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Monday, October 7, 2013

The West Oakland gentrification problem

The Chron today ran an entirely predictable story about gentrification in West Oakland. I say entirely predictable because West Oakland is the next front in what's happening to San Francisco: You drive up housing prices enough in one area and you're going to get spillover into adjoining areas. San Francisco may be a peninsula, but it's not an island.

Now, some of the people interviewed in the story pointed out that the new influx of people, many of them white and better off financially than the existing residents, is not all bad: The new arrivals are repairing crumbling buildings and bringing money into the neighborhood.

Which is fine, as far as it goes. The danger is, as always, to existing vulnerable communities.

That happens two ways: Higher housing prices may help longtime homeowners sell for a nice profit, perhaps enough for a decent retirement. But they make it impossible for the next generation of working-class people to say in the community.

And higher housing prices give landlords more incentive to evict tenants and rent or sell to someone who has a lot more money. The Ellis Act hasn't been a big issue in Oakland --yet. But at this rate, it will be soon.

Oakland has rent-control, but that along won't protect West Oakland. In fact, that part of the Bay Area is directly in the targets of the ABAG planners who want to see higher density -- without giving cities the tools to prevent displacement.

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