Saturday, April 21, 2018

Growing pains

This is what a housing crisis looks like to people who no longer have to worry about housing.
“I’m very aware of the growing pains of Bywater,” Ramsey said. “[But] Bywater historically is a mixed-use neighborhood. ... It hasn’t ever been a quiet sleepy suburb.”

Though she said she’s “not completely enamored with idea of a hotel there” and can “certainly understand some of the complaints,” Ramsey said the provisos would better fit the project into the Master Plan and address residents’ concerns. But the more than 40 people at the meeting who opposed the project grew frustrated with Ramsey’s description of opponents — Ramsey challenged that residents concerned about gentrification and displacement have only “recently moved in themselves” and called residents’ advocacy against the project “disinformation campaigns by people with ulterior motives.”
Nadine has spent a career in politics taking money from developers and real estate vampires but wants to tell us something about "ulterior motives." Anyway, there are several disinformation misdirects going on here. All of it comes from Nadine.

Nadine purposefully ignores the role of class in the way she defines gentrification.  She complains about the supposed hypocrisy of "recent arrivals" while completely missing the point. Recent arrivals don't forcibly displace people. Money does that.  Pointing out that there are recent arrivals on both sides of the Sun Yard fight tells us nothing.  Looking at who those recent arrivals are tells us everything.  The hotel developers are in the real estate business, except in a carefully branded small business, organic, family, whatever.. way.
Solms, 36, and Pignataro, 38, co-own a small family business focused on historic preservation, including renovating several apartment buildings in Philadelphia.

She envisions the local property as "just a small boutique hotel" — a nice place to stay, swim and relax, "nothing exclusionary, high-end, just very friendly and fun."

Solms also has spent more than a decade operating an organic agriculture business in Jamaica. Pignataro has a background in real estate.
There are recent arrivals among the opponents as well. But one of these situations is not like the other. Can you spot the difference?
My partner and I are former tenants of 3030 St. Claude and were displaced from our home to make way for this development.

We are low-income working people. Our home on St. Claude was affordable and convenient, in a wonderful community with great neighbors. When the developers refused to renew our lease, Morgan noted that this was the second time in two years that he had been displaced from the area to make way for upscale development. (The earlier eviction was from his apartment on North Rampart near Spain Street. Morgan’s landlord had decided to empty and renovate the building, then cash out for a hefty profit.)
If the housing remains available and affordable, then people can afford to live there. If it is converted to condos and hotels and STR pseudo-hotels, then they can't. This doesn't necessarily have to do with where the individuals involved come from. It is true that a lot of the money that causes displacement of poorer locals and transplants alike comes from out-of-town land speculators and the tourism industry. But that is a level of analysis Ramsey refuses to apply. In her mind, it's all just a natural process of "growing pains."  Which is an easy thing to discount when you aren't the party who is actually feeling the pain.

Ramsey also raises the specter of "NIMBYism" among the Sun Yard's opponents. I think that "growing pains" comment was actually meant to rebuff the quality-of-life type complaints from neighbors like noise and whatnot. She might have a point if that were the sole objection. Noise is a contentious issue all over town. Often we find noise complaints used as another tool of gentrification, in fact, as wealthier "recent arrivals" lobby to shut down corner bars and music venues.  But not all noise complaints serve the same purpose. As always, the relevant question is for whom, against whom, and we have a tendency to ignore that question when it suits.

I have a pretty high tolerance for noise. Which is why I don't want to live in a "quiet sleepy suburb" either. I like being around people. I live in a neighborhood where a lot of stuff happens. It gets pretty intense there during Mardi Gras. A few second lines pass by my door every year. Those are the big ones. There's also a lot of little stuff.  I'm a block off a major thoroughfare so there is lots of vehicular and foot traffic.  There are a couple of neighborhood bars in walking distance.  I'm caddy corner to a laundromat that sometimes hosts extracurricular activities. Yesterday, for example, there was a "4/20" party there featuring a few hours with a live band.  None of that stuff bothers me. It's the general noise of the neighborhood being itself.   The loud late night parties on the balcony at the short term rental across the street, though, make a more hostile sound. It carries the threat of being kicked out of my apartment one day.

I'm no "recent arrival."  I was born and raised in New Orleans. I've lived in my current location for almost 19 years.  My presence there hasn't displaced anybody.  Similarly, the recent arrival service industry workers and immigrant families who live in my building aren't displacing me.  But, as more and more of the property in the surrounding blocks is flipped from affordable housing over to condos and vacation rentals, it's that money that is threatening to displace all of us.

Nadine says this is all just growing pains, though. She has one more council meeting to go before her tenure is up. 
Following some debate after initially requesting a vote in favor of the project during the Council’s April 19 meeting, District C Councilmember Nadine Ramsey — whose district encompasses Bywater — pushed to defer voting on the plan until May 3, the last meeting of the current City Council before the administration’s inauguration on May 7. (It’ll be one of Ramsey’s last votes in office — voters elected former District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer to replace Ramsey in 2017 elections.)
It's entirely possible that the next council takes the same attitude that Ramsey has.  But let's worry about those recent arrivals after they've already moved in.

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