Outdoor World

Hipster-bashing in California: angry residents fight back against gentrification

In a country where house costs are twice the US average, artists and developers are feeling the ire of a developing motion to defend our homes and our culture

Half a century after the summer of love and hippie harmony, California is experiencing a summertime of loathing and hipster-bashing.

Not simply hipsters. Artists, techies, realtors, business owners, developers, everyone is seeming the rage of a burgeoning and in some cases radicalising anti-gentrification movement.

In the Los Angeles community of Boyle Heights, objectors are targeting a new coffeehouse with placards, chants and intimidation, tactics which deposed an opu and a gallery.

In Venice, on the other side of LA, occupants picket the palm-fringed home of Snapchat, branding it a coloniser for taking over local real estate.

In San Francisco, activists blast Airbnb and bicycle-sharing initiatives amid nostalgia for a yuppie eradication project. And in Oakland non-profits stand guard against Ubers plan to open a giant agency downtown.

Were in a war, mentioned Leonardo Vilchis, a president of Union de Vecinos, an L-Abased activist group. Its happening across the country. A war to defend our homes and our culture.

Such rhetoric is quite a change from the flower-power vibe of 1967 when hippies took over San Franciscos Golden Gate park and kick-started the counter-culture.

But the hippies, after all, only pitched tents. Todays perceived interlopers rent, buy and flip property. And thats a problem.

A housing crisis is building homes unaffordable for the poor and middle class, uprooting local communities and condemning families to sleep in vehicles, shelters and under tarpaulin.

Gentrification the process of affluent people moving into and transforming lower income neighbourhoods was a word once are restricted to urban development seminars. Now it has become a wail across California.

People are waking up to the fact that the dwelling system is benefiting the real estate industry while more and more people suffer, mentioned Malcolm Torrejn Chu, of the Right to the City Alliance. There is enormous anger and anxiety.

The median cost of a home in California is $500,000, twice the US national level. About a third of homeowners pay housing expenditures deemed unaffordable, according to a Harvard study. California also has the most significant share of homeless residents who are unsheltered, at 66%, according to the department of housing and urban development.

The underlying cause is a housing dearth. Proliferating activist groups watch gentrification as the front line, pitting them into an audacious is making an effort to redirect one of “the worlds” biggest economies a $2.5 tn locomotive of technology, real estate and tourism investments roaring at full throttle to a different type of capitalism.

The circumstances are just getting worse so youre watch( the) emergence of new groups, said Camilo Sol Zamora, dwelling, ground and growth campaign administrator for Causa Justa. There needs to be a interruption. Not business as usual diversity of tactics, being creative.

The movement is a mosaic: policy wonks and lobbyists; venerable non-profits with agencies and donors; embryonic, rag-tag groups with cardboard signs; political radicals who dream of subverting capitalism; vigilantes with spray paint and rocks.

Some cliques coordinate and collaborate, others keep their distance and do their own thing a loosely interconnected, decentralised motion whose intellectual heroes range from Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez and freeing theologians to Mao Zedong, Karl Marx and Antonio Gramsci.

Renters, artists, unions, LGBT communities and other groups are forming eclectic alliances to try to swing public opinion behind vote measures and legislative efforts to expand rent control and other protections.

Folks are looking for creative and new ways to respond, mentioned Bruce Mirken, of the Greenlining Institute, a research and advocacy group. Folks have found themselves needing to work together that havent necessarily before, he said, citing the No Uber Oakland campaign. A plenty of us are still figuring out how all that works. Coalitions are invariably complicated.

The Homes for All campaign was mobilising assemblies across the US, mentioned Torrejn Chu, of the Right to the City Alliance. Mass assemblies will gather in September to demand a halt to ousters and declare a renters government of emergency, he said. It will be the most significant event of its kind. We wont win unless we coordinate.

Even so, activists admit the struggle is struggling. When youre dealing with really intense market forces its difficult, mentioned Mirken. A plenty of folks are trying to figure out what the hell can we do that will make a difference. You do read things happening that do make a real difference but bending the overall curve in a big route is really tough.

For some the answer is to become more radical, even destructive.

There is suspicion that arson strikes at construction sites in San Franciscos east bay are linked to gentrification opposition. The most recent blaze induce still unknown burned so hot( 1,160 F) it was monitored by a National Weather Service satellite.

The targeted developers have vowed to rebuild on the ashes. Oakland council member Abel Guillen said fires would not help induce housing more affordable. It merely speeds up displacement of existing residents, he tweeted.

Vigilantes have struck outside California. In Philadelphia in May a 50 -strong group linked to an anarchist group called Summer of Rage vandalised luxury cars and homes, rent out security cameras and erected a flag mentioning Gentrification is death. Revolt is life. Two supposes were detained and charged.

The movements main laboratory for confrontational tactics is Boyle Heights, a gritty Latino neighbourhood on the periphery of LAs booming downtown.

It has hosted held intimidation campaign against perceived potential gentrifiers, including an opera company which tried to perform in a local park, a student-led walking tour and a string of galleries. Some had expoes interrupted, others were labelled with graffiti such as fuck white art. One has left.

Weird Wave Coffee, a hipster coffeehouse which opened earlier this month, is the latest target. Picketers, some with bandannas embracing their faces, seek a boycott. Someone has smashed the windows twice in the past week.

Direct action gets the goods, said Ruben Ruiz, of Serve the People-LA( STPLA ), a Maoist group. The window smashing? Its fantastic. I desire it. But he added: We didnt do it. We dont do anything illegal. He quoth European and Turkish squatter networks as inspirations.

STPLA formed a bloc, Defend Boyle Heights, with other militant groups, including Union de Vecinos, a long-established local group. Were in a conflict against neoliberals, fascists and coconuts, told Vilchis, a co-founder. The latter used to refer to Latinos deemed brown on the outside, white on the inside.

Leonardo
Leonardo Vilchis in Boyle Heights. Photo: Rory Carroll for the Guardian

Non-profits beholden to political and corporate concerns negotiated their own defeat and left neighbourhoods open to predation, a mistake Boyle Heights would not stimulate, said Vilchis, 55, who grew up amid guerrilla campaigns in Acapulco, Mexico.

The campaign against Weird Wave may backfire. When the Guardian visited it had run out of coffee in part because so many people had come in to show solidarity. Weve been insanely busy, said Jackson Defa, the co-owner.

Steven Almazan, outreach chair of the Boyle Heights neighborhood council, told most residents were ambivalent about gentrification, recognising advantages as well as problems.

It is unclear if confrontational tactics can slacken gentrification in Boyle Heights rents are rising fast – but outside groups are watching and discover, mentioned Elizabeth Blaney, a Union de Vecinos leader. I think it is replicable. Weve had groups from New York, Chicago and the bay region reach out to us.

Gay Shame, a San Francisco-based group, is a devotee. Many anti-displacement activists admit too soon, or dream too small, and we desire Defend Boyle Heights because they are saying get the fuck out and really thats the only answer we should have, a member mentioned via email.

But Kevin Keating, an anarchist who used threats and vandalism as part of the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project in the dotcom era, ran cold water on the prospect of the San Francisco Bay area importing Boyle Heights radicalism.

The LA campaign merged race and ethnicity into what should be a strictly class war, he mentioned. And Bay area activists lacked grit, he alleged, quoting the fizzling of Google bus complains in 2015. They folded like napkins. No staying power.

Others used to say overlooked decades of grinding work and shifting public opinion. The bus complains threw techs responsibility on the map, told Leslie Dreyer, an artist and activist leader. For the first time folks from around the world were calling and asking about it.

Activists were been successful at blocking some evictions, she told. Im hopeful that more tactics can bloom in the face of such dire periods. The little success continue me going.

end

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ us-news/ 2017/ jul/ 28/ california-anti-gentrification-hipster-yuppie

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