies. They deserve respect and I intend to offer mine. In my gentrified neighborhood many long term and financially successful blacks are now touting angry issues with racial overtones – I honestly cannot tune out these articulate, historically friendly neighbors even though I don’t experience their upset the same.

    While progress is going to move on, everyone should be made to understand and feel they have a stake in its success, or there will be a backlash. “Fort Petworth” would not be such an appealing idea, but a diverse inclusive happy neighborhood seems just right.

  • I think this was possibly the most nonsensical comment in this thread.

  • What exactly are your black neighbors upset about? Yoga studios where there used to be a vacant building? Cleaner streets? DCUSA where there was once a vacant lot? Young families living in houses that were once vacant or owned by absentee landlords?

    I think your black neighbors are upset because you are white. And, that is just the same and when the original white neighbors were upset that black families moved in. It was stupid and racist then, it is stupid and racist now.

    And, for what it is worth, I don’t get the impression that my black neighbors are all that upset about the direction of the neighborhood.

    • Actually I do know one interesting thing, my black neighbors were FURIOUS that white newcomers called the police on the drug gang that operated on the corner even though all of them “grew up on the block.” I watched those kids grow up too. but when the guns came out and the shootings started I called the police and the mayor every day and in 24 months 3 of the 4 guys were arrested and convicted of possession. THAT is a real beef- that we didn’t respect that the mothers of these adult men had their crimes under control the same way that they refused to call the police on children they saw grow up. That was a huge issue and one that no under-40 resident sides with them on now that the crew was arrested with real amounts of drugs on them.

      If you want to see what it’s like for white people when the neighborhood they lived in gets “taken over” and changes beyond their control, read the laws of Arizona or Prince William County. There are residents in DC who want to make this their own Arizona.

      • My family still has issues getting rid of drug dealers in our area. One thing I do applaud now is the stronger police presence, but more in general has to be done to get rid of the drug trade on our streets.

  • Yeah, recent examples of the stress / alienation / discomfort of having your neighborhood radically change. The difference in those cases (AZ, Prince William) is that the affluent white people in those neighborhoods are not being priced out due to their new neighbors.

  • black faces lower rent.

    look at hillcrest. if it was as white as it is black, prices would be quadrupled.

    this was the big argument against integrating the suburbs. oh here come those black folks lowering our property values. \there goes the neighborhood\ was the euphemism.

    i saw a sign on a development near k and 5th. \Here comes the neighborhood\ i couldn’t believe it.

    • sorry, that was in reply to Thor, who said that these hoods were cheap because of crime. thats just not a complete picture.

  • I’ve lived in the district (16th & R, 15th & W, 14th & Taylor, 16th & Geranium, North Capitol & Harwood) and live my life in the surrounding areas mentioned. It is hard to stomach the level of racist undertones in some of these comments.

    After leaving for a few years I came back to DC to raise my children… just as it was when I was growing up – EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD changes eventually – to blame newcomers for capitalizing on houses being available is just crazy to me. When I shopped for my home – I went thru the same process most people have – FIND THE MOST FOR MY MONEY (I didn’t look for the Gentrification List or who’s family I was displacing because they had already given up or lost their homes for whatever reason).

    I am close friends with families that have moved out and remained in the area – the one constant is that this City’s family dynamic was ruined long before flipping homes became popular. By family dynamic I mean – a grandparent leaving her home to her children or grandchildren… those children were eaten by the city’s crime and lack of education.

    I remember the first home on my street being listed as $800K after watching the contractors turn the dilapidated property into a serene and inviting home. This was around the same time many residents CHOOSE to put their homes up for sale as well and it being too expensive WAS NOT THE TOP REASON! Although the running joke has been that we can tell when some new KIND of folks are coming because the CITY fixes the streets and the schools (all of a sudden).

    I’m just from the line of thought that we get to EMBRACE the changes and BE whatever presence you feel is missing as the changes occur!

  • “It is hard to stomach the level of racist undertones in some of these comments.”

    Indeed–the idea that anyone would even suggest that all of the Black people or Hispanic people or Vietnamese people–or any racial group simply doesn’t care about the city or these neighborhoods and that is why property values fell apart and crime rates went up simply doesn’t know enough about the political economic and social history of this city.

  • GENTRIFICATION is a decades long process that begins with DIVESTMENT from traditionally lower/middle income/working class and people of color communities by banks, government and businesses. Giant and Safeway had many stores in DC – they followed whites when they fled! The city closed schools(a hub of community)and left them vacant for decades – now they GIVE THEM TO THEIR DEVELOPER FRIENDS to promote gentrification. Banks refused to invest in certain neighborhoods – remember REDLINING? There have always been plenty of hardworking entrepreneurial people in DC! They just happened to be BLACK PEOPLE and they were discriminated against! If you moved into a neighborhood, and you’re not making it your business to make sure that low-moderate income/seniors/subsidized/fixed income neighbors can stay, then you are absolutely contributing to DISPLACEMENT! Are you a colonizer, or a COMMUNITY-BUILDER??

  • @ Victoria – are you asking if The Native is a Bro or Nate… the answer is no you are asking me. I am an African American Woman (as I touch on my second point) who is a SUCCESSFUL product of the DCPS system. Surviving and flourishing in this city for years – has been a matter of parenting and ambition. DCPS has its share of woes – most teachers are too removed because the system is failing way before the teacher level – the administration is at best a damn joke! However, a determined parent and student PARTNERING with a DCPS student can make it happen!

    If the crime or the crack didn’t consume you – you had half a chance at success – as a business, community member or student in DC.

  • The DC gentrification debate would be much different and more civilized were it black people buying and renovating properties, ie the younger generation picking up from their parents gains. The opposite has happened, the younger black generations are seemingly much poorer than their parents in DC, due probably to the crack wars and stop snitching era we now live in, as well as the Berry debacles. When I hear my older black neighbors griping about younger whites (I’m mid 30’s) coming in, what I really hear is their angst and frustration that their kids often ended up in jail or dead or simply hanging at the corner for their entire lives. The truth hurts, badly, and feeds much of the local racial tension on this issue.

  • Wow, these postings are opinion based but with very little historical and social science data supporting them. Thanks love DC for covering the literature: gentrification absolutely does begin with disinvestment as Neil Smith, and other theorists of gentrification, including the British school make so clear. Also, get a quick read of the Pew Charitable Trusts study on race and wealth in the U.S. as well as Dedrick Muhammad’s State of the Dream 2009 for the Institute for Policy Studies.

    Gentrification is about structural inequalities and not individual failings. I don’t have a with us or against us attitude but you have to understand the legacy of racism in this country. It breeds inequality and privilege. Also, read Edward Meyers Public Opinion and the Political Future of the Nation’s Capital (1996). It can educate you on why the local government works or doesn’t work the way it should and could.

    I think these type of discussions taking place here can be great but in the end, while you are entitled to your own opinion you can manufacture you own facts. I think young whites have a lot of hutzpah and middle class advantage but the truth not only hurts, it can be elusive when you want what you want, get it (often with help), and then look upon others as if they haven’t worked hard enough to achieve it. That will not lead to productive dialogue; nor with reactionary, anti white attitudes that some African Americans hold about newcomers.

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