Real Talk about Gentrification in Oakland

 Gentrification: The process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of upper middle class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.

Let me first say that I’m not against redevelopment. Oakland is one the most racially and culturally diverse cities in the Bay Area, so I am all for the city of Oakland taking more of an interest in the city’s infrastructure and putting the money and resources into the re-investment of the city as a whole, and not just the areas whose populations are predominantly White.

Urban Development: The purchasing of property in low income neighborhoods, also known as “urban neighborhoods”. Developers tend to look for old houses or industrial buildings, in other words, areas where there is cheap housing.

What I am concerned with are the so called “urban developers” who, along with the backing of key City Officials, who are gradually driving out working class residents and ushering in upper-income folks. Now, UC Berkeley researchers at the Project for Urban Development released a study recently that focused on several neighborhoods in Oakland that are in the process or “at risk” of gentrification. The Lower Bottoms in West Oakland, Old Oakland, Northgate/Koreatown, Lake Merritt, Temescal and Adam’s Point. That’s damn near most of Oakland! The only area left out is East Oakland… Which is quite interesting in and of itself…

The reality is Black and Brown folks inhabit many of these areas and these urban developers know that they’re trying to attract more upper middle class White folks to Oakland and not many people are willing to move into unfamiliar neighborhoods across racial, class and culture lines. This means a shift in the social and cultural characteristics of the neighborhoods must take place. And of course once it does and the word travels that a “new neighborhood” has been “discovered”, well, gentrification has now been established.

What I took away from the study and found disturbing is the fact that the researchers stated that “the crisis is not yet half over” and Oakland can expect “the displacement of lower-income households to accelerate in coming years.” WTH?? So where the hell are folks supposed to go?

Let’s think about this for a minute. We have communities of Black and Brown folks who have lived in their neighborhoods for years, who have raised their families there, who are invested in their communities. Yet… these same people must sit back and witness folks come in and “redevelop and beautify” their neighborhoods, raise their rents til it’s too high for them to afford to live there, and ultimately will be forced to move out.

But to where? And does anyone care? Because it doesn’t appear that the City does. And we know that the developers are not concerned as long as they see a decline in the number of Black and Brown folks, and low income families, and see an obvious increase in couples and young singles… Damn shame right? Sounds harsh? Damn right it does. And think about how harsh this is to the folks who this is happening to every day… Just saying…

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