Garfield Senior High School

Op-Ed: Gentrification in our own backyards

Gentrification is a word that I just recently learned, but its meaning is very familiar to me. Essentially, gentrification is the improvement of communities and living. Gentrification has been introduced to many big name cities to attract a middle class population and improve the community. Like everything, there are both beneficial and harmful effects that come along with it. Gentrification may not be everywhere, but, in due time, it does transform the preceding neighborhood.

The dictionary definition of gentrification is “the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.” In other words, gentrification invites old cities to take in new people, new companies, and new cultures. The process of gentrification, however, does not take lower classes into consideration. As a result, lower class communities across the nation have been destroyed by the effects of gentrification.

For example, Detroit, San Francisco, and East LA’s neighbor, Boyle Heights, have experienced or are experiencing gentrification. Detroit has a much more beautified downtown area, but has also seen an even more drastic economic decline in other parts of the city. Jobs are hard to find, services are scarce, homes are being closed, residents are being evicted, and the city is in a debt crisis. Gentrification favored the rich and the rest of the city was forgotten. San Francisco, on the other hand, is at its all time high for property values along with a growing population of the middle class and the fading away of lower classes, who once could afford to live in the Bay Area.

Finally, gentrification has affected a place I’ve seen and lived in — Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.

Los Angeles contains a mix of cultures, with Chinese food restaurants, Mexican food places, burger grills, Starbucks coffee, and Asian cuisines. Despite this diversity, Boyle Heights’ residents are mainly Latino or of Latino heritage.

The city might not be the nicest but it is on the verge of experiencing the effects of gentrification. If housing prices continue to rise, Latino residents will see their neighborhoods gentrified and their cultures erased from Boyle Heights.

With the arrival of the middle class population comes prospering businesses and jobs for the community. Gentrified cities could reach their heights economically. The streets can be safer. Middle-class people would want to live there. These generally richer people can also attract businesses and institutions that will all around improve the community.

Gentrification does not fix problems in communities. Making one neighborhood safer doesn’t eliminate dangers, it just moves them to the next neighborhood. Also, bringing in middle class culture into cities, erases culture and relocated residents who created the cultures. Lastly the words improvement and substitution are not the same.  

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