Give Us Back The City

Almost two years have passed since I first began writing and documenting the surge in Portland’s creeping gentrification and what the monoculture means for the rest of us. I barely recognize the city anymore. In my last article on gentrification I talked about the gay street I used to hang out on when I first moved here and how different it is. I could write an essay on every neighborhood here with similar content.

Our mainstream media has finally caught up and started writing about gentrification and the current housing crisis. It’s not without drama however, the latest being a Willamette Weekly contributor writing an arrogant op-ed about his apartment complex the Burnside 26 which created a lot of controversy with it’s promo video showing a very White Upper Middle Class heterosexual couple enjoying a leisurely lifestyle. It made a lot of people angry.

Some bullet points about the current issues at hand include us having the lowest vacancy rate in the country (12%), a recent exposé that provided documents showing City Hall officials had hidden high-rise development projects from the public, news that Google will be opening an office downtown and a recent report that Portland is the most gentrified city of the city.

So where does that leave the rest of us?

I’m terrified of being priced out; the signs are already there. The cost of food and transportation continues to rise as rents inflate. Looking at the housing market, homes that cost 300,000 in 2007 are now double that.

The city has changed so much. Along with the prices, the culture has changed. The people have changed. I don’t feel welcome in a city that was a sanctuary for me in my younger years. I am afraid I won’t be able to stay here in the long term.

Gentrification is breaking my heart.
I don’t have answers, I don’t have a solution.
I only have my slow boiling rage.

I’ve engaged in a lot of dialogue recently about gentrification, especially about those who are contributing to it such as tech companies and white collar suburbanites who are flocking to cities like Seattle, San Francisco and Portland. I’m done being civil about it.

So I’m going to be frank.

This is a culture war. It’s a war for the soul of the city. Somewhere along the line Portland got popular and was put on the cultural map. What was weird is now gone and replaced by this monolith of White middle-class monoculture. So I say this to you, the gentrifiers: You are pushing us out! If you want to live in a family-friendly neighborhood, go live in the suburbs!
GO AWAY. Stay out of our communities! We didn’t build this for you.

As Seattle artist John Criscitello said: