Oakland Local

This past weekend, I moved out of my place in Deep East Oakland.  I still work at 98th and International — in a middle-school after-school program — but my residence at 82nd and MacArthur drew to its natural close, the house where I’d lived during its renovation by a housing nonprofit I volunteer with now ready for sale.  I’m staying at a friend’s place by the lake for now; it’s on the old Parkway side, not the Grand Lake side, but even though it’s supposedly ungentrified territory — well, it’s worlds away from Deep East.

*

This morning, as I sat on my friend’s couch and penned a lengthy blog post about “Game of Thrones” and Margaret Thatcher, some workmen down the block began to play music.  It was loud, with thumping basslines and catchy Spanish rhythms, loud enough to be obnoxious to neighbors.  Nobody said anything for about an hour or so, and with the windows open I tapped my foot in time to the beat as I wrote.  Then a woman began shouting from her own window, at first somewhat politely: “Can you please turn that music down?  I’m trying to study for a test.”

It wasn’t apparent that the workmen had heard and her shouts quickly became angry.  “Turn that music off!  It is too fucking loud and I have a goddamn test!”

The music went off, moments later, and I could hear the discussion from the street through the window.  The woman and another neighbor spoke loudly and angrily, while the workmen were quiet and deferential, not native English speakers; the woman and her neighbor cursed at the workmen, repeatedly.  When the young man with whom they were speaking raised his own voice in anger — not shouting as the two neighbors were, but speaking up — the neighbors threatened to call the cops and walked away.  “This generation,” the male neighbor said, as they returned to their houses.  “They’re such brats.”

Two minutes later, the music returned.

Immediately, the shouting woman was back.  The workmen turned the music down and then off as she cursed; she had already called the cops, she said, and they were on their way.  She wanted the music to stay off, she said.  The workmen walked away without a word, the Spanish rhythms silenced but the air still crackling: this neighbor insisted, loudly, on a promise that the music wouldn’t reappear.  “I need you to promise me,” she shouted at their backs.  “Can you promise me?  Can you fucking look at me?”

They did not.  The music had been off for several minutes then.

She called the cops.

“There’s a situation here,” she said.  “Some young men are playing music very loudly and they refuse to turn it off.”  In the course of her entire conversation with the police she gave them the workmen’s license plate numbers to run, suggested that they were illegally using handicapped placards, and never once deigned to mention that the music had turned off and stayed off for some time now.  Eventually, the second neighbor joined her.  “I just got off the phone with the police,” she told him.

“Good,” he said.  “These people need to be reported.”

*

Privilege, thy name is white people.

*

I wrote a piece more than a year ago, about my move to Oakland.  It was published at Grist, an online environmental magazine, and it got quoted in Slate, and I felt Internet-famous for a day.  I talked about moving to Oakland in 2009 and discovering the opportunity here, on the less-hip side of the Bay, and I used a careless and unspecific phrase: Oakland, I said, was a “fixer-upper kind of town.”

There are things in Oakland that need repair and investment, both social and capital.  The streets in the flatlands could use some attention.  Even the feds agree that the police force needs an overhaul.  I’ve spent time laboring to improve some of the housing stock, not for home-flippers or wealthy new buyers but as part of a nonprofit that helps lower-income elderly and disabled people with home maintenance and upkeep; it exposed me to a lot of wonderful, old-school Oaklanders, and it made me regret my incautious words.  I grew up in Cleveland; I know what it is for a formerly wealthy industrial town to be hurting economically.  To call it a “fixer-upper,” though, implied that the solution could be found in the civic version of a new coat of paint, that new restaurants or farmers’ markets or food trucks could be an answer in themselves.

They are not.

All of those examples are based on food, because food is trendy right now, and food justice is a real thing.

From my house in Deep East it was half an hour by bus to the nearest real grocery store, each way.  I was only feeding myself; my groceries are easy enough to carry on public transit.  To feed a family in those circumstances must be a bitch, but then, grocery stores and wealth track each other fairly closely around here, just as public transit and wealth do.

Strange, given that decent food and available transportation are two of the most pressing needs of lower-income people, but then I guess that’s just what privilege is all about: when you can choose not to bother with the expense and hassle of a car and you can also live anywhere you want, why not go for density and deliciousness?  Yes, you could live somewhere farther out and afford a car, but this is so much nicer; this has so many amenities.

Your amenities, however, are other people’s lifelines.  And now that you’ve moved in, those people can’t afford the neighborhood anymore.  They’re pushed to less desirable places, without BART stations or late-night bus lines or stores that sell fresh produce, and while you just feel liberated without the burden of a car these people wish they could afford one.

It would be such a nice amenity.

*

I’ve been reading this series so far, and many of the comments.  It’s mostly interesting, and occasionally horrifying, which is a pretty good ratio for the Internet.  Some people seem to believe that you can talk about gentrification without talking about race, but these people are wrong: housing policy has always been a tool to maintain white supremacy, to create intergenerational wealth amongst white folks and to ensure the entrenchment of poverty amongst black folks.  Even the poorest white people in America have benefitted by not being black, in very tangible financial ways.

Gentrification is not entirely white, but it is almost entirely white.

It’s impossible to talk about Oakland without talking about crime, and law enforcement.  Oakland has a high violent crime rate.  Most of the perpetrators, and most of the victims, are young black men.  Noting this fact is not racist, but philosophizing that blackness is somehow determinate to Oakland’s criminality — while holding that whiteness is incidental to gentrification — well, that is very much racist, indeed.

It is possible to be white, move to Oakland, and not be a gentrifier, to contribute to the actual community instead of imagining — and using one’s privilege to engineer — something sanitized and whiter and “better”.

Forcing poor people of color to move to Richmond may improve Oakland’s “image”, it might move it up in rankings by Forbes or the New York Times, but it doesn’t actually solve any of the deep, fundamental problems of crime, of a racist police force, of poverty.

Fortunately, all you have to do to be a non-gentrifying white person is listen.

Not to me — I’m white, too, on food stamps more often than not but still privileged.

Stop listening to me and go out and listen to your neighbors.

Go to Deep East.  Don’t drive there — take the bus, the 1 or the 40 all the way down the avenues.  Don’t bring headphones.  Ask people what they think about Oakland.  You’ll find a lot of opinions.  Consider them.

Volunteer to fix up a house with Rebuilding Together, and get to know the homeowner.  Most of them are sweet old ladies with stories of Oakland stretching back decades.  They’ll tell you about how they bought their house in the fifties, or the sixties or the seventies, before Oakland’s manufacturing economy imploded and lower-skilled workers couldn’t find well-paying jobs anymore.

Go to an Oakland public school, an elementary school or a middle school or a high school.  Volunteer as a tutor.  If you speak a second language, volunteer to translate for parents.  Volunteer at an after-school program, to teach something from your career field.  Chaperone kids on a field trip to UC Berkeley, and tell them what it was like for you to go to college.  Talk to them about graduate school.

Use your privilege — your political voice — to pressure OPD into reform.  When a person of color pens an essay about how white people shouldn’t call the cops unless they want to alienate their neighbors of color, don’t write her off as juvenile or immature or ignorant: there’s a good chance she’s had more experience with the police than you have, and her sentiments, while not necessarily solution-oriented, come from an honest and informed place.  Try to understand that place, and use that information and understanding to help those persecuted by an authority whose racist violence is all too often implicitly sanctioned by white people.

And the next time a Hispanic person refuses to pinkie-swear that he’ll never bother you again, don’t call the cops on him.  In fact, the next time someone on your block is blaring music loudly, approach them and treat them like a person, rather than reaching for your white privilege before your common humanity.

*

You’re a decent person.  You’re not a racist.  I get it: none of us are, anymore.  In a community like Oakland, where white people tend towards the educated and liberal, racism and gentrification are just things that happen, things outside of ourselves, because even though we’re white people we’re not that kind of white person.

But what if we are?

 

Editor’s Note: This essay was written in response to a recent gentrification series. We welcome more thoughts from community members. Follow the entire series at http://oaklandlocal.com/?s=gentrification

32 thoughts on “A fixer-upper kind of town: comments on gentrification in Oakland (Community Voices)

  1. Well written. I love how you propose actions to change gentrification or the image of gentrifiers with volunteer work and listening skills. This piece brings the whole series of articles together.

  2. I agree with a lot of what you say. One thing you should consider, though, is there are simple economic realities for a lot of gentrifying homeowners.

    Like it or not, it costs a lot of money to buy a house in Oakland these days. So much, in fact, that the economics of the bargain compete with a homebuyer’s desire to join a pre-existing community.

    To most gentrifiers, crime and poverty lower the value of their family’s single biggest investment. So, the tendency is to try to eliminate them as fast as possible to protect and grow that investment.

    I think this is why you see the behavior you describe even from politically liberal people who move here. They want to solve the problems of poverty, but they want to do it on someone else’s dime. To me it makes perfect sense.

    This is also why I think economic development without gentrification is largely a utopian fantasy. You can’t expect people to invest their life savings in your town with no hope of that proving to be a good investment. Keeping home values low and fighting gentrification usually amounts to hurting that investment.

  3. Since I’ve moved to Oakland, I’ve never been so bashed just for being white. You can assume that I have privilige and chose not to have a car but the simple fact is that I’m not wealthy. I am however, polite and considerate. Expecting others to be the same is not just a symptom of being white or even wealthy.

    Racism in any form is never the answer.

  4. So, would you care to make any broad generalizations about other racial groups in your literary career? Yeah, didn’t think so. I’m so glad you found two people acting like jerks and used themn to describe whole swaths of the population. Oh liberal self righteous racism, your name is hypocrisy.

    Where exactly is the neighborhood of ‘Deep East Oakland’? I’ve lived all over oakland since the 70′s and have yet hear of this place till now. Maybe it’s a new term for aspiring writers who feel they need street cred to back up their wrong headed articles. Did it get created when they renamed E14th to International Blvd?

    I went to Oakland public schools, my child goes to Oakland public schools, most of the people I know who are ‘gentrifying’ the neighborhoods you speak of are Oakland natives with the same experience, unlike you. It’s so funny when an outsider comes to your town and starts telling you how your home town works, but they only have an outside view and apparently no personal historical knowledge.

    I rode the bus every day into “Deep East” in the 80′s and 90′s, stopped as soon as I had alternate transportation. Maybe it’s because I got robbed, maybe its because I saw more acts of violence than I can count, including a few knife fights, but hey, I had to get home. I guess I just have a privileged aversion to walking through pools of blood to get off the bus.

    Did you write a patronizing article when large parts of town went from being Mexican to Asian. Does it bother you that at one time traditionally Portuguese and Italian neighborhoods changed to being predominately African American? I bet not.

    I’ve actually done lots of work for Christmas in April, oh, sorry, it’s now called Rebuilding Together, I know, you just got here. I used many of the skills I learned helping others to fix up my ‘fixer upper’ house. Which in an act of wanton privilege I purchased during the first housing boom because after saving for 10 years it was the only thing I could afford on a traditional loan. My neighbor and I turned the previous owner our of side by side Victorians into a millionaire, (an elderly African American widow). I don’t remember her being angry about that, or feeling like she was pushed out. I don’t remember the neighbors being angry that our homes were no longer the local crack house. But apparently it upsets you.

    Unlike you I volunteered to help my neighbors, and my community, not so I could feel better about myself by helping ‘those people’. They are my people, and I am theirs, we are one, we are Oakland.

    You know what’s really missing from my neighborhood lately, gun shots. I don’t miss them one bit, I don’t miss huddling on the floor of my house cradling my toddler hoping the bullets flying just outside my door don’t find someone I love. Maybe one day you’ll decide to see the good in that.

    • Lived in Oakland since 1985.

      Deep East Oakland is what people that live in East Oakland call anything in the 70s and above.

      You not knowing that doesn’t mean the term hasn’t been used for at least 20 years.

    • Fair enough ian… It’s been more than 20 years since I lived anywhere past 50th, and about a decade since I’ve live on the east side at all, so I’m always ready to not know something. ;-)

    • well, that was nice… being ready to learn and all…
      heh, start just a wee bit earlier… or pose your views a bit more hypothetically…
      now what? what would your views be now, your insights…
      thanks

  5. Dumb dumb dumb. Nevermind the resident who saved for well over a decade to afford a house in the only neighborhood we could afford to buy in. Such a narrow/one-sided slant on a HUGE topic. Sad, just sad

  6. http://censusviewer.com/city/CA/Oakland

    Whites increased 10k in 2000-2010, non-Hispanic whites maybe half that, so around 20-25% of added non-Blacks, not the only ones pushing prices up. No separate figures on screaming entitled bitches.

    African-Americans decreased 32k, almost all in young age groups. The main driver here is that Oakland is not safe for black kids.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/6867999935/ has ethnic maps for 1990 and 2010. Change is mostly black to white in the first couple of blocks east of the lake, black to Asian after that to around 23rd Ave, black to Hispanic east of that. West and North Oakland mostly black to white, Hispanic, and Other.

  7. The problem I have with much of this thread is its focus on “property values.”

    How do we improve the living conditions of African Americans so they/we either don’t feel pushed out or feel the need to leave?

  8. Perhaps one ought to look at it the other way too. The downtrodden neighborhood and neighbors might just learn a thing or two from the perspective of a newcomer to the ‘hood. Perhaps they ought to be more respectful of the new neighbor and not play blaring music. just because it is custom to throw your mattress on the street after you have used it and get a new one doesn’t make it right.

    having more money in a neighborhood does improve the neighborhood and improves the chances for more opportunity in the neighborhood. Take the grocery store example – more affluent people move into a neighborhood, someone seizes upon seeing that shift to provide them with food options and opens a grocery store which employs neighborhood youth, who then have money to spend in the neighborhood.

    So get off your chip about (other)white people and affluence. Pioneers should be celebrated. Poverty and crime are not lifestyles to be celebrated. Those folks with nothing to do all day can grab a hammer and fix up their neighbors house if they are so inclined how come you want affluent working people to spend their precious little free time fixing someone else’s house?

    If you don’t think there’s any political voice for minorities you are wrong, wrong, wrong. 2 out of the last 3 mayors – minorities, The city council – minorities, Police chief minorities. You may ask why is ti when minorities make it they sell out or leave. When we have a minority president and minorities in every aspect of successful life the time to play the victim card is up and done.

    It is not that I disagree with everything you say but you have a chip on your shoulder like vanilla ice so it’s a bit hard to take you seriously.

  9. SF2OAK,
    The attitude of your post reflects some of the problems with gentrification. Do you think a white person moving into an African American neighborhood with that attitude helps or hurts the community? I say it adds another layer to the problems/tensions there.

    Do you really believe that anyone’s moving into the neighborhood with this attitude makes it more valuable to the African Americans living there? I would argue that the neighborhood is better off without them.

  10. The analysis in this piece is so shallow and absurd that it calls into question the entire credibility of “Oaklandlocal.com.” Even from a leftist standpoint it is embarrassing.

  11. I keep hearing these suggestions by people like the author of this piece to “volunteer” larges amounts of time to rebuild the neighborhood. That is just a ridiculous statement. I don’t hear the price of admission to any other city is that you volunteer 10 hours a week at the soup kitchen. Why is this philosophy still being parroted?

    If you want to volunteer, great. You are an upstanding person. But don’t demand that from other people. Those white people that the author is discussing are individuals who HAVE THEIR OWN LIVES. They work and have families. After those two things are taken care of you wish for them to sacrifice the little time they have? Lose the self entitlement.

    As for defending Ms. Reyes’ article. Not the best idea to lump yourself in with that crazy person’s ideologies. So what if Ms. Reyes has lived in Oakland longer than others? There are many people on this planet that have baseless philosophies they have lived with all their lives. Experience is not the defining characteristic in evaluating an opinion as being “correct”. The quality of that logic is what must be considered.

    And lastly, the author’s anecdotal story about the Mexican workers being called on by the police. I do feel bad for them, they were just doing a job and naturally wanted some music while doing that. It is extreme to call police after the individuals have stopped the nuisance. It wastes police resources and it escalates a situation that does not need to be. But I imagine that this sort of response does not happen often and using it to characterize the problem of gentrification is disingenuous.

  12. Umm…please help me understand. Why is it that anytime the topic of urban renewal comes up people start throwing terminological phases such as gentrifier and white invader into the vernacular with a negative slant. Whoever and whatever is the catalyst for change should be welcomed instead of chastised. Don’t we all want safer, cleaner, better educated and civic-minded community?

    Unfortunately, leaving a community static or allowing it to continue on a downward progression is deleterious to those currently living there as well as future generations. Drawing any and all investment is imperative to maintaining as we’ll as growing the community. Yes, redevelopment should be considerate of those on the fringes; and advancement should be done in the name of developing a shared community where the rich and poor should commingle/coexist; and Oakland should be able to praise itself as multicultural, ethnically diverse and socially mixed.

    However, if we continue blaming/viewing redevelopment with a negative connotation and considering white influx/investment with disdain, Oakland will continue on its path of becoming spatially divided into three distinct cities:the constant city of the rich the shrinking city of middle-income households, and the growing city of concentrated poverty.

    Foothill Square, Toler Heights, Iveywood and Las Palmas communities should be so lucky to have the amenities and attractions that Jack London, uptown, downtown, temescal and parts of north and west oakland have gained in recent years. As the mayor of Detroit recently proclaimed – “bring on gentification -please!”

  13. JDR,
    You asked for someone to help you understand. I can give you one perspective.

    I know many African American Ivy-League-educated or HBCU-educated professionals who love Oakland because of its African American history and culture.

    When Black Oakland is stereotyped, we get marginalized.

    Then, it is assumed that simply bringing in white people the community is “uplifted.” We are “rescued.” As you’ve seen by some of the comments on this topic, many “gentrifiers” don’t even see African Americans as individuals. One of the commenters had such negative stereotypes of his new neighbors, I wondered why he even moved here. Yet, he assumed he was superior to them. It seemed that his neighbors did not see him as superior and so he further degraded them. You don’t think that would cause animosity?

    We do not believe that the problems with Oakland’s African American communities are solved simply because white people move in. I want to say “Don’t assume you’re doing us a favor by moving in; you’re moving here because it’s cheap rent.” That does us no favor. In fact, I might have more money and be better educated than you. I just like being around African Americans.

    The bottomline is that much of the discussion on gentrification is that black is bad and white is good. Many African Americans don’t agree with that. Many of us are speaking out against that and it seems to surprise many “gentrifiers.”

    • Black neighborhoods rarely if ever can pull themselves out of the dump… for one, there is crime and that is really exacerbated by the drug laws (The New Jim Crow), the neglect that the government gives them, the general violence and lack of family that attends poverty…

      A couple of generations of broken families, heck, even one generation, is a crippling blow.

      The addition of white to a neighborhood is indeed a good thing: it’s money at least. And current “gentrification” must NOT be black removal, speculative development or displacement of long term residents… Albuquerque urban renewal made quite clear that improvements would be made in place and that current residents and shops would also stay in place, and that would be measured….

      The neighborhood must remain strongly mixed/majority black if that’s where it started.

      We are making good progress in Kingston NY moving towards integrated communities that will rival Washington DC and Arlington Va and NYC… those are the best I”ve seen in my experience. The wonderful middle class black neighborhoods of Chicago and Detroit are gone.

  14. KL-

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. In regards to you comment on “the bottomline is that much of the discussion on gentrification is that black is bad and white is good. Many African Americans don’t agree with that. Many of us are speaking out against that and it seems to surprise many “gentrifiers”.” Gentification as just a binary between black vs white is a little too simplistic. Whites are not the only gentifiers in the community. The issue should be reframed and moved beyond race to that of economy. The issue is more complex and has more to do with people being opportunistic than racial. Hipsters, yipsters, yupsters, whatever identifier one chooses to use are of all races/ethnic backgrounds. Are you saying that the educated and professional people of color that are electing to stay in the community any less opportunist when they take advantage of the affordability? When Blacks populated deep east oakland that was once heavily populated by whites, didnt they too take advantage of the repressed pricing? Those that now elect to move out too antioch, stockton, etc arent they taking advantage of the affordability? i never espoused that whites were doing blacks a favor by moving into the community. A perspective in that context is just as naive as saying that blacks moving into white areas are doing them a diservice. Bottom line is that we need to reframe the argument and find a way to have what I described as shared communities, where everyone can benefit. However, as with any situation there are negative consequences. Leaving an area economically depressed is of no advantage to anyone, especially those that elect to live in the area regardless of race, educational level or finances. The reality is that (unfortunately) money follows certain populations. We can pull the veil off or continue to live in a bubble. Would you like to sit on your higher level of education and purported wealth and continue to watch the community erode?Or would you rather open up the door, draw some attention and money to the community and watch it heal and reap some of the benefits?

  15. Gerald,

    I agree with some of what you wrote, but I have a couple of questions:
    You wrote:

    “The addition of white to a neighborhood is indeed a good thing: it’s money at least.”

    Is it always a good thing? Do they always have money? I knew a young white man who moved into an older Black apartment building. He bragged how he blasted his rock music all night long. Did the older Black residents benefit from his being there?

    Isn’t it the notion that whites in a neighborhood “improves” a neighborhood, yet too many African Americans suggest “blight”?

    JDR,

    You wrote:

    “Gentification as just a binary between black vs white is a little too simplistic.”

    I disagree. I say it’s focused. We haven’t even had that conversation specifically for Oakland yet.

    • You are right… white is not the salient aspect… some prosperity and good nature and good will was the real need. A community needs a little money, it’s like energy and fuel… it needs enough to be a stable place to live and work and love and be safe… stability and the relationships that form are essential. A library, a park, some shops, a bus…

      In too many “neighborhoods” we are not neighbors at all… we don’t talk, we don’t greet, we don’t exchange simple courtesies… instead we grumble, fume and occasionally holler. That’s really nuts.

  16. By the way,
    The issue is not just about economics. It’s about community. Maybe outsiders just see an “economically depressed” area, but those living there might feel community.

    Also, they might want your money, but still want their community.

  17. The issues are about community and not economics? So all the murders, burglaries ,sexually assaults, etc specifcally in and around Foothill Square, Toler heights, Las palmas, iveywood (yes, im specfically addressing Oakland) are about community preservation and/or community love and pride? The reality is that MORE gentrification raises tax revenues that fund services that allow for communities to exist. A community that remains static dies of entropy. Yes there are a lot of negative implications surrounding the issue of gentification, which the community and government should collaboratively address – such as issues of affordable housing, education of longtime residents on predatory lending and below-market price sales scams, displacement, exclusion, along with a host of other issues. However, to be equitable, one also needs to consider the positive implications such as economic growth, new and rehabilitated buildings and parks, beautification of the area, new retail and business services, tax increases that fund schools, public infrastructure upgrades to water and sewer systems, etc; not to mention formerly homogenous neighborhoods getting an influx of diversity and reductions in crime.

    I guess you insiders (real community) must have seen us outsiders (gentrifiers ) coming for a longtime- as a preemptive measue I’ll assume people put bars on their doors and windows, built fences, installed alarms, obtained guard dogs, and armed themselves to keep us gentifers out?

    • JDR,
      You see blight, you don’t see the people in the community. How much real time have you spent with some of the long-time residents (not just other gentrifiers)? Now that some of the long-time residents are making gentrifiers like you see them/us, you’re upset.

      And keep in mind that a lot of long-time residents might have more money than you. They (we) just prefer living in their (our) community.

      So who is defining this “economic growth” and “static community”? You or us?

      And if all you see is the blight, why did you move here?

      By the way, I agree that your coming to the community might add some new energy. A new face to an established situtation is usually exciting.

    • Most interesting discussion… lots of pretty well stated views and nobody going the least bit postal…

      I’m keeping a link to this discussion: it nicely explores the views on gentrification and it demonstrated some nice ways to get the necessary buy in from all the parties…

      Imagine how damaging when someone who has lived in a neighborhood for decades isn’t on one of those boats that the rising tide lifts…

      Down in the Rondout in Kingston, a neighbor was there for 45 years, nearly on Prospect Street and old lady takes some shade on her front porch, the lady up the street from me on Maiden Lane has been in her glorious white house for over 70 years…

      KIngston Midtown is slated for “quality of life” with improved personally engaged neighborhood policing, art establishments, and a whole new comprehensive plan to celebrate the community and the diversity of the city.

      Yes, this discussion will be an excellent reference. Thanks to all

      KIngdston, NY 12401

  18. KL-

    I’m not upset about anything. Each of us can view the same exact situation and have different interpretations. In order to facilate a shared community, stakeholders need to be able to voice their own respective viewpoints. I appreciate your thoughts on the subject matter. As for how much time I have spent with other gentifiers? None. When I arrived in my neighborhood I engaged my neighbors- I actually know each persons name on my immediate block. I have watched their houses when they are gone, done errands for those without transportation, done unsolicited yard work amongst other things. Although I hold a graduate degree, have a profession career, and am financial secure, I have never shared this information with my neighbors. This information adds nothing to our day to day interactions. I do see people in the community, because I actually go out into it and see the neglect. The area has so much potential- centerally located, near public transportation, access to bikeways, east bay parks, a sports complex, airport, etc.. My problem is with those that don’t want change, do not want to explore ways to make this community better (not a single community but a collective community). Other areas of oakland have grown, economically whereas this community has been left behind and change and growth are needed. I’d be excited to see anyone’s face that brings positivity versus degradation. Do you want me or a parole as your neighbor? That being said- I appreciate your thoughts and appreciate you being a part of my community. Cheers.

    • This comment suggest that you have a community. It suggests that there are responsible people in your neighborhood. It contradicts your earlier statement:
      “The issues are about community and not economics? So all the murders, burglaries ,sexually assaults, etc specifcally in and around Foothill Square, Toler heights, Las palmas, iveywood (yes, im specfically addressing Oakland) are about community preservation and/or community love and pride?”

      Now, you wrote that other areas of Oakland have “grown.” How so? For whom? Oakland had a lively Black gay community in the 90s. Has it “grown”?

      Oakland’s African American population has dropped significantly over the years. Has that community “grown”?

  19. I suppose the comments in response to this essay would have to become racial; the essay itself was race-based.

    Have noticed, though, that Caucasians are being throttled here for the buying-up craze in Oakland. I’m from San Francisco, native, and lived there until I couldn’t afford it any more. The neighborhood I was born in, in 1950s, went from Irish, to Italian, to Mexican, to now, Chinese. The schools I went to, James Denman and Balboa, were, back in the day, predominantly black, not white. (I’m white.)

    The neighborhood (in SF) my kids grew up in went from Irish, to Russian, to Chinese. I’m talking ownership now. But in that particular neighborhood, the residents are also predominantly Chinese.

    My point: neighborhoods change. Kin likes to stay with kin. Always have, likely always will, eh?

    The buying-up factor in Oakland: I worked as a census-taker in 2010 (couldn’t find anyone who’d hire my 60 year old self … but the fed would take a chance on me for 6 weeks) and noticed this: in the area off Merritt Lake, on what you call, I think, the west side of it… Adams Point? There is a preponderance of white and black *tenants.* Renters. However, the *owners* are predominantly Chinese.

    But they do not live here. They own the property but do not live in the property. That in itself strays from the historical pattern. I don’t know that that qualifies as what you all call “gentrification” however. Perhaps I haven’t been here long enough to see the “white” flight, but if it’s in existence they’re flying into somewhere in the city I haven’t been yet.

    To me, “white” flight has always implied leaving the city for the suburbs. And buying houses?

    And to the author of the essay: how special of you, to grace us ignorant “white” people with your wisdom. Have you had your mayo Wonder bread sangwich today? Hon, there’s white … and then there’s “white.”

  20. Pingback: A fixer-upper kind of town: comments on gentrification in Oakland | Lowering The Tone

  21. I am horrified at the previous article by Ms. Reyes, I’m not sure what neighborhood she is being priced out of, or if she is an Oakaland native. But her advice not to call the police is HORRIBLE. I have lived in East Oakalnd most of my life and have raised my two kids here. My 14 year-old daughter walks up to Macarthur Blvd. take city bus downtown school everyday, so if somebody beats her and rapes her, don’t call the police Ms. Reyes? when we hear gun shots next door, don’t call the police Ms. Reyes? when a man is beating his wife and you hear her screams, don’t call the police Ms. Reyes? When a child is hit by a speeding car, don’t call the police Ms. Reyes? WTF Ms. Reyes, perhaps you are being pushed out of Montclair or Temescal ’cause down here in the ‘hood….. we call the damn police! Not that they come, but thats another story

    Ms. Reyes just because you have a Spanish surname does not give you the right to tell people how to manager their safety or make you some how wiser than the rest of us. My last name is Perez and I say call the police and keep us all safe.

  22. sorry but what a bunch of baloney. first of all , before i critic your writing i like to thank you for moving to Oakland and trying to make this city a better place. Oakland is truly a wonderful city that has been blessed by amazing geography , diversity and job opportunity . I moved to Oakland 18 years ago (from a 3rd world country at the age of 13) , i have sense worked hard, got a college degree, got a job, got a nice car and got a nice little condo by Lake Merritt . I AM NOT WHITE . there are opportunities in Bay Area for any person from any race . as long as you are willing to work hard and play by the rules , you will make it. sure, if you are white its easier , but non the less you CAN MAKE IT. many people here may hate me for saying this but some of the most racist, unwelcoming and ignorant people who i have come across here in Oakland have been (unfortunately) African American. I come from a country that we have every shade of people (from white to dark black) so i don’t really care what color skin you are, as long as you are nice and respectful , I am nice and respectful.
    Oakland is a nice city and a great place to live, many people are discovering that and like to live here. they are willing to work hard and they like to make their neighborhoods nice, safe and livable. if people want to call that gentrification , so be it. i actually find some “Gentrified” neighborhoods in Oakland (like lake Merritt) much more diverse (if you want to define diversity as having different people from different ethnicity) than most of the neighborhoods in deep east Oakland. I think to solve the problems in Oakland we have to ask ourselves these questions: do people want to help themselves or not? do they want to work hard? do they want to take responsibility for their lives? do they want to bother to organize to push a political agenda? (like reform the police or city hall) do they want to end the circle of violence and poverty ? if people can’t say yes to these questions, they will be pushed out to Richmond and Stockton because the force of the market and social pressure will eventually pushes them out. …Truth Hurst

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