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Bay Area Authors, Activists and Listeners Weigh In on Gentrification

| November 18, 2013
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In October 2013, marchers protested gentrification  in San Francisco's Mission District. (Steve Rhodes / Flickr)

In October 2013, marchers protested gentrification in San Francisco’s Mission District. (Steve Rhodes / Flickr)

“Gentrification,” and its loaded meanings in debates over race, class and displacement, is getting tossed around a lot these days. Recently, Forum asked some authors and activists in the Bay Area to share their take on gentrification and what it means in the Bay Area.

Here are a few choice quotes from guests, as well as from listeners who shared their thoughts on how to complete this phrase: “Gentrification is _______.”



“San Francisco was the capital of the West, it’s been a city with a huge identity and cultural contribution for 160 years or so, and now it feels like it’s becoming a suburb of Silicon Valley.”

— Rebecca Solnit, author of “Hollow City: Gentrification and the Eviction of Urban Culture”



“If we don’t have a denser city, then it seems almost certain that the tech workers, the people who just made millions in that Twitter IPO, will buy up all available real estate and we’ll see an acceleration of the problem that we’re seeing now.”

— Farhad Manjoo, technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal



“We’re getting rising inequality in the city. There are well-known ways in economics to fix that. We could just raise taxes on people. … That’s a conversation to have. But it seems like a lot of times we’re not having these conversations because we get sort of stopped at the first step, which is ‘Do we want these people here?’ Not ‘What should we do about the fact that people are coming here?’”

Farhad Manjoo



“In many cases, gentrification, which I like to call ‘neo-colonialism’ is actually taking place in areas where people of color were forced to settle. West Oakland and East Oakland were the places that welcomed the black people in Oakland during the Northern Migrations that took place after emancipation and after the World War. … So we have areas where you were forced to purchase or where economics allowed you to live that are now being overwritten, and these people are going to places like Antioch, Pittsburg, Tracy, where there are no jobs. And the same basic problems that made West Oakland under-served and economically unviable exist in those places.”

— Ayodele Nzinga, artistic director for The Lower Bottom Playaz



“If a white person on my staff moves to Oakland, West Oakland, takes a unit up, are they gentry because they’re white, even if their income is only $35,000, $40,000 or $45,000? It used to be the gentry meant more affluent people, and it wasn’t a race-based analysis. When race gets into it, as it’s gotten in the Mission and West Oakland, it gets more complex.”

— Randy Shaw, director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic in San Francisco



“A lot of the city isn’t totally transformed by tech culture. I find it odd that activists that have had such great victories over the past 30 years now suddenly believe that in a three-year period all of those victories have been destroyed by tech, because I don’t think it’s true. I think our progressive values… have actually reshaped tech.”

— Randy Shaw



“There are incredibly diverse neighborhoods in Oakland that are still very affordable. We would love new buyers to come in and bring new energy. If that’s gentrification, bring it on!”

— A listener named Christina

You can listen to the complete Forum discussion by clicking here.

And here are what listeners had to say:

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Category: Economics, News, Oakland, Poverty Issues, Racial Issues, San Francisco, Tech

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About the Author ()

Amanda Stupi is the Engagement Producer for KQED’s daily public affairs program Forum. In that role she turns the information shared during the hour-long call-in show into web-friendly content. Her writing has been featured throughout KQED.org, including on KQED Arts and News Fix as well as on MLB.com, Hyphen Magazine and the San Francisco Examiner. Her radio work has aired on The California Report and Talk of the Nation. Stupi runs the @KQEDForum Twitter account and Forum Facebook account. Her personal Twitter account is @FiftyCentHotdog. She believes that Hostess products get a bad rap and that cereal can save the world. Reach Amanda Stupi at astupi@kqed.org.
  • AJACs

    Gentrification is when someone who makes more money than you moves into your neighborhood.