The alternative is low income housing co-ops, it's houseless people opening up foreclosed houses and moving in. It's disrupting foreclosure auctions (every Monday on the courthouse steps I think) and supporting the people who are staying in their homes and resisting foreclosure. It's land trusts which keep housing permanently affordable. And it's creating political space for people to choose what types of businesses the residents of a poor (or any, really) neighborhood want based on reasons other than the physical appearance or the effect on parking...
Seriously the way that people's anger is being forced into a discussion about bikelanes reminds of my neighborhood (N Mississippi). People on this street have traditionally been forced to turn their concerns about the gentrification/displacement effect of a proposed project into psuedo concerns about the appearance of brickwork in terms of the historic streetcar era design guidelines, loading dock locations, sidewalk widths, lack of adequate parking etc...
I think we should largely give up on trying to achieve change through official neighborhood groups, the policy overlay process or local electoral politics. I think that these pseudo democratic institutions are places for peoples' real concerns to go to die.
There is no substitute for building community power capable of directly creating whatever we think should happen. (I.e. stopping the developments we don't want and/or demanding low income housing developments, defending people in forclosed ho
Hey everyone, this is John from the article. I live at the Mississippi Co-op. Sorry I didn't wade in earlier, I was working a lot.
So the article is better than the last time I saw the Merc cover issues like this. In the past the gist was that people who oppose developments like these are ignorant NIMBYs (who don't care about the environment. Now we're portrayed as possibly having a point but that we'll lose because we can't afford to buy the land. (Which I think is a bad goal.)
So we've heard the 'argument' that Portland Collective Housing should just buy the land or shut up. First let's be clear that the people opposed to this development don't just live in my house although certainly some of the more active opponents (like me) do. Clearly no one we know has $700,000 (reasonable guess?) to buy a park. Even if PCH did have the money we wouldn't buy it because our goal is to take *existing* structures off the housing market. If we had it we could use that cash to leverage loans on several houses and turn them into dense, green, permanently affordable housing. Leaving aside the fact that no one (besides, possibly, the city) has the money to buy it this is a bad strategy. It's bad because it just preserves the status quo: land use decisions determined by money rather than by the people affected by them. Suggesting that low income people just *get a bunch of money* and then we'll be able to affect land use decisions is both ridiculous and insulting.
A big reason that this campaign is so exciting for me is that it really is a pure fight between public and private interests. It's certainly more difficult to oppose this proposed development given that we don't have a basis for a legal fight. At the same time it's forced us to make more connections in our neighborhood and raise the profile of these issues -- which is awesome. Confronting the sacred institution of private property is definitely a (fun) challenge. What keeps me going is the thought that the people who actually use the park and live in the community should be the ones to decide what happens to it -- not people like the Kurisu's and Chris Rogers whose only real relationship to the neighborhood is financial.
The other thing that I'm excited about is how the fight over what happens to this park has the potential to inform the much larger debate about land use in our city. Specifically we are using the example of what is planned for the park to attack the simplistic 'dense and green' mantra which has a stranglehold on land use politics in Portland. Just to get this out there: I think that we should be making things denser and greener. It's just that we need to know first that this is actually happening and second that the we are doing it without simultaneously displacing poor people and people of color.
I want to take a sec an unpack this density idea... So the basic idea is that building densely inside Portland will have the effect of preventing development on the outskirts of the Portland metro area. The problem is that the way this is being accomplished is by constructing buildings like the one that Chris Roger's wants to build on the park: very expensive albeit 'green'. This is a problem because it contributes to high prices throughout the neighborhood. For example the nearby 'green' development Tupelo Alley is gouging its residents to the tune of $1,375 a month for a 2 bedroom or $1,100 for a one bedroom! It's pretty clear that, with prices like these, low income people aren't welcome.
What I'm learning is that it's not even working on the level of density-- my neighborhood has lost significant population at the same time that several 'dense' developments were built here. (check out census tract 34.02 in 2000 vs. 2005-09) This seems important if we're being serious about making things more dense. My guess is that the loss of population can be accounted for by less dense uses of other buildings / houses because larger, low income households are being replaced by smaller more affluent ones. It turns out that poor people can do density better with out all the green washing, thanks.
So back to the issue at hand: our opponents have begun to fight dirty. Up until a few days ago this had taken the form of *someone* removing the "save the park" signs we've been putting up. Ironically they've all been removed from our property -- it seems the rights of private property only work some of the time... We've probably replaced the same sign 20 times. Mostly this is just annoying but I think it's worth mentioning.
Somewhat more ominous is the fact that someone complained about people living illegally in my house's basement. Of course aggressively enforcing city codes is a classic move that developers use to get rid of the people who stand in their way. Luckily this isn't going to work in our case because our basement room is legal.
@ Colin: So you understand how something can be about BOTH class and race at the same time, right? This is one of those times. Obviously low income whites have been displaced right along with low income blacks. It's just that, due to 400+ years of extreme racism black people are disproportionately more likely to be low income and even more likely to have very little wealth compared to whites. Because of that and because black people were corralled into this neighborhood (by redlining) they're disproportionately affected by the gentrification of this neighborhood. Not realizing that (and then doing something about it) is what is actually racist here. I think you're getting hung up on whether or not white people are being consciously and deliberately racist. I want to let you know that racism can be reproduced just because the racist context and racist power relationships that exist aren't identified and confronted.
These comparisons of what happened to actual bigotry are pretty offensive. Being a police officer is not the same as being black or anything else that you have no control over. People choose to be police officers and can choose not to be. Langley was quoted as saying that if the cop had come in not in uniform he wouldn't have batted an eye. You can't take your skin off. Moreover just as much as a police officer might remind *you* of that time you saw them help someone it will remind someone else of that time they we're harrassed or falsely arrested. Not to mention all the unjust laws that police selectively enforce -- mostly against people with less money and power -- just in the course of their job and regardless of whether they are nice or mean people. Let's also not forget all those cops wearing "I am Chris Humphreys" shirts. Wait wasn't Chris Humphreys one of the cops who beat that homeless guy James Chasse to death for urinating in public?
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