Two Articles About Oakland from Fireworks

From Fireworks (pdf)

Parklets: Prophecy of a Class' Collapse

The parklet is a seemingly insignificant facet of the Bay Area’s urban landscape. But, with 38 installed in San Francisco, several in Oakland and over 50 more pending approval, the spread of parklets coincides with the growth of the Bay Area’s yupster contingent. Alongside this contingent is the luxury economy springing up in its service, and subsequent gentrification. The parklets’ physical construction and relationship to the new-fangled service industry is strikingly symbolic of Oakland and San Francisco’s swift gentrification. The fact of a tech boom’s eventual implosion is mirrored in the parklet’s temporary characteristics. Their shoddiness and imposition upon the urban environment reflects the impermanence of the luxury class frequenting them.

In their Bay Area manifestation, parklets are short extensions of sidewalks. From the curb to the edge of the lane, parklets provide a patio where one was not previously possible. Restaurants, bars and cafes sponsor their installation for the sake of additional seating and visibility. They are built with planks of wood, floating concrete slabs or brick and often feature plant-life, bike parking, tables and chairs. Like the shrubbery adorning them, parklets are rootless by design and not physically integrated into the urban space. They are not built to last.
Permits issued by the City of Oakland must be renewed yearly. They are the urban-development equivalent of a regional fad – operable only so long as a trend is in fashion. In this case, the trend is young wealth and vendors of all sorts who cater to their indiscriminate spending.

Upstart money and the new outposts of consumption they frequent – this double-headed juggernaut is responsible for the disenfranchisement of people and cultural heritage rooted in Oakland. Parklets are only one visible by-product of this tumultuous cycle, but the nature of the cycle is actually prophesied in the structure’s physical traits. It is a cycle after all, as gentrification apologists are quick to point out. The Bay Area is not enduring its first influx of young wealth and upward economic mobility; a very similar scenario played out in the late 90s in the dot-com boom, and it burst in 2000. Lots of young people lost their jobs and many food and retail establishments closed. This is likely to repeat for the tech boom, effectively middling the top-heavy economy. Apolo gists wield this truth as justification, as a reason to tolerate yupster decadence.

A more insidious truth rests in between the lines of the logic which excuses gentrification because some of its byproducts will wither when the boom settles, though. When the now-lucrative tech economy busts and the industry enters recession mode, the favorite haunts of the industry’s young money will buckle beneath the blow and the parklets will be demolished. Another cycle of reckless consumption will come to its implosive finale. This is the apologistss defense, but the disenfranchised families priced out by the boom do not return after the collapse. The businesses rendered obsolete by surrounding luxury retailers don’t come back and set up shop again. The fact that booms deflate does not undo their damage to pre-existing communities.

Permitting and constructing parklets is a racket for the city and developers; parklets commodify public space. They serve consumption, not people. Their impermanent construction reflects the rule of commodification: like food and shelter, once these monetized outposts of public space are no longer profitable, they will be destroyed. The feverish construction of parklets is it self a testament to their impermanence and the careless and destructive process that they contribute to. The planks creek, the thin concrete chips away, nodding to the not-so-distant future of their obsolescence. While the luxury economies of gentrification can afford to be short-sighted and unsustainable, the communities and places that they consume cannot afford this leisure of short-sighted profit—they are permanently displaced, permanently razed to the ground. Lodged in the woodgrain and mixed with the masonry of each brick is an acknowledgment of wealth’s cyclical nature and by extension the irreparable damage done to communities by its influx.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Art on Fire, Again

What Is Popuphood About?

Money. Popuphood began as “a social enterprise consulted to incubate small business and revitalize neighborhoods, block by block,” consulted by none other than the City
of Oakland. Popuphood launched in the Old Oakland neighborhood just north of the Oakland Police Department headquarters and the city jail. Several hip, independent artists’ businesses were given 6 months of free rent to aid in “retail curation and marketing to activate previously vacant spaces, transforming them into vibrant destinations.”

Popuphood is quickly gaining steam as the City’s sit-in project of economic stimulus. On their website you can watch a presentation by Sarah Filley, Popuphood’s co-founder, unapologetically boasting about the projects’ ability to increase Oakland’s sales tax and the appearance of “safety” in the areas they and their artisan guinea pigs are commercially colonizing.

What Is Popuphood Not About

Artists, space and people. Popuphood mimics the City of Oakland’s rhetorical campaigns against “blight” with their surefire strategy to fight “urban decay” with commercialization. The only “revitalization” that can occur through Popuphood relies on the creative class and their ability to encourage big-time investors and profiteers to bring their money to Oakland. While this strategy is quite effective, the only people who benefit from it are investors and a hip consumer class. Popuphood raves that all of its retail stores support local artists and sell local
goods, but the project fails to engage with the question of who these retail stores cater to. The co-founder’s statement that “Oakland has a real problem with retail” is a red flag that Popuphood gravely misunderstands the real problems that exist for people in Oakland.

The Art of Gentrification

The documentary ‘Voice of Art – GATS (Graffiti Against The System)’ is an amazing showcase of Oakland’s creative, criminal contingent. The video features footage from Occupy, the Oscar Grant riots and a vandalism campaign GATS and his friends created called “The City is Ours”. The documentary explores illegal street art by following GATS through this graffiti campaign and interviewing a number of other Bay Area graffiti artists. It is a testament to vandalism as art: change your environment and speak your mind on your terms, illegally or otherwise. Unfortunately, the film does not mention the burgeoning scene of entrepreneurial and commercial art that threatens the existence and abundance of illegal street art. This could be because this effort at recuperation has yet to have sweeping effects on the graffiti scene; more likely and perhaps even worse, this could be because the commercial artist community that is taking over Oakland has disguised itself incredibly well.

As East Bay rebels, street artists or otherwise, we can’t lose track of capitalism’s subtle yet sickening and numerous manifestations. With generating power from the City of Oakland and in the absence of any resistance, enterprises like Popuphood are sure to continue “popping up”

"Popuphood At The Plaza...Our Plaza."

Popuphood is now working closely with the city for the soon-to-be established businesses that will saturate the in-progress “Broadway-Valdez Corridor”, the development of a regional retail center along a stretch of Broadway and within the Valdez triangle. It was first advertised with the tagline: “Occupy Broadway (with growth)”. They’ll be working diligently in their new
headquarters at Oscar Grant Plaza to “popup” the hood.

Despite our enemies’ resourcefulness, it is imperative that we demonstrate, symbolically and literally, that we can see through their expropriation and manipulation of language, aesthetic and culture. We will always be vulnerable to the powers of capital so long as our lives depend on it. Until then –stay illegal, stay up and paint unmistakable lines of differentiation between revolutionaries and capitalists.

Words And Phrases Our Enemies Use To Create And Protect Capital

Rejuvenation
Beautification,
Revitalization
Creative Capital
Creative economy
Creative Class
Safety
Cultural Awareness (Cultural Expropriation)
Blight
Criminals
Community Improvement
Community Benefit District
Outside Agitators,
Growth
Progress

Category: 

Comments

the whole fireworks paper is a great read, everyone should check it out. fireworksbayarea.com

The whole Fireworks paper is a great read if you don't mind almost none of it having specifically anarchist content. For a periodical that touts itself as an anarchist news source, it's way below par.

sincerely curious, how do you define "specifically anarchist content"?

Specifically anarchist content means a couple of things, all of which are possible, in various combinations.
1. The author is an anarchist.
2. The author who is an anarchist writes about an anarchist topic, for example, assessing the actual practice of a particular anarchist project.
3. The author who is an anarchist writes about a non-anarchist topic, but provides an anarchist analysis of it.
4. The author is a non-anarchist who writes about an anarchist topic, or writes about a non-anarchist topic but acknowledges anarchist criticisms.
5. The newspaper publishes articles written by anarchists that discuss and assess anarchist projects.
6. The newspaper publishes articles written by anarchists that discuss and assess non-anarchist projects.
7. The newspaper publishes articles written by non-anarchists that discuss and assess anarchist projects.

Here's what I see from Fireworks:
1. articles on gentrification. Nothing specifically anarchist in them; it's generic anti-capitalism.
2. History of the Spanish missions in California and their impact on native communities. Nothing particularly anarchist about that; it's generic anti-colonialism.
3. Discussion of riots in Mexico last December; nothing particularly anarchist about that; it's generic anti-neoliberalism.
4. Discussion of the SF Grand Jury.
That's two (with the last page making it three) of 24 pages that contain specifically anarchist content. The rest of it could have been pulled from Indymedia. I look forward to Fireworks becoming an authentic voice of Bay Area anarchists, but they will have to tighten up their editorial decisions and content before that happens. And moving beyond topics primarily (if not exclusively) of interest to activists might be a good move too.

anarchist anarchist anarchist anarchist anarchist anarchist anarchist anarchist anarchist

there are so many radical/anarchist/left/commu-whatever newsletters floating around (unless you're in a town where there's not) that we should be considering more carefully the possibilties provided by such newsletters, in both production & readership. this paper's only on its second issue. i'm not in the bay so i dont know how much or what sort of circulation this thing gets, but it might be interesting to establish a news source by beginning with content that is not hyper-anarchist, fronted by this aesthetic that's "generically" pleasing and sort of nice looking in the way that things put out during/around occupy were. i wonder if there's something to establishing a paper that everyone who considers themselves political (inc. activists) feels good about reading, and then escalating discourse from this established position. such a strategy is distinct from an anarchist newsletter that is explicitly critical, in a hostile way, of activists or people who are not so anarchist, and also distinct from an anarchist newsletter that circulates amongst anarchists. the goal would be the production of a newsletter which is not so anarchist that no one but anarchists read it, and not so generic that it does nothing to push discussion forward.

You're assuming that the editors/compilers of Fireworks could have a long-term strategy that includes suckering normals into thinking that anarchists are just happy-go-lucky generic leftists with a slightly snarky attitude. This tendency certainly exists; it is the worst part of the mainstreaming of anarchism that's been happening since the post-Seattle anti-Black Bloc reaction epitomized by the execrable Hope Bloc and the whole array of (quasi) academic IAS losers like Milstein, Grubacic, Graeber, Stephens - not to mention the idiots over at Znet.

The point of anarchism isn't to make people "feel good," nor is it necessarily to be "hostile" to "people who are not so anarchist" (whatever that means).

I understand the reasons for having a regular Bay Area anarchist newspaper that's doing something thankfully distinct from Slingshot, which is perhaps why my disappointment in Fireworks is so pronounced.

duh? we dont want to occasionally snark from a happy-go-lucky leftism - but the complementary trap is relegation to a self-contained and thereby accounted for anarchist identity. playing nice makes us friendly with liberals & leftists as we slip away from the antagonism we want and they don't; over-affirming ANARCHY gets us into an isolated position. the isolation isn't necessarily a problem in itself, it's the fact that we actually become incapable of increasing our capacities, resources, power etc. from this isolation, and again, we are accounted for by both people who might be down ("oh, its just those weird people who dress in all black") and the state ("there are fifteen of them here, they do this, they all hang out here, stay at these houses"). i want to do anarchy from a position of relevance - not that cedes everything to the present situation, but that engages with it so we can dismantle everything.

...and your model for that is engagement with occupy? really? if you are interested in being relevant what makes you think another newspaper is that, regardless of the content? good point about accounting though

Fireworks articles abourt gentrification all come down to: This is terrible, and hopefully someone else will do something about it.

Perhaps that's because there is no intelligent anarchist analysis or response to gentrification without a broader analysis of capitalism. Real property (that is, land and tenancy) that generates wealth - as in, it is not connected to the traditional means of production, since land and real estate are by definition not productive - is one of the most absurd aspects of capitalism; without an analysis of how such property operates within a legal system that maintains wealth extraction, and whose beneficiaries continue to swallow up open space and crowd out renters who can't pay what the landlord (ie, the strongest thief) considers market rate for rent, complaints about gentrification are pointless. It's as if the authors/editors of Fireworks (and unfortunately they aren't alone in this) believed that gentrification is some new phenomenon that started in the 1990s. But it's merely the latest move of displacing the poor in favor of those who apparently have more disposable income. And don't get me started on the ludicrous essay about how the temporary and unrooted potted plant life of parklets is the cutting edge of the latest version of gentrification. You might as well complain about community gardens.

"Perhaps that's because there is no intelligent anarchist analysis or response to gentrification without a broader analysis of capitalism."

I agree; I'm not the anarchist subculture dogmatist who posted above. And this stuff isn't quantum mechanics and it doesn't need to be endlessly analyzed to death.

There's plenty of precedence in the SF Bay Area for anti-capitalist action against gentrification, what's lacking is people who have the backbone, endurance and nerve to do it.

So far 'Fireworks' looks like it is produced solely for a tiny number of subjectively/wannabe spiky people in a subculture-within-a-subculture.

Whiny liberal shit is characterized by:

1. Lamenting the fact that everywhere we stand was taken from the Indians. Sorry, folks, but Cochise ain't coming back. When you grown up, you realize that lots of bad stuff happened in the past, and that you can't undo it. Move on. The future is what matters, not an endless self-indulgent lamenting of the past. And...

2. Stuff about "white supremacy" and "patriarchy." This only wins points with a tiny number of Stalinoids who have a doctorate in White Guilt Studies from Angela Davis University. It is a weak liberal trip.

can we please just reflect on how bad the parklet article is.

"Permitting and constructing parklets is a racket for the city and developers; parklets commodify public space. They serve consumption, not people. "

ARe you fucking kidding? LIke a sidewalk "serves the people". All space is commodified space its not like downtown was a soviet until parklets came along. The article just laments "upstart money" as if more affordable is somehow liberatory. Sounds like a liberal rant.

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