Rory Carroll of The Guardian reports on a burgeoning anti-gentrification movement in California, driven by record-high property prices and a severe housing shortage. Activists have used a range of tactics, from direct action to more traditional lobbying efforts, to drive out gentrifying businesses and halt evictions. One flashpoint of the struggle has been the heavily Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, where encroaching galleries and coffee shops have met stiff resistance from longtime residents and political activists. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
The median cost of a home in California is $500,000, twice the US national level. About a third of homeowners pay housing costs deemed unaffordable, according to a Harvard study. California also has the largest share of homeless residents who are unsheltered, at 66%, according to the department of housing and urban development.
The underlying cause is a housing shortage. Proliferating activist groups see gentrification as the front line, pitting them into an audacious attempt to redirect one of the world’s biggest economies – a $2.5tn engine of technology, real estate and tourism roaring at full throttle – to a different type of capitalism.
“The conditions are just getting worse so you’re seeing (the) emergence of new groups,” said Camilo Sol Zamora, housing, land and development campaign director for Causa Justa. “There needs to be a disruption. Not business as usual – diversity of tactics, being creative.”
The movement is a mosaic: policy wonks and lobbyists; venerable non-profits with offices and donors; embryonic, rag-tag groups with cardboard signs; political radicals who dream of overthrowing capitalism; vigilantes with spray paint and rocks.
Some factions coordinate and collaborate, others keep their distance and do their own thing – a loosely interconnected, decentralised movement whose intellectual heroes range from Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez and liberation theologians to Mao Zedong, Karl Marx and Antonio Gramsci.
Renters, artists, unions, LGBT communities and other groups are forming eclectic coalitions to try to swing public opinion behind ballot measures and legislative efforts to expand rent control and other protections.
Image: Protesters in Venice, California, have picketed the palm-fringed home of Snapchat. Via The Guardian.