If this is an urban area why did I see a raccoon crossing Rhode Island Avenue at 6:40 AM this morning? Rhode Island is a 4 lane road, not counting street parking lanes, with an island. It crossed despite the cars. I was hoping one would hit it.

The Next American City: Gentrification October 15th, City Museum

It turned out better than I figured it would and when I left (a few minutes early) everyone was well behaved

It pays to get reservations. The event was sold out and the auditorium was packed to the gills with people, such as myself, sitting in the aisles. The crowd that came to hear the panelists was mixed. A few familiar faces from other neighborhood summits and events were littered among the sitting and standing.

If I were a good reporter, which I’m not, I’d say who exactly was on the panel. I’ll have to edit this information in later.

Abido of Abido contruction was there, as well as a woman from LA Casa Maryland, two fellows representing Arlington and DC Housing authorities, and a rep from Columbia Heights.

I made no notes from the DC housing speaker. However he did talk about managing the investment and growth coming into the city. He did try to provide some perspective on the problems that DC had in the early days. Back in the bad old days before gentrification you could not get investors (commerical/residential) into areas of DC even with incentives. Later in the quesiton and answer period he illustrated it a bit better. During the Mayor Barry years there was a lot of vacant housing stock, but DC was near bankrupt (think Control Board), and absentee property owners weren’t paying their taxes. DC did not have the money to buy these or any other property in order to rehab them for low income housing. Even if the city wasn’t on the cusp of bankruptcy, banks weren’t interested in investing in those areas. So basically DC didn’t have the power to get ahead of the housing problem. When the markets began turning around, those absentee property owners began selling their shells, banks got interested in investing, and by the time people realized what was going on, it was too late to make a major impact. My own notes, governement moves slow, markets move fast.

Abido, said he first got into development because of historic preservation. He also said, and it explained why he might have been so willing to participate in the forum, that he only develops shells and other places where there is no occupant to displace. He also mentioned that when he started banks were not interested in backing his projects, they weren’t interested in the neighborhoods where he was going.

The La Casa speaker defined gentrification as the replacement of one neighborhood with another. Her thing was with helping immigrants, some who have been in this country for 20 years.

The Columbia Heights speaker provided some examples of people being displaced due to gentrification. One example was of 20 lawyers decending on an apartment building, which intimidated the tenants. Even though the tenants had a legal right to fight what was going on, some just gave up and moved out. Regardless of your income level, lawyers are scary. He touched upon the issue of culture and gentrification. Newcomers describe problems as “those people” when “those people” happen to be the people who lived there before.

The speaker from Arlington gave a regional point of view of things. He threw out a figure of 294,000 units will be needed but are not available.

Good times.