The Cost of Gentrification
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I put my old lawn mower out on the corner with a Free sign on it (it still worked but the air filter cover had completely broken off and the blades needed a good grinding and the bag was starting to fall apart so I figured $200 for a brand new one was the way to go).
Less than 20 minutes and it was gone.
This is one of the things I like about the neighborhood I live in. It's nice, but it's not too nice. You put an old lawnmower out on the sidewalk in the McMansion burbs and you'll get a note on your door saying that you're in violation of the housing covenant and you need to remove it from the curb or face a fine.
But it's also not so "not nice" that if I didn't put the Free sign on the lawnmower, no one would have taken it. I tried that a couple years ago with some old fence panels... (Tree fell, took out the fence, well most of it, so we built a new one -- what to do with the perfectly good sections of fence that didn't splinter under the crashing tree?)
When I dragged the panels out to the corner I figured someone would want them for the lumber if nothing else. And they sat for days leaned against the telephone pole on the corner. Finally, I tagged a big FREE sign on them. Again, 20 minutes later and the fence panels were gone.
It's like there were wood scavengers off in the shrubs just waiting for the magical sign to appear. Picture a character like Blackbeard crouched behind the azaleas and the white picket fence across the street with his spyglass saying, "At last, my pretty.... Men! Get the cart!"
This is the balance of gentrification. You gotta have a spectrum to have a community. I don't have time to fix my old lawnmower, but someone in the neighborhood could use it. If it was the 'burbs everyone would have a new lawnmower and I'd have to pay to haul it away.
Problem is that as folks who can afford to buy a new lawnmower and discard the old ones keep moving into the old neighborhoods. People want to be close-in and they want old trees and interesting architecture. But they aren't so sure about all the poor people (defining "poor" as anyone not like them).
North Portland is having a slow battle of gentrification -- when the fast food hamburger joint, Arctic Circle, went out of business a few years back, the property owner was going to put in a McDonald's. Fast food replaces fast food. No problem. Except the young white folks who were remodeling all the old houses (that the old black folks couldn't afford anymore) equate McDonald's with some kind of white trash, corporate dominated catastrophe and blocked it with signs like "We don't want your Mc Jobs!"
Meanwhile, the poorer people in the neighborhood were thinking, "I'm okay with a Mc Job... or really, any job..."
It's nice to see the development in Sellwood taking a mix of "new houses that look old" (although they come in at around 3,000 - 4,000 sq feet and don't leave much lawn space) and affordable apartments. Even as the neighborhood gentrifies it's keeping a range of housing, and therefore, a range of community.
Check back with me in five years after the new bridge is done and we'll see if it's still the same community. Because as my father once said, "You can move away from a place and miss because you're not there anymore or you can stick around and miss it, because it's not there anymore."
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