August 29, 2014

Boulder. Brooklyn. Gentrification isn’t the problem. Yuppieification is.


Update: a friend and colleague just posted this. A necessary education on Boulder’s startup community by Nicole Glaros, Rajat Bhargava and Jason Mendelson”

It’s worth a read. Here’s my response:

“Yeah. Macon’s referenced sound bite is overly simplistic (as sound bites are), but so then perhaps is some of this response.

Boulder is transitioning from being the affordable, liberal town of the past into an Aspenized yuppie-ized town that will have to wrestle with how it develops. And there’s a great deal of money in the tech community, and not a ton of the eco-activism that made Boulder great (Jason and Brad helped fund Xcel’s well-funded, failed effort against the under-funded, activist citizens of Boulder to municipalize). That said, it’s an exciting community and entrepreneurialism is a part of what Boulder is all about and should be proud of.

Villainizing any one community is silly, but responsibility can be shared and therefore action taken to insure that Boulder doesn’t lose allll of its weird and wonderfulness. It’s already lost most of it (and gained some new weird and wonderful, too) in just the past decade.

Just touched on this here, a few days ago: [link to the original article, below]

We can learn from Brooklyn and The Mission, and we’d better.”


Beware, the Sterilization of Community!

The Yuppieification of Brooklyn, Boulder…your favorite town could be next!

Boulder. Brooklyn. Gentrification isn’t the problem. Yuppieification is.

Crime and poverty are displaces by arts and culture, eco restaurants and diversity blossoms in new ways. But then, yuppieification.

My parent’s Buddhist teacher said, “Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news.” But when communities become rich and expensive—diversity, arts, young people, all but the richest families…and chaos…are all pushed out.

I’ve been a longtime defender of the first stage of gentrification. I’ve lived through it, in Mission Hill, in Boston. It went from a place riddled with drugs and violence and gangs, where a woman was not safe at night (I mean, not at allll safe) and no one was safe walking around with a new purchase back from the store to a place with community, a cafe (not the yuppie kind), and fun. It was still cheap, still diverse, a great place to live.

But there’s a second stage to gentrification, the kind Brooklyn’s going through now—where those who have lived there for generations are pushed out, as are the artists and young people who helped make it an exciting, fun, progressive place to live.

And I’m sad to see that happening in my hometown in Boulder, now. But not that sad, because I’m not sitting back. I’m not taking this lying down. I’m fighting it, with a sense of humor.

A few months ago, my friend Ashleigh—who’s like a now-version of my mom—a single mother, poor, arty, fun, sweet—lost her home. She’s been homeless, along with her three children and dog—bouncing from housesit to housesit and even living in the back of a (pretty cool) bus. We, you, me, donated a total thus far of $8500 to her to help her get a new home. In addition to an initial matching donation of $1,000, elephant has offered her a full-time job as an editor—funded by reader subscriptions.

So good work, elephants!

But, of course, Boulder faces a larger problem. Dogs are (understandably, perhaps) no longer welcome at our Farmers Market. Development is running roughshod over downtown Boulder—and most of it’s boring in design and un-green in execution. Development is going crazy east of Boulder, too, and Denver—in the full strength of a revival—could become yet another overprice yuppie haven if it doesn’t learn from the “Aspenization” of other once-vibrant towns (to Aspen’s credit, it has a lot of imaginative, eco architecture).

How do you and I fight yuppieification? That state of mind that pushes away suffering, the homeless, young people, the arts? We create a little benevolent chaos. To see what elephant does locally, join our local Facebook page, Elephant Boulder. And remember: if you want to follow a focus page, we have 60 Facebook pages for Family, Love, Buddhism, Meditation, Spirituality, the Arts, Adventure, Green, Social Good, Conscious Consumerism, Equal Rights…check ’em out. Otherwise all you might see from elephant is our big, often slightly silly hits—the kinds Facebook pushes to the top. Remember that 90% of elephant’s articles are quality, serious but fun, meaningful, and deserve to be seen, too. It’s just hard to get them to you through our main Facebook page.

Keep it real—

Yours in the Vision of an Enlightened Society,

Waylon Lewis

Gentrification of Brooklyn

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