In the historically black neighborhood of Leimert Park Plaza in Los Angeles, artist Micheal Rippens has been opening a monthly pop-up event in his backyard called the “Free Cafe.” While his intentions are to bring the local community together through this pop-up event, Rippens’ shop has been detracted by locals as blatant gentrification.
But first, what is gentrification? Gentrification is a term used when the arrival of wealthier people in a city or town—in response to an increase of wealth in the area—changes the area’s culture as a whole. It is usually used in a negative connotation, suggesting the displacement of poor communities by rich invaders.
As a Filipino-American inserting himself into a predominantly black neighborhood, Ripper’s business has subsequently uppercutted black businesses. With the insistent backlash from the block’s locals, Rippen, while continuing to provide free coffee, began using locally sourced coffee beans. As Rippen attempts to mitigate his influence on the neighborhood’s economy, the epidemic of gentrified communities rages on, displacing larger localities than Rippen’s pop-up coffee shop.
Yet, as local businesses in culturally black neighborhoods such as Leimert Park continue to face increasing pressure to relocate, the neighborhood also begins to lose its culture. In many instances, gentrification is a result of white investors inserting themselves into the cultural niche, resulting in a disconnect; as black culture continues to be seen as unsightly and unappealing, gentrification removes the neighborhood’s cultural aspects, replacing it with one conforming to white America’s standards. People who live in these communities have always expressed their fears of what could happen from gentrification. In response to the surge of gentrification, there are people who are in support and defend gentrification. These people seem to look through a different lens when they talk about this process.
When wealthy investors forcefully migrate into these areas, property value drastically increases, enticing more people to move to these places. On one hand, the local area benefits from increased consumerism by the influx of individuals wanting to move in; on the other hand, however, by pulling new individuals in, it pushes the previous inhabitants out.
However with small instances of gentrification, like the case with Ripper, gentrification can ultimately be a good thing. Ripper’s pathos for his pop-up shops is to bring the local community together, begging the question: can gentrification foster a new culture that is accepting of all individuals regardless of race? As society continues to grow and progress, it is equally important to transcend and build upon a culture that has been present in the community for decades.
However, there is a limit to the positives of gentrification. When wealthier investors create a hub which attracts many people, it can displace the local inhabitants, thus completely erasing the neighborhood’s historic culture. This is usually caused by the invaders either only wanting to go businesses or stores that reflect their own lifestyle and tastes. This can have a detrimental impact on these businesses, which would either leave to another area or become bankrupt because of the low customer intake.
Though a surface level observation may seem like there is no real solution to the problem, two actions can spur the economic benefits that gentrification creates, while also maintaining the community’s culture.
The first would be some regulations on landlords raising rent prices on their properties. It is understandable to assume that landlords will raise prices as more wealthy people come into these neighborhoods as the value of moving there increases, however that does not mean they need to raise the rent on the people who already live in their apartments and homes. Unless for legitimate reason, like raising plumbing or electrical costs, there should be some regulation. This would limit the amount of original people in the area from being forced out of their homes due to raising prices.
The second thing would be changing people’s mindsets on different cultures, from the original inhabitants to the wealthier incomers. If the new incomers tried to go and understand their more, go to some of the locally owned businesses and respected the town’s culture, then the original people will be more inclined to respect the people coming into their communities. As for the poorer inhabitants, it would be better if they had more of an open mind to the new culture coming into their own culture and try to combine both of the culture to start a new page in the history of their town.
Although it might be difficult for people to change legislation and people’s mindset, overtime people will have to come to an agreement at some point, and I truly believe these are the ways to do it. In the meantime however, people are just going to have to watch two groups of land, the natives versus the rich invaders.