Gentrification and D.C.’s Green-line Metro Stations

In a story produced by WAMU, American University’s radio station, it has been found that there is growth in both commercial and residential sectors around D.C’s green-line metro stations. WAMU is a public radio station that services the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area; making it a reliable source because of their proximity to the area and its relationship with American University which has resources for research. First, the article looks at two metro stations on D.C’s green-line; Navy Yard and Waterfront which have seen a burst in construction and population boom over the last 15 years. There two metro stops, which are close in proximity, have been met in recent years with the development of a $2 billion mixed-use center along the Southwest Waterfront (where the stations are located). From further research and personal knowledge , as of 2017 the new development has over 1,000 housing units, luxury retail, dining and grocery options, office space, and a concert hall.

The story then compares other stations along the green-line to show the differences in redevelopment in D.C. It notes that with the development of the stations mentioned above; Navy Yard and Waterfront,  black residents have been moved out and white residents in. Other stations along this metro line; Shaw, Petworth and U-Street have seen a “renewal with the people. This means these particular neighborhoods, which are historically black neighborhoods  are working to be improved, not completely gutted.

The article is important in understanding gentrification in D.C., because as mentioned before it showcases two different processes. One where residents are displaced completely and another where neighborhoods are improved or changed in harmony with their existing infrastructure and residents.

The article also adds historical context to the relationship between gentrification in the city and the city’s metro system. Metro construction, as detailed in the story has  “destroyed” and interrupted many neighborhood businesses, because of road blockages, ugly construction and loud noises. Now, the same access that metro provides because of construction also threatens to make the areas so desirable, especially to young professionals, that high rents eventually displace longtime residents. This context is important to know in relation to the topic of gentrification in D.C. because it shows how gentrification is not a new phenomena in the city.

Research #4: Is D.C. the same without Go-Go?

Keeping Go-Go Going in a Gentrifying D.C. is a documentary produced by The Atlantic that highlights the culture of D.C and the shift in that very culture while the city is undergoing gentrification. The video essentially argues that a sign or signal of gentrification is that go-go bands in the city have struggled to maintain prominence.

Backyard Band performing at the Howard Theater

I trust this documentary by the Atlantic because the publication has a reputation of going deep into overshadowed issues and is known for their culture commentary. Although the publication is not based in D.C., the video interviews and profiles those in D.C.’s go-go scene who are widely known and of the utmost important.

This piece of media is essential in analyzing the changing culture in D.C, that is a result of gentrification. The lead rapper of a D.C go-go group; Anwan “Big G” Glover, tells us that the new demographic of people coming to the city, attracted to more luxurious housing and commercialized neighborhoods, are not “go-go friendly.” It connects how culture shifts in the city while at the same time as the city’s socio-economic status changes.

The video tells us that the genre has been historically enjoyed by Black residents of the D.C., which was also known as Chocolate City for its high population of these Black residents. From the video I’ve gathered that many go-go artists in the area think there are less Black people enjoying and celebrating the genre. From my previous research, I am lead to believe this is happening as a result of gentrification. There are now less black businesses and residents have been displaced.

Big G also expresses that many clubs and venues will not book go-go artists because it will be harder for that establishment to receive an occupancy or liquor license. Overall, the video expresses go-go artists’ fears and hopes for the genre in the changing city. The video looks into one of the interesting phenomenons about communities and demographic shifts; it asks us how can people shun the culture they were seeking when they moved to an urban community?

Humanizing Gentrification

In NPR’s article ‘Old Confronts New In A Gentrifying D.C. Neighborhood’ older and longtime residents are interviewed about socio-economic changes within their neighborhood. I choose these series of interviews for my research because they were based less on statistics and tapped into the human experience of gentrification in Washington, D.C.

The article first focuses on Ernest Peterson, a current resident of the Shaw neighborhood in D.C.  The article paints him as a feeling like an outsider in his own neighborhood. Ernest expresses that newcomers in the neighborhood look and him like “Why you hear?” NPR  uses the experiences of Ernest and others to convey that residents who are affected by gentrification are trying to “negotiate a place for themselves in a neighborhood they’ve long called home.”

The article then talks to Carlos Pyatt, who moved away from the neighborhood in early 80s. We learn through the experience of his next-door neighbor how the prices of homes have jumped and that developers constantly call the neighbor to push her out of her home. The article states that “in 2017, the property’s tax assessment was more than $888,000,” a sharp contrast from $42,000 she paid to buy the house in the 80s. The decimation of Black businesses and black churches are discussed. One subject says his church, notable for its community of Black members is now viewed as a community church. The article also talks to black business owners and how they’ve seen other businesses dwindle.

Other socio-economic issues discussed is the debate on who benefits from gentrification. In a quote from the article “if you can’t spend $100 to eat, $5 or $7 for coffee, you can’t buy anything in your own neighborhood,” loosely describes who benefits from the phenomenon. I interpreted as older residents not being able to afford nicer restaurants and amenities but the neighborhood becoming nicer or more modernized.

I like this quasi-interview style because it mixes facts with human emotions. The subjects were not 100% objective but the interviews did focus on specific incidents that happened to real people. The context given is nuanced and lays out both the benefits and downfalls of gentrification. It was interesting to see how real people are feeling about and dealing with the topic of gentrification in Washington, D.C.

Research #2: Tactics of Gentrification; Evicting Low-Income Residents

An article by the Washington Post explores the effects of redevelopment on subsidized/low-income housing in a Washington, D.C. neighborhood. The article explores individual cases of eviction and lawsuits which tenants were involved in and how those situations have played out in the midst of gentrification. The Washington Post (WP) serves as a reputable source not only because they are a long-standing newspaper but because of their proximity to the issue. Based in Washington, D.C, the WP has utilized their location to interview tenants affected by gentrification and talk to researchers in the area who are well versed in the issue.  

The article essentially profiles the coming redevelopment and tenants of Brookland Manor, an apartment complex that houses over 1,000 majority low-income tenants in cheap units for larger families. The current complex will be replaced by parks, retail space and smaller, expensive apartments catered to wealthier families. One of the main subjects Brittany Gray in the article tells the Post “(her) apartment complex is being renovated…. and the landlord is taking legal action to evict me and other tenants so they do not have to relocate us.”

The article sites that the redevelopment of the complex started in fall of 2014, around the time Gray experienced increased lawsuits over underpaid rent. These specific finding in the article allude to some of the tactics used by landlords to push out residents of low-income housing  in order to cut costs of redevelopment. The WP’s article uses an infographic with data from the District of Columbia Courts and Zoning Commission to display the increased violations against the Manor’s low-income residents. Lawsuits filed for unpaid rent and lease violations increased after the redevelopment started which backs Gray’s claim on a basic level.

Eviction lawsuits against poor tenants ramped up
Eviction lawsuits against poor tenants ramped up

The research that backs the individual experiences of the tenants isn’t 100% parallel but it speaks to the larger process of gentrification and the loss of low income housing. Although not directly stated in the article instances like these lead to homelessness due to the fact that the tents cut costs but not relocating families during development but evicting them for petty offenses.

The article also mentions the sentiment of D.C housing attorneys who say “eviction lawsuits over small lease violations (are) one in an arsenal of quiet but aggressive pressure tactics landlords use to clear buildings before redevelopment.” Additionally, the article sites a tenant organizer, Philip Kennedy, with the Latino Economic Development Center who states from experience that it is  “cheaper to file a bogus lawsuit against someone than to get them into a new home.” These opinions are expressed from a professional standpoint and point out the correlation between gentrification and eviction of low-income residents.

Research #1: Learning About Gentrification

A view of fog over the New York skyline as seen from the One World Trade Center during sunrise in New York

The report entitled ‘DEALING WITH NEIGHBORHOOD CHANGE: A PRIMER ON GENTRIFICATION AND POLICY CHOICES’ which was published by The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy explains the “double edged sword” (as described in the report) that is gentrification. I have concluded this source is legitimate because it was put together by  a renowned research institute that operates on a globally. The Brookings Institution works with top policy makers and experts in development who have lived, worked and studied in their area of focus. Their research is peer reviewed and in turn used to implement local, national, and global policy.

 The report first gives solid context to the phenomenon by describing it as a “politically charged urban development process.” The report also describes the process of gentrification as having a mix of socio-economic benefits and downsides. Although the report offers solutions to gentrification it lays out statistical evidence to how the process negatively benefits those living in an area pre-gentrification.  

The report offers that “while the government and private sector cannot be expected to reimburse original residents and businesses for all financial and social costs they bear as a result of gentrification, we should try to ensure that these costs of community change do not fall inappropriately hard on those least able to bear them.” The report isn’t 100% percent objective but lays out evidence and examples that gentrification is not all good or bad and must be examined from the side of the real estate developers and residents.

The report also provides inserts that many of the effects of gentrification are not accurately tracked citing the city of San Francisco as an example.  The report states: “For example, the City and County of San Francisco do not collect business changeover, commercial vacancy and rent increase data at the neighborhood level.”

Ultimately this means that it is hard to accurately pinpoint what is gentrification and its definite effects. After reading this report I am interested in focusing on a specific city and what aspects of gentrification are good and which ones are bad in that particular city. I would like to draw from reports similar to this and point out ways in which gentrification could be done correctly in order to minimize the negative aspects laid out in the report. Additionally, looking into first-person sources/interviews that explain gentrification could be beneficial.