Gentrification: One Way it Happens

A neighborhood butcher shop, Avedano’s, in an old and beautiful neighborhood in San Francisco, Bernal Heights, has made news, mostly because its owner, Angela Wilson, gave such a clear and empathetic description of how neighborhoods change.  Her story is happening in countless neighborhoods throughout the nation.  Her story is one variable in the dreaded word “gentrification” that is often left out when politicians, activists, homeowners, and renters talk about fear of being priced out.

According to Wilson, the fact that she has a new landlord with plans for massive construction and renovation isn’t the real problem, though that project would effectively end their access to a kitchen for the foreseeable future. “It has more to do with the demographics of the city and the fact that people buy things online and want to use stores to supplement what they buy online,” says Wilson. “We’ve created two market places for the same amount of people.”

“The neighborhood wants to blame somebody else rather than themselves and they want to blame the bad landlord,” said Wilson. “My old landlord had the building since 1955, so my rent did increase but it’s not the new landlord’s fault. The community doesn’t shop here, they love to have it and it makes their houses worth a lot of money but they’re going down to Safeway.” 

Without a New Plan, Bernal Butcher Shop Avedano’s Will Close in June, Eater, MSNBC, May 10, 2019.

Avedanos Shop 2

In a previous article Just Vote No talked about California Senate Bill 50, which would greatly facilitate the replacement of older buildings with new much more expensive ones.  A reader raised the question, how would a new building take the place of an old one to begin with?

Changes in demographics, lifestyles, and consumer preferences is one way.  When in older times families would shop at the neighborhood butcher shop, now they shop at Costco for several days’ or weeks’ worth of supplies, order whole dinners on line, or stop by their favorite take-out shop on their way from work. So, the butcher shop has difficulty staying open.

Add to that scenario, aging landlords who decide to sell their buildings and retire.  Most likely their buildings will be purchased by deep pocketed developers, who, incentivized by legislation such as Senate Bill 50, might want to tear down old buildings and replace them with denser, more expensive ones that yield higher profits. Rents double and renters already struggling leave unable to afford the new rent.

Just Vote No hopes Angela Wilson’s shop will survive in some manner.