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Gentrification – The evils of a safe neighborhood

June 25th, 2004 by eod · No Comments

Today’s Friday Soapbox topic is “Gentrification – Should I slit my wrists because I am committing such a horrible crime against man? or Eod do you realize you have become stank yuppie scum?” I currently live in the Gang Territory of the Woodlawn Park Bloods of NE Portland. In which MLK divides the rival territory of the Kirby Side Crips. This was one of my few choices of an area in which I could afford to buy a house within the city limits. When faced with the option of buying an affordable house in the suburbs and an affordable house in a lower income neighborhood within the city limits, I chose the city. Why? Besides the fact I don’t think I could live in a suburb people farm, I saw this first place as an investment opportunity.

Sounds like you want to commit gentrification Eod! I’ve lived in this area before, when we first moved down to Portland from Seattle. That was almost 6 years ago. A crew of 5 of us decided that we’d move to Portland because we could afford to go to college and live on our own, plus it was an adventure. We found a problem, the only place that would rent to 5, 19 year old kids with no jobs was located in the Ghetto. We checked it out, it was nothing compared to the lower income areas of Seattle, so we rented it. Only had to meet a few conditions, Rent had to be paid in cash, in person at the owner’s Mexican restaurant (which was rarely ever open). He’d lock the door when we got there and would count and validate each bill (using some sort of pen). Once he was happy he’d let us go. We never left the house and walked down the street to the corner store. Once you got out of the house, you went straight into car and got the hell out of there. We heard gunshots, next door was a drug house, we never let our parents visit. The house itself was barely livable. Once we where all employed we moved out and into the PenComplex where we later met Weis & Cyd. And the shenanigans of penismightier began. Fast forward to last year. That area is now the ultra hip Alberta Arts District of Portland, the corner store near our first scary place is an art gallery now with a coffee shop we find ourselves at some weekends. Houses that sold for $10k-30k when we moved down here now sell for upwards of $350k. The area has some great old houses that really shine with a little work put into them. It is one of those times where you look at your old neighborhood that was once run down and think “If only I would have bought in when it was cheap”. Indeed. That would be quite a return. Now I’ve been lead to believe these are the thoughts of an evil man. This is gentrification and I’ve been lead to believe it is an evil act. I’m not sure exactly how this falls onto my shoulders but it happens. I don’t really see any other way. It seems like the process of the city.

I want to live in the city. I can only afford so much. This limits where I can live.
So I buy into a house that is affordable, semi-safe, in a neighborhood that is in the early process of an upswing. We pinch our pennies, limit our creature comforts, dodge bullets and hope that baring some major disaster we will be able to sell this house years later or at least use the equity to improve our lifestyle. Or that the neighborhood will at least become less of a shooting gallery and more of neighborhood I’d feel safe to let my kid walk down the street. I’d like to believe that everyone is open to this opportunity. This is Sara and I committing gentrification. I’ve been ranted at that I am displacing low income families who cannot afford to rent anymore. That I am moving in and destroying a culture. I don’t want to destroy a culture but I have trouble seeing the culture in abandon buildings, empty lots and block-to-block crime. Maybe I’m looking at this situation with blinders on because I only want to see the good side of things. What I see now is a thriving community, with various shops, organizations, park improvements, public art. I can only speculate that the folks renting and becoming displaced by rising living costs had an opportunity to purchase when the houses were low. Maybe not. I can only speculate that the folks renting houses with Escalades with 22″ spinners, Jags and Cadillacs are aware of the rising housing costs and made a decision that they’d buy a $60k car instead of buying into a house. This is all an “on the porch speculation” of things I’ve seen in this neighborhood. So as the Cadillac, dropped on bags, Dayton gold spoked rims, booming system and a giant custom grill that says “Hustler” creeps up my block, I smile and wave as I water my lawn. That’s me, committing gentrification, waving from my front lawn as I fix up the house. Should I feel bad? Come get all soapy in the SoapBox and offer your view on this. BTW There is a film about the Gentrification of NE Portland (where I live). I have yet to see it but I’ve been meaning to. Has anyone else seen it?

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