Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Gentrification! Who, me?

[Personal insight into the PBS airing of COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION (Episode 2: The Price of Renewal)]

Largely immigrant community members – with the help of philanthropist Sol Price – achieved significant revitalization of the diverse San Diego inner city neighborhood of City Heights, despite all odds. —KVIE

I moved from my newly developed, middle-class, two story, white-stucco walled/terra cotta tile roofed neighborhood in Roseville, CA to my present 1950s developed, mostly lower-class, single story, multi-color sided/mineral shingle roofed neighborhood in Hagginwood, CA to practice gentrification. I saw an opportunity to get in on something "at the ground floor" and ride its probable profit train right to the top. I didn't know that what I was doing was call gentrification and, being a long-time practicing capitalist, wouldn't have really cared if I did know. I had a goal in mind and it didn't include anyone that wasn't of a like-mind.

Three things have happened since then:

1. I achieved my goal when, as of 2005, the estimated, market value of my property in the older, developing neighborhood escalated 250%. That's 16.7% per year—better than I've done in stocks in the last five years.

2. Realizing that my civic duty responsibilities were somewhat lacking and the time to volunteer and service my new hometown was over-due, I applied for and was appointed a seat on the Redevelopment Advisory Committee sponsored by the Sacramento City Council.

3. Shortly after, I happened to catch a PBS TV documentary called COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION (Episode 2: The Price of Renewal) that changed my mind on the idea, although innocent enough, of profiteering from the systematic displacement of the poor.

Answers.com states that "City Heights is a large neighborhood in the eastern part of San Diego known for its ethnic diversity. Within a few blocks one can find Hispanic, East African, African American, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian businesses along the main business streets, University Avenue, El Cajon Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue. Although the area is notorious for gang violence and drug vending there is a substantial amount of culture and excitement worth experiencing."

Wow! That sounds a lot like my new neighborhood.

Sol Price, businessperson, philanthropist and the founder of the Price Club injected money and aided the renaissance being experienced in the San Diego midcity neighborhood of City Heights, where he originally resided in the 1930s. With the assistance of African-American real estate developer, William Jones, Price (interviewed thoughout the PBS airing) started with the intention of helping the down-trodden people of City Heights, but now seems to question his efforts. Now... I'm questioning my own efforts and my original, capitalist plan to help raise area property values, drive the poor out and into your neighborhood, pad my pockets with the proceeds and move on.

On top of that, I'll soon be taking an oath to "serve to the best of my ability the City of Sacramento's Council." I've been studying the background information and project plans that I'll need to perform my new duties, and the job will be a challenging transformation for me.

Challenging or not, I'll be making some changes.

* California and the American Dream is a production of Beyond the Dream, LLC. CALIFORNIA AND THE AMERICAN DREAM is a co-production of Executive Producers Paul Espinosa, Lyn Goldfarb and Jed Riffe and the Independent Television Service (ITVS).

Reporting from the underground...

Stan Morris