Wednesday, August 09, 2006

D&G - a new and "improved" brand

Diaspora & Gentrification seem the latest trends in the name of Progress. Artpowerlines' post on gentrification in NJ seems to parallel the happenings in SF, right down to a church named St. Brigid's.
San Francisco in some respects is still recovering from the boom and bust devastation of the .com fantasy bubble. Our elected public officials (former mayor willie brown) pushed through a lot of new development (palm greasing and padded pockets) that translated most distinctly as a loss of much affordable housing and art spaces for thousands of the City's diverse population and arts community. Developers out to make a short-term buck on ugly, cheaply made, "luxury" live-work lofts, which, adding insult to injury on a loophole, also got out of paying property taxes that would normally go towards communities and unified school districts because the buildings were zoned "commercial". Meanwhile, many of the bigger high rise low-income housing projects were being demolished and replaced with 2-story buildings (under one of many PR premises that density causes crime), effectively pushing out hundreds of residents, who were mainly black, to who knows where, even with relocation help. There was/is a mass exodus by the low to middle class to the East Bay+ and suddenly, places like Modesto 2 hours away, became 4hr-a-day commute towns. Many arts organizations disappeared or are currently hanging by a fingernail, forced to merge with other organizations for lack of low-rent commercial leases and rising expenses. All this recent gentrified city planning, which revolves mainly around economics and drawing in outside money, seems very short-sighted in terms of San Francisco's legacy to the future.

San Francisco (and possibly the country at large) is fast losing its middle class and the disparity between rich and poor is becoming more and more pronounced. I met a woman over the weekend at a friend's who talked about wanting to "live off the grid" ....buy a farm somewhere, grow her own food, have her own solar power. Well, my question is, Progress in a civilized society is . . .farming like in the middle ages? Seems crazy to me that civilization has made all these advances in technology, health, etc. (not all evil) so that we have to leave it to be sane? What's next in Progress, death by hanging like the Savage from Brave New World?

All this supposed progress-making also relates to a sense of isolation for me, where people are looking out only for themselves without seeing how a broader community is affected. The iPod silhouette billboard down the street from my house (like an ominous calling card of things to come in this rapidly gentrifying hispanic/immigrant neighborhood) comes to mind. Groovy and savvy at first glance, but look at it at face value: it's a singular figure all one color, without depth (flat), against a void of space. It scares me to think that that might be the City of the Future: everyone tuned only into their own thoughts (ipod=soma), no diversity, no sense of community. There must be some middle ground.

Seems pockets of people around the city are organizing and doing things themselves that affect change, ranging from crime watch, to community gardens/parks, from afterschool education to preservation of neighborhood buildings and families. By and for the people. Makes me wonder, what exactly our local gov't is actually doing. Like New Orleans Mayor Nagin's recent comments hailing "democracy in action". It's this illusion of choice that just kills me. We choose our leaders, to look out for our best interests, to make us that much closer to cutting thru red tape, to facilitate. And here are these scattered, homeless people in building up their own neighborhoods from stratch, right down to the street signs, without the help of their local gov't. Apparently, officials are too busy working on the semantics of appearing sensitive to the needs of the poor. They play hookie from their duties citing power to the people. So is there really power outside of grassroots efforts?

2 Comments:

Blogger Art Powerlines said...

May I suggest:

D&G

Displacement and Gentrification

8:31 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

Yeah, I debated the displacement vs. diaspora, but decided on diaspora because the word is more commonly associated with governments/politics. I meant it in the sense of the politics of poverty, the undercurrents of racism. Just did a wikipedia search (not that it's a resolute definition but...)"The twentieth century continued to see massive ethnic refugee crises, due to war and the rise of nationalism, fascism, communism and racism, as well as from natural disasters and economic collapse."

10:04 PM  

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