(photo from Curbed Los Angeles)
I attended the East of the River Community Forum on Sustainability last week. My group which was diverse (old residents, new residents, people who work in the community, people with interest in sustainability, Black people, White people, middle class, lower class, students, professionals, retirees, childless, parents, grandparents, pastors, community leaders, you name it) discussed the theme "Gentrification East of the River". I've been meaning to give a recap of my group's discussion, but the energy in our discussion was so intense I have been trying to figure out the best way to capture our discussion (with my additional analysis) to do it justice. I decided I have to break it up into several themes over the next several days. I definitely invite you to comment. Some of your comments may be addressed by a later theme.
The first thing my group tackled was the word "Gentrification". Personally, I think it is one of the most overused, misused, abused, over-utilized, misapplied, and philosolied (a lying philosophy... no it's not a real word, but it should be... hehe) word in the US, especially DC. I think "gentrification" should be banned in discussions, because I'm tired of hearing it (and yet ironically enough I have a series dedicated to it).
As a group we discussed the changes that have been happening an other parts of the City. We acknowledged that long-time residents have left and new people have moved it. We also agreed that communities, like life, are constantly changing. After much debate we decided there is two types of change: Organic and Inorganic. Here's our definition of each.
Organic Change - means change that happens in a community naturally. Some long-time residents leave an area because they want to leave. It could be for a job opportunity, need for change of scenery, wanting to downsize after the children leave the home, wanting more space for a growing family, desire to be closer to loved ones, and the list goes on. People move into a community for the same reasons some people move out, in addition to affordability and others. Organic change usually just happens. There is nothing specific that causes it.Are either of these types of change good or bad? Is one better than the other? And does it matter? As my group learned after our 5-hour pow-wow in a corner, trying to pontificate an answer to these questions distracts from more important problems.
Inorganic Change - inorganic means artificial. Artificial change is something that is intentional. There is a systematic and purposeful effort of some sort that is a catalyst and some times the force behind the change. For example, the redevelopment of Barry Farm from solely public housing to a mixed-income, mixed-use development is an example of an inorganic change. There is a specific plan that will intentionally change the landscape of that community. Some residents will return once the project is complete, however, there is a reality that some residents will be relocated to other parts of the District.
In the next post in this series I will address the theme of "Economic Development".
Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington