Dave Zahniser did a great job showing us the panoply of how gentrification is changing Los Angeles. But, he misses the root cause, and thatís understandable, because most discussions about gentrification focus on the effects we see in big cities—the loss of middle- and working-class housing stock, the fights over rent control and the municipal hand-wringing (while secretly gloating over the growing sales tax revenues). And, this is all well documented—remember the recent spate of newspaper articles about the loss of middle-class neighborhoods in cities across America (L.A. was the worst). We can call it the ďSan Franciscanization of Los Angeles!Ē
But the root cause lies in national social and economic policy and generational trends that began reversing a 150-year trend in the late 1970ís—the shrinking of the middle-class in the US and growing economic polarization of the country. There are plenty of reasons—globalization, disinvestment in the public school system, the transition to a high technology information economy from a more labor intensive manufacturing one, de-regulation, the growing irrelevancy of unions, changing tax codes (which basically lowered taxes on the rich from decades long historic levels), the culture of greed that our generation is responsible for (and should fess up to---why canít we be more like our parents, who understood the virtue of community and sacrifice?).
All this stuff, and more, is the cause. The loss of affordable housing and shopping in Los Angeles is a mere symptom, and I donít mean to belittle the impact of this dislocation on those it afflicts, but itís going to take a helluva lot more than a moratorium on condo conversions to effect sustainable, significant, substantive and long term solutions. The place to look is not City Hall, the people to blame are not developers. We should be looking about 2500 miles east and doing what it takes to bring new leadership to Washington. And perhaps we should be blaming ourselves—we have the government and the culture of greed that we created.
BTW, my personal gentrification story is this: I have lived in a Silverlake [sic] condo complex for 20 years. As you can imagine, there are lots of new owners that have come and gone and come again. A couple of years ago, as we got into my car, my companion looked around the garage at all the Beemers, Benzes and Land Rovers, and said to me, ďdo you realize that you have the oldest, cheapest car in this garage?Ē