Dec 20, 2016
Anna Stump and Daphne Hill are leaving their Barrio Logan art studio. Their rent went up, and while that wasn't the only thing driving their decision, it hastened it.
Artists are often part of the first wave of a neighborhood's gentrification. Attracted to the big, open warehouses and affordable rents found in overlooked and forgotten urban neighborhoods, they move in, making the neighborhood cooler and in turn, attracting developers. Often, artists and other residents eventually find themselves priced out.
So how can artists help keep the same old cycle from playing out?
"I don't know how to solve the problem," Hill said. "Do you have an answer?"
I don't, but I talked to a few people who offered up some suggestions.
For episode five of Culturecast, VOSD’s podcast covering the intersection of arts and gentrification in Barrio Logan, I headed down to Bread & Salt, an arts space inside an old bread factory on the border of Barrio Logan and Logan Heights. I sat inside the warehouse for an entire day and talked to artists, architects and developers about what people are, or should be doing to address gentrification.
John Mireles is a commercial and fine art photographer who doesn't think gentrification is actually such a bad thing. He lives in Logan Heights, shows his art in galleries and coffee shops in the neighborhood and he’s also a landlord who owns and rents out property in the area.
At one of his recent art shows in Barrio Logan, Mireles told me he wanted to make a T-shirt that said "gentrifier" because he's proud of the work he's done to be part of and improve his neighborhood. Last year, Mireles took photos of some of his neighbors and community members, blew them up and hung them on his wooden fence.
He said as long as people who move into the area are respectful of the community, newcomers can be a good thing. Plus, he said, change is inevitable, so he wonders why people would want to try to stop it when a neighborhood’s property values are at their lowest.
"So often when people talk about gentrification, they're talking about a process of change as if it's this evil, horrible thing," he said. "If change is bad, when do we want this process of change to stop? Is it OK to stop when it becomes a very low-income neighborhood? Can neighborhoods only change from higher income to lower income and never reverse course? Can we only change from white to black to Hispanic to some other segregated ethnic group, or is it possible to have multicultural neighborhoods?"
Mireles thinks Barrio Logan is headed toward becoming a more multicultural, mixed-income neighborhood, and that's a good thing.
Musician Bill Caballero isn't as comfortable letting gentrification run its course. He agreed that change can't be stopped, but said artists and residents should work toward softening its blow.
"The only way that we can stay and not be pushed out is for the artists to buy their own goddamn building," he said. "You get a co-op of artists to buy a four-story building ... and they share the building and they say, 'This is what's it's going to be and we're intractable.'"
Quick note to listeners: This is the last episode of what I’m calling Season 1 of Culturecast. I’m going to veer away from Barrio Logan for a while, but that doesn’t mean I won’t circle back.
I’ve heard from several listeners, and the one thing I keep hearing is that y’all wish I produced more episodes more often.
So I’m going to try to do that. I’ll do it by opening up the podcast to any story related to arts and culture in San Diego. The stories will probably be shorter and not serialized. I hope you’ll dig the new format. If you have any ideas for future episodes, shoot me an email.