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Thread: Thoughts on urban gentrification

  1. #1

    Thoughts on urban gentrification

    Lately I am really peeved with the out of control gentrification that is making the most of the desire of younger well-heeled yuppies to live in the central business
    districts. I first applauded the redevelopment of the warehouse district here in New Orleans but soon realized the classist nature of the area. I would personally love to live closer to the central city but as a broke grad student it's all but impossible.
    It seems to me the developers who are focusing on urban areas realize the money to be made off the yuppies and feel no need to make these areas more inclusive as to create the actual feel of a city in contrast to an exclusive playground for gallery-hopping yupps. I am aware that this situation is common throughout the country as it is becoming increasinly hip to live in the downtown. Any thoughts ?

  2. #2

    Thoughts on urban gentrification

    You have put your finger on a tough problem. Downtown revitalization is absolutely essential to the survival of cities, but it does tend to be elitist. On the one hand, you want to attract residents with money and political clout. On the other hand, you don't want to displace lower-income residents. (Actually, the gentrification of a warehouse district doesn't bother me much--if you have to bring in yuppies, better to put them into a former industrial area rather than an existing residential area.) The problem is trying to maintain a mix of housing types.

    I have been to New Orleans several times, and it seemed to me that low-income housing is available relatively close to the CBD. I am thinking of the areas north and east of the French Quarter, or across the river in Algiers. Are those sections no longer reasonable?

  3. #3

    Thoughts on urban gentrification

    "Gallery hopping yupps" I like that term! Mind if I use it? I have been using such colorful phrases as "brain-dead corporate suckasses" and "cesspool of yuppie scum" but I realize they may not be approrpriate in all situations.

    Yes, you've certainly hit the nail on the head when it comes to describing the segment of society that just loves to show its money: Yuppies. In New Orleans and towns such as Minneapolis, Minnesota, Woodstock, Vermont, Portland, Oregon and Taos, New Mexico, yupps are moving in in droves, driving up property values - and taxes - and driving your fixed income grandma right out of town.

    The situation you describe in New Orleans is classic yuppie: Rows of shops, or "botiques" - offering overpriced token merchendise - usually gaudy, pretentious artwork and crafts, mass-produced, or created by someone whose ego is exceded in size only by the size of his or her new SUV. Surrounded by these places are the usual trendy coffee shops, restaurants and "brewpubs" that charge $5 for an imported bottle of beer and might as well have a sign posted outside that states "Sorry, $80+ sunglass wearers welcome only please".

    Lately however, a new form of gentrification is taking place that you may or not be aware of: A new phenominon called "teardowns." Now, not only are the yuppies moving back into the city, but they are often tearing down houses as well. In their place, they are building pretencious, out-of-scale, monster houses that have absolutely no relationship to the neighborhood they are a part of.

    You see, yuppies are so high-maintenance, so intellectually bankrupt, that they are not satisfied by just moving back to the city. They want to bring their huge suburban house with them. Basically, they want it both ways: The big suburban house with the four car garage and the big lawn AND close proximity to the downtown and all its amenities. So they buy some lot in the "bungalow belt" or other historic neighborhood, tear down the existing house and put up some huge monstrosity.

    (In Hinsdale, Illiois, a "bedroom suburb" of Chicago, over 10% percent of the original housing stock has been torn-down this decade and replaced by these "McMansions". When one owner was asked why he tore down one of the town's old houses for a new monster house, he simply stated, "I didn't want to walk into a cold bathroom in the morning." These people are really, really sick!)

    These teardowns have a two-fold negative effect on the quality of life of the community. First of all, they destroy the integrity of the streetscape by having a mumbo-jumbo mix of these new "pop n' fresh" jive-plastic monster houses mixed in with the established, and rapidly disappering, older housing. Secondly, they drive up property taxes, forcing the remaining long-time residents - many of them elderly or working class - out into the hinterlands. Thus, little old grandma, who lived on Elm Street all her life, now lives in a trailer park five miles outside of town.

    Seemingly, the only way to stop this insanity is somehow get local or state legistation enacted that protects the long time residents of your community. Some ideas include:

    1. Enact rent controls. Set caps on how much a landlord can increase rental rates per year. That way, apartments for waiters, students and bohemians aren't outbid by some yuppie with a big checkbook and expensive tastes.

    2. Put protections in place that ensure property taxes won't skyrocket for established residents when a bunch of yuppies decide this is the next trendy place to be and descend on the place like an army of cockroaches.

    3. Offer incentives for existing shopkeepers - such as grocers, butchers, and neighborhood hardware store proprietors, to stay open so their stores are not closed and replaced by yet another "botique." That way, residents don't have to drive five miles out of down to 7-11 to buy a gallon of milk, a tube of toothpaste, or a loaf of bread.

    4. Set height and size restrictions on new housing - or better yet, create preservation covenants - to protect existing buildings and prevent someone from coming in and tearing the place down to build a larger house.

    5. Parking subsidies: Give on-street parking permits to established residents and studends to keep yuppies from taking up prime parking spaces when they do their totem shopping rituals. Impose heavy fines on violators. Nothing will cause a yuppie to gnash his or her teeth more if they can't find a place to park their 10 MPG SUV and have to walk more than fifty feet to the craft store.

    These are just some of the ideas to protect the established residents of your community and keep the yuppies in check. Hopefully, if I ever go to New Orleans, I'll be able to walk to the corner grocery and by a soda for 50 cents.

  4. #4

    Yuppies I Have Known

    On a happier note , you can walk a couple blocks from my place and find a 50 cent coke at the mom and pop store. i live in uptown new orleans, which holds a mix of college students, yupps, little old ladies. I like it a lot, but i have been considering moving to cheaper area of town where the student slumlords don't charge so much for a studio apartment (we need rent controls and better tenant protection here !) and where i don't have to put up with noise and fratboy antics.
    Oh well, it is still a beautiful, historic racially mixed area and I'm bike/walk distance from school for now.

    Well hey, thanks for the info and the wonderfully dark humor that helps after a long and yuppie-filled day in the life this academic masochist.... (=


  5. #5


    Okay, so yuppies can be really annoying to people of lower socio-economic status. You have made that point. But can you afford to do without them? I doubt it. No city can survive if it is composed entirely of students and poor people. Yuppies bring two absolutely essential things to community revitalization: 1. Money, and 2. Clout. The importance of Number 1 is so obvious that I won't bother to discuss it. Number 2 is related to the fact that yuppies know how to push the buttons at city hall--they can get the streets fixed, the trash picked up, more cops on the beat, etc., etc.. You need these people in town, not out in the suburbs where they don't give a damn what happens in the central city.

    This doesn't mean that you let the people with money run everybody else out of town--that's where good planning comes in. But you have to have them, and you will have to accomodate them to some extent. (Drinking coffee at a Starbucks won't kill you, you know.)

    And finally, bear in mind that yuppies are lawyers, doctors, architects, managers, and maybe even a few planners. In other words, they are people who help to make things work. And if you are presently a college student, you are probably going to be one someday. (I know you think that this will never happen to you, but call me in twenty years.)

  6. #6

    Thoughts on urban gentrification

    I read the Rusk report and was extremely impressed with his study. I was also impressed with the fact that it was an insert in the Times-Pic (much needed exposure for the issue). He did a great job zooming in on sprawl factors in the unique environment of southern Lousiana . The Northshore sprawl situation is insane. People seem to think that the Northshore is the land of great schools and a crime-free , racially homogenous utopia , separated from blight and crime by a large body of water.

    But as Rusk writes about the Jefferson parish experience, with sprawl today's winners are tomorrow's losers.

    Your point about the need for tax base is well taken. Definitely , we need incentives for more middle income developments to encourage a wider scope of people to make their home in the city. I could be off the mark with this but I'm concerned that urban developments like the W.D. are sort of a revolving door - once latte-sippers who live in the Warehouse District and Garden District inevitably decide to have kids , they'll simply join the masses fleeing to St. Tammany in search of safety, good schools, and pine-scented familial bliss.... what do you think?

  7. #7
    Anti-Northshore Planner

    Thoughts on urban gentrification

    We have to accept the fact that yuppies are fickle. When they decide to become to marry and have kids, they seek out what suburbia has to offer. I don't know if you heard Robert Freilich's lecture a couple of weeks ago at the state APA conference, but he basically called those yuppies "Cappuccino Cowboys." I missed most of the details but the gist was that these people move out to the 'burbs, build huge houses on monstrous lots in isolated gated communities and think that everything is okey dokey. They still work downtown, so they clog up the roads with their gas-guzzling SUVs and have the audacity to complain about things. I told the Mayor in no uncertain terms that I thought that the Causeway should be blown up and to hell with the people stuck on the Northshore. I've been over there and quite frankly I don't see the "amenities." But then again, I don't fit the average type that would flee there. Back to the downtown and central city living, empty-nesters are also making the move back to the city. It's easier for them to maintain an apartment or condo as opposed to the huge house on the monstrous lot that they once sought. See the cycle? Yuppies who abandon the city will eventually find themselves back where they started.

    By the way, are you a CUPA student?

  8. #8

    BLOW UP THE CAUSEWAY - that should be on Tshirts and bumper

    I will be a MURP student started next fall. I am going for the dual degree MURP/JD so right now I am suffering through my first year of law school at Loyola. I got my bachelors in poli sci at Tulane (98) so I have been here long enough to notice the Northshore become an orgy of McMansion development. I wish I had gone to the conference. I need to become more involved with the APA, but it's unfortunately really difficult to think too much about planning right now.

    Did you study planning at UNO? How long have you been working for N.O. planning dept.?

    Back to the Causeway . Aside from blowing it up , something has to be done. I'm expecting some suburbanite to erupt in deadly road rage one of these days when it's really packed. With several parishes involved, there has to be regional planning to deal with the situation....

  9. #9

    Thoughts on urban gentrification (South Florida Example)

    Yes, I unfortunately feel your pain. The once eclectic Cuban cigar district of South Tampa, Ybor City, has now become---yes, a 20 theatre Movieplex/supersized parking garage/Sak's 5th Ave/ultra lame yuppie booty club/psuedo "el centro" Ybor. Not to mention the $30000 per crack house offer that the city is making to the residents to move out of the area so that they can be supplanted by these same "eau my god" Rolex wearin' wanna-be avant-garde, "I once met Salvador Dali at a NYC art parlour and spilled cabernet all over my Versace" YUPPS....Nuff said.

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