Oakland is for burning? Beyond a critique of gentrification

  • Posted on: 18 October 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href="http://www.bayofrage.com/from-the-bay/oakland-is-for-burning-beyond-a-cr... of Rage</a>
<p><em>I’m not a nihilist, but I wish they would burn every fucking thing down except for the houses. So that people would begin to understand that we don’t need this system.</em><br />
- Bella Eiko, speaking to the Oakland City Council, during a vote called to ban “tools of violence” at political demonstrations, 2012<em></em></p>
<p><em>During the Summer [of 1966], there were rumors in the Oakland ghetto that Molotov cocktails were being manufactured in empty garages; that arms caches had been discovered; and that new tactics based on a study of Watts were being taught to young Negro militants, stressing the folly of burning their own homes and shops in the ghetto, and urging that their protest would be more effective if they burned City Hall, the business district, and the homes of the Whites on the hillside.</em><br />
-Amory Bradford, Oakland’s not for Burning, 1968</p></td><td><img title="This is such a constructive response to the BS from this week. Big ups!" src="http://anarchistnews.org/files/pictures/2012/scaredbros5.jpg"></td></tr>...
<p><strong> * * *</strong></p>
<p>Make no mistake: Oakland has changed drastically over the last few years. More and more trendy boutiques and cafes sink their roots into the Telegraph corridor and downtown streets. The deserted center of Oakland of the early 2000′s has been replaced by a young and artsy street life. Recently, Forbes magazine rated Uptown Oakland the 9th hippest neighborhood in the United States. Almost simultaneously, in 2010, Oakland had the highest per-capita violent crime rate in all of California. This dissonance between the violence of Oakland’s failed economy and the recent influx of “culture” and financial capital has come to define Oakland in the present moment.</p>
<p>This piece is written as a friendly challenge to the narrative of gentrification as it exists within radical milieus. True or not, radicals in Oakland often view themselves, with no small amount of guilt, as “foot soldiers” or, more jokingly, the “vanguard” of gentrifying processes. The narrative goes: mostly white radicals move to Oakland because of their interest in the social conflicts here, and with the radicals comes their race and class privileges that feed the mechanisms of gentrification. As a result of this gentrification, historically black neighborhoods are whitening and rental prices are pushing out the working class elements. In its broad strokes, this narrative might be indisputable; there is some truth to everything it describes. Here, the effort will be spent to clarify specific parts of this process, identifying possible points of activity and intervention. An argument will be made here for wholly clarifying the confused and recuperated narrative of gentrification with a nuanced and localized understanding of the processes at work.<span></span></p>
<p>Unfortunately, broad swathes of the radical milieu can, with all of their rhetorical power, only muster a few lackluster approaches to this very real situation. Common within activist circles is to assert that by moving to Oakland you will inevitably further gentrification and push people out of their homes. Therefore, don’t move to Oakland. Or, if you do, engage yourself in community projects (social services, legitimized by the state or not) to offset your impact. These approaches, stuck in a simple sentimental reaction to the reality of the situation, frustrate rather than enable a combative response to the present circumstances.</p>
<p>In this piece, some history will be briefly explored, both to make better sense of the present situation and to analyze previous demographic shifts in this area. Then we will proceed to discard race as the only useful marker for gentrification. Moving beyond this narrative, an attempt will be made to discover a more useful antagonism or set of questions, centering around development and infrastructure, with which to engage in the situation here. Finally, a few specific development projects will be outlined, inviting everyone to attack and organize against the misery that defines and binds this society.</p>
<p><strong> * * *</strong></p>
<p>During the industrial frenzy of World War II, de-segregation in industry caused a massive influx of blacks from The South into West Oakland to work in the ports, the canning industry, and machine shops of West Oakland. After the war, most industries slipped back into racial segregation (formal and informal), leaving large numbers of black residents jobless. Many of those that remained employed worked for the railroads as porters or waiters. Though jobs were scarce after the war, black migration from The South continued. After the war, the white middle class moved from Oakland into the surrounding areas. Their “white flight” from the urban centers was coupled with an attraction to the property-owning middle class lifestyle available in the new suburbs.</p>
<p>The waves of deindustrialization in East Oakland in the 50′s and again in the 80′s, with the corresponding exodus of its white residents, allowed blacks into the depths of East Oakland, previously a space reserved for the comfortably white and middle class. More and more, large swaths of Oakland were transforming from the idyllic garden city of balanced industrial and residential development into a post-industrial ghetto. The border between East Oakland and San Leandro, though, was as strictly enforced then as it is now. “Racial Covenant” laws in many of the suburbs, including San Leandro, specifically excluded blacks from neighborhoods and cities.</p>
<p>Even as formal segregation was undone on national and state levels during the 60′s, blacks and latinos in Oakland reaped none of those benefits. This reality, combined with a history of black nationalism and the radical strength of black railroad unions, provided the perfect backdrop for the formation of a revolutionary black consciousness. The Black Panthers were particularly successful here: Their own special brand of maoism was successful because it not only enabled them to stand alongside the other anti-imperial struggles of the time, but because it allowed them to apply the same narrative to Oakland. The dissonance between national civil rights campaigns and local segregation exacerbated the feeling that Oakland was under colonial rule, surrounded by the “white noose” of the suburbs.</p>
<p>The Panthers were not the only revolutionary group in Oakland during the 60′s and the 70′s: The Brown Berets and other Latin@ groups were organized in the Fruitvale district (and also had armed copwatch patrols). During this same period, the Symbionese Liberation army was in and out of Oakland, and killed the superintendent of schools in 1972. Parallel to the constellation of revolutionary activity, crime syndicates also flourished in the east bay, the Hell’s Angels being a flagship of East Oakland lawlessness at that time.</p>
<p>Despite the history of (anti-)social uprisings in Oakland, the town has always been controlled politically by business interests. Rebels from other episodes of struggle understood this well. From the 1930′s until the 1970′s, people called to “Take the Power From the Tower” in reference to the Tribune Tower and the newspaper’s well-connected owners, the Knowlands. Today, the situation is the same, but with different faces. Business is still organized into associations and districts that broker power in the same way it has always happened in Oakland. The appearance of power has become more subtle over time, quick to hide behind a language of progressive politics or conjure up community initiatives to disguise their consolidation of capital. <strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>* * *</strong></p>
<p>By equating whiteness and gentrification, one assumes a certain homogeneity amongst white people. While certainly privileged as a group in this society, it would be ridiculous to say that a white man moving to Oakland from Blackhawk and a white transwoman from Antioch posses the same privileges in this society. More pertinent to the questions of development and gentrification, it cannot be said that every white person has the same class values and interests. Many of the recent migrants to Oakland (both the déclassé from San Francisco and the youth fleeing the suburbs), can be said to carry a particular set of middle class values that is more of a contribution to the development (in the pejorative sense) of the neighborhood than their race. These values–a concern for property values, an antipathy to street life, homeownership, civic-mindedness, complicity with the policing apparatus, interest in urban beautification, etc.–provide the social conditions for the development of a neighborhood. These values are held across race lines. While often true, the equivocation of these values with white gentrifiers can obscure or occlude other dynamics. The tension between longtime Black residents and Arabs being the most glaring example (a subject that deserves its own writing); second, the KONO business district, which uses its status as “minority-owned” to disguise its project of destructive redevelopment.</p>
<p>It would be absurd, though, to reduce development to economic forces. Additionally, especially in Oakland, one loci of the dispute is the culture of this place. As Oakland whitens, the history of black power (and much more) is at risk of erasure. This is not foremost a result of white people moving to Oakland, I would argue, but also a product of (re-)development. Development and the reorganization of space by power actively erases memories, replacing it with timeless, placeless places. The narrative of development erasing memory has been central to many Indigenous struggles for land, recognition, and autonomy. Especially in the Bay Area, where a tragic history of development has destroyed or desecrated burial sites. (Clearly, viewing the current wave of development and gentrification as parallel with anti-colonial struggles is a powerful tool, both in understanding and acting within our situation.)</p>
<p>This is not at all to say that economic shifts and the struggle over the memory of this place should replace a discussion of race, thus soothing the guilt of the white activists. Whiteness plays a crucial role in the current reorganization in Oakland. Many understandings of the real (and not) effects of whiteness upon this place unfortunately seem to result in a simplistic ultimatum: Don’t Move to Oakland. While not entirely determinist, processes like demographic shifts in an area follow patterns beyond the choices of individuals. The history of Oakland parallels other cities around the United States. Post-industrial cities everywhere are swelling with people and investment. Oakland’s affordability is attractive to both the new investors and the displaced residents of the surrounding areas.</p>
<p>People, a lot of them white, will move to Oakland regardless of what we tell our friends. Rather than lamenting this, we need to forge a practice and critique of development that separates the inevitable (white people moving to Oakland) from the approachable points of antagonism (particular development, infrastructural, cultural or beautification projects). Our project within the metropolis is to disrupt the flows of financial and cultural capital, not to frustrate our own projects with a guilty conscience.</p>
<p>Contemporaneous with recent development and gentrification in Oakland, other historically working class neighborhoods have been faced with similar pressures. East Palo Alto became home to an Ikea in 2002 and has been the site of numerous housing developments for Silicon Valley commuters. Rents in the Fillmore District of San Francisco have doubled in the last few years alone, the apartments have become condos and the dive bars have become fancy jazz clubs. Oakland is by no means alone in its circumstances but we can seek to distinguish it in its response.</p>
<p><strong> * * *</strong></p>
<p>The narrative of gentrification only goes so far and in caught in the mire of leftist politics. A critique of development specifically, on its own and as a part of gentrification, is much more useful to the insurgent. First, it allows one to identify the enemy in much clearer terms. It identifies developers, real estate brokers and property managers as the enemy, instead of the wide hostility towards “gentrifiers.” Secondly, it suggests a particular space of activity, beyond the vagaries of “don’t move here” or “if you move here, do it right.” A critique of development suggests the organization of attack, both social and not, on development projects, real estate companies, and all of the administrators of control over the place where we live.</p>
<p>Further development will not open space for meaningful social activity and will only constrict it. In the slew of development projects coming down the pipe, residents will be free to consume, travel to and from work, or stay inside to not bother anyone. The possibility for creating space for rebellion will happen in the subversion of the city’s architecture (such as the occupations of vacant houses or the lot at 19th and Telegraph). Even the most hopeful possibilities are rapidly being foreclosed in the proliferation of counter-insurgency-style policing.</p>
<p>The physical layout of space, its geography and organization, determine how power can flow within. A critique of space and the way it governs relationships is not solely the domain of radicals and antagonists. Older developments such as the ACORN projects in West Oakland have been able to act as hubs for illegal capitalism because their architecture was opaque to social control. These mistakes in development culminated in a counter-insurgency-style raid on the projects in 2008, with 400 police and at least one armored personnel carrier. J Stalin describes how he and his partners would construct escapes through the fences in the ACORN Projects:</p>
<p><em>“Put the car jack in [the fence] to make hella cuts through this motherfucker. Jack it all the way down, then turn it like you were jacking up a car. Say the police come. They got them big-ass belts. That can’t fit through this. Then I’m gone, feel me?”</em> (Quoted in the Thizz Nation Block Report)</p>
<p>These mistakes in architecture will never be repeated in future developments. The UC system learned the danger in building large plazas where dissident students could gather during the free speech movement at Berkeley. University of California campuses built since the sixties are subdivided into a number to smaller campuses, to better contain and neutralize student revolt. Housing projects are built to make the space transparent and easily surveillable, often by the administrators of social services. Likewise, we can be entirely sure that the city of Oakland will never allow the construction of another space like Oscar Grant Plaza, where thousands of people were able to gather, meet their needs and organize an assault against capitalism.</p>
<p>The struggle against development, just like the struggle against gentrification, is still limited struggle. As antagonists, our goal is to expand its proportions towards an anti-infrastructural struggle. Development, on its own, is only the evolution and transformation of the metropolis: The adaptation of the city to its present circumstances. This evolution is often predicated on facilitating new techniques of control and policing. That is to say, behind the smokescreen of politics, power is every day being consolidated, the production and reproduction of life is being controlled in the physical space of the city. New neighborhoods are being built to be better policed. Narrow pedestrian walkways and alleys are being replaced by wide paths for wheelchair access, yes, but also for police vehicles. Broad boulevards and gridded neighborhoods exist to simplify and reduce traffic congestion, yes, but also to mitigate potential urban uprisings.</p>
<p>As the entire physical space of the metropolis is constructed to reproduce a certain set of relations (capitalist, patriarchal, alienated), the entirety must be destroyed or subverted. The revolutionary project (to use a term of convenience) must be anti-infrastructural: Anything less can be turned on its head to buttress the functioning of this repressive society. This project, of course, is suicidal. The networks of domination and control no longer administer merely our death or our imprisonment, they also administer our live and the reproduction of our conditions. To refuse the constraints and control of society is to attack the very thing that gives us life. When we enter into refusal together, we occasionally find sustenance outside the flows of capital. This sustenance has, at different times, been called “communism”, “friendship” or maybe doesn’t exist at all. <strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>* * *</strong></p>
<p>In other places in the world, social antagonists have understood the need to attack infrastructural projects. NO TAV activists in Italy have been opposing the development of a high-speed rail line since the mid-90′s. In Canada, indigenous communities have responded to attacks on their autonomy with rail line and highway blockades. More recently, in Greece, the opposition to a garbage dump in Keratea that was mandated by the IMF did much to destabilize the economy in that country. Current anti-colonial struggles reveal the same set of practices. The Afghan War Logs released by Pfc. B. Manning show a strong pattern of infrastructural sabotage by insurgents in Afghanistan, primarily of transmission towers and oil pipelines. The question to pose locally: How can we shift a narrative of struggle against gentrification to one of attack against development, and how can we expand that struggle to take on anti-infrastructural dimensions?</p>
<p>By focusing on the material situation in the city, we can direct our attacks against the apparatuses that reproduce society. The power to reproduce the misery of society is exchanged in the material realm, not in politics. The success of anti-infrastructural projects is that they actually disrupt the spread and strengthening of empire, rather than engaging on a spectacular level.</p>
<p>By discovering together a practice that seeks to 1) identify and attack development, 2) subvert and destroy the infrastructure of the city, and 3) destroy whiteness as an identity and a set of practices, we can forge a response to gentrification that hinges not on inactivity out of guilt, but instead from action motivated by our insurgent spirit.<strong></strong></p>
<p><strong>SPECIFIC PROJECTS:</strong></p>
<p>This list of enemies is truly endless. The associations and projects listed below should be seen nothing but the tippiest tip of the iceberg. Behind these larger projects, there are myriad smaller realtors, property managers, security organization, and countless other administrators and managers of social control.</p>
<p><em><strong>• CBDs and BIDs</strong></em></p>
<p>Community Benefit Districts (CBDs) and Business Interest Districts (BIDs) are more or less the same beast, even by their own admission. They are both associations of commercial property owners that advocate the economic development of specific neighborhoods. While the spectacle of politics takes the stage, always mired in this or that debate, these groups consolidate control over specific neighborhoods, hire private (sometimes armed) security, and shape the make-up of places that we live. Here, we will look briefly at the KONO, Uptown/Lake Merritt, and Downtown districts.</p>
<p><strong>KONO</strong><br />
Offices:<br />
2633 Telegraph Ave #107<br />
Oakland, CA 94612</p>
<p>The Koreatown Northgate (KONO) business district was formed in the Summer of 2007, the brainchild of developer Alex Hahn. Before it was KONO, the neighborhood was known as Northgate-Waverly. Many of the business owners in the neighborhood are resentful of the sudden re-branding of their neighborhood as Koreatown, especially because the neighborhood’s resident’s are predominantly black. Furthmore, only 7% of property in the neighborhood is owned by Koreans.</p>
<p>The conflict between black residents and Korean business owners is uncomfortably present in KONO’s mind; much of the KONO project is designed to avoid the radicalized conflicts that exploded in the 1992 rebellion in Los Angeles. To avoid these conflicts, KONO has hired black security guards and “neighborhood ambassadors” to patrol the neighborhood and talk to businesses, acting as the face of KONO. In the words of KONO board member Ben Schweng, the activity of the neighborhood ambassadors “goes a long way to prevent what happened in Southern California [in 1992], which is not what I want. (<em>Oakland’s Koreatown isn’t your typical ethnic enclave</em> in the May 2009 East Bay Express)</p>
<p>Reducing the 1992 rebellion to racial violence completely obscures the centrality of class antagonism to those events. In the words of the Aufheben Collective, in their illuminating essay The Rebellion in Los Angeles:</p>
<p><em>One form that the rebellion took was a systematic assault of Korean businesses. The Koreans are on the front-line of the confrontation between capital and the residents of central L.A. – they are the face of capital for these communities.</em></p>
<p>KONO attempts to disguise class tensions with a lot of handwaving about race. They are capitalizing on the loaded nature of racial politics in Oakland by describing their business district as minority-owned. Thusly, they attempt to sidestep responsibility for pushing other people of color out of the neighborhood and to respond to accusations of gentrification. Furthermore, they attempt to diffuse the class tension in the neighborhood by using black street ambassadors.</p>
<p>Shari Godinez, the executive director of KONO, has claimed that crime in the KONO corridor dropped by 70% in the first month of their security programs. Their security staff aggressively encourage panhandlers and the homeless to leave the neighborhood, directing them towards (inadequate, moralizing) social services. They monitor drug spots and report them to the police. They report graffiti and coordinate their efforts with a buff squad that is also directed by the business district. The KONO website reports that 60% of the business district’s money is spent on cleaning and security. This makes their purpose clear: They seek to sterilize and scrub the neighborhood of its undesirable street life, to create the conditions favorable to development. It is this development, with its corresponding social cleansing, that is redefining the telegraph corridor.</p>
<p><strong>• Uptown/Lake Merritt and Downtown Business Associations</strong><br />
Offices:<br />
388 19th Street<br />
Oakland, CA</p>
<p>From the 1970′s up until the early 2000′s, downtown and uptown Oakland were desolate. They were ghost towns on Friday nights, quiet except for an occasional person or group crossing the neighborhood to go from east to west, or maybe on their way to Jack London Square. In 1965, an ambitious urban renewal plan sought to demolish 70 blocks of downtown buildings, many of them SROs, pawnshops, and small theaters. Eventually, the plan was rolled back and only 12 city blocks were razed, but the same effect was achieved. The vibrant seediness of downtown Oakland was forcibly removed. In the absence of anything else, though, a more desperate lawlessness took root. In one resident’s description of downtown Oakland at that time: <em></em></p>
<p><em>In those days there were no lights from Grove St. to Broadway. I used to get off the bus here at 14th and walk up to DeLauer’s to look at comic books, and you had to be careful where you stepped or you might step on someone and get a bottle thrown at you. We called it ‘Wino Alley’.</em></p>
<p>Slowly, the empty lots in Downtown Oakland were developed. The Clorox Building, Oakland City Center and the Federal Building all were built (none of them quickly) in the period between the 1970′s and the 1990′s, attempting to shape the downtown space, bringing order and law to the disorganized and lawless space that downtown Oakland was.</p>
<p>In 1999, a group of developers, investors, and city bureaucrats came together to restore the Fox Theatre, which had been closed since 1970. In 2009, ten years later, the Fox Theatre reopened, a foothold in the uptown neighborhood. The renovation was spearheaded by Phil Tagami, head of the major property investment firm CCIG (California Capital Investment Group). From there, the developments poured in: Hip bars and restaurants, ugly condos and cafes.</p>
<p>Located near the 19th street BART station, the Uptown area provided the perfect inlet for financial runoff from San Francisco. People could live and go to concerts in Oakland without ever interacting with the rest of the city. The Fox Theatre, condominium developments like 555 City Center, combined with other nightlife elements like Cafe Van Kleef to form the social foundation supporting the current influx of investment and capital.</p>
<p><em>Fox-Uptown Entertainment Complex</em></p>
<p>Between the current Fox Theatre and San Pablo, Sunfield development is planning the “Fox-Uptown Entertainment Complex.” The plan is for a 500- to 800-car parking lot, ground-level retail, and office space. Currently an empty lot, the development will provide the missing link between the Rotunda Building and the Uptown Condos on the San Pablo corridor.</p>
<p>Sunfield Development, LLC<br />
562 14th St.<br />
Oakland, CA<br />
<p><strong>• MacArthur Transit Village</strong></p>
<p>As of this writing (Fall 2012), the MacArthur Transit Village is being built piecemeal. The first phase, the BART parking garage on West MacArthur, is having its foundation dug. The plan is for much more than parking, though. The transit village, roughly analogous to the one at Fruitvale BART, is a “live/work” development filling the gap between the wealthy Temescal District and the rapidly developing KONO corridor. The entire project is valued at $200 million dollars (over three times the worth of the Fruitvale Transit Village). The MacArthur Transit Village LLC is a partnership between two mega-developers: McGrath Properties and BRIDGE housing.</p>
<p>Once constructed, the Transit Village will be more a part of San Francisco than of Oakland. The transit village is designed as a commuter enclave. Without ever stepping into the surrounding north Oakland neighborhoods, yuppies can live near BART, travel to and from work and, on their Friday nights, visit the upscale restaurants on Telegraph. This is not to say that the Transit Village will have a neutral effect on surrounding areas. Similar to many other development projects, there is talk of revitalizing an ailing neighborhood or, worse, reducing the existing neighborhood to a blank canvas on which developers can capitalize on a “booming real-estate market.” Regardless of the rhetoric, the construction on the Transit Village can be anticipated to bring an increased security presence, a fresh assault on graffiti and street art, and scores of new residents sympathetic to the police and unaware of the neighborhood in which they live.</p>
<p>McGrath Properties<br />
1625 Clay Street, Suite 100<br />
Oakland, CA</p>
<p>BRIDGE Housing<br />
345 Spear Street, Suite 700<br />
San Francisco, CA</p>
<p><strong>Oakland Global</strong></p>
<p>Anti-infrastructural struggles, struggles against the myth and physicality of progress, provide a ground on which anarchists and social antagonists can articulate a total refusal of society. Campaigns or actions against one specific developer or another, as fertile as they may be, are also well within the domain of leftists and reformers. Attacking the very functioning of this society, the way it moves commodities and mediates exchange, is opaque to the logic of the left. A praxis of critique and attack positioned against progress (which is only the refinement and spread of empire) will not create jobs, but rather destroy them, in will not preserve a neighborhood, it very well might impoverish one and, most of all, it cannot as easily be turned on its head to buttress the functioning of this repressive society.</p>
<p>Since 2008, a project as been underway to redevelop the old Oakland Army Base. The goal is to develop the 330 acres of land into a world-class port and freight train terminal. Like so many other Oakland redevelopment projects, Phil Tagami is once again the front man. Unlike other projects, this is not a business or residential development seeking to capitalize on the latest surge of money into the Oakland economy. This project is an attempt to secure the Port of Oakland’s future as a major port, especially while mega-ports are being developed along the Pacific Coast (like the $4bn effort in Punta Colonet, Mexico).</p>
<p>The port expansion, obviously, must be opposed, sabotaged, and, in our wildest dreams, stopped. People have said many times that the two port shutdown actions were not merely union actions, but were a mass of people participating in an economic attack on global capitalism. While this feels like a generous analysis, there is also more than a little truth to it. This little bit of truth must become the seed for a new flourishing of anti-economic activity. We can start in our neighborhoods, that seems prudent, but we mustn’t stop until the ruins stretch all the way to the water.</p>
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When radicals move to a neighborhood does it still constitute gentrification, or is this a projection of class war being misdirected as percieved race war? I'm not saykng racism isn't real and of course reactions by the state in regards to seperating East from West will definitely alter, the state will have the same perceptions, but when did radicals start making money and if they have can I have some? Is this about others losing their homes because if its just about protecting racial integrity fuck it, stop this liberal guilt bullshit. Acknowledge the problem and try to integrate as ethically as possible. But if our presence is driving cost up there's a problem.

yes it does; sadly. more white faces around is good for development.

same poster-

but property destruction, theft of corporate property, and vandalism are all bad for development :)

Maybe if more white kids started mugging/harassing white artist groups, yuppies, & hipsters, then perhaps we could keep the middle class bullshit out.

You say that like the reality of a situation is reflected in the way the situation is portrayed, which simply isn't true. For example, the article mentions how Oakland still has the highest murder rate per capita in the state, and yet Oakland has the "best" real-estate market in the country right now (measured in terms of how long it takes to sell a property). If you seriously think that if enough white kids started lumpen it up, that the image of white kids in the city would change accordingly, I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. That's simply not going to happen before some massive paradigm change in the states, or until the city is so gentrified they need some other group to blame and the MSM comes out with "Chavs 2 - Electric Bugaboo".

How did this get voted down? I was particularly proud of the "Chavs 2" joke.

I think it's pretty hard to blame gentrification on the initial "colonizers". Most white people who move into poorer neighborhoods do so because it's what they can afford. A pretty good way to initiate the leftist "privilege wars" is to mention that areas "colonized" by LGBT people tend to gain economic value and thus become gentrified.

"Most white people who move into poorer neighborhoods do so because it's what they can afford."

You have no idea how much I wish that were true. Look up the term "Urban Pioneers." My dad always talks about that shit whenever I see him, going on about how these brave people go into lower class neighborhoods, buying and fixing up a property at a good deal. I try to point out that what he's talking about is pretty much the definition of gentrification, but he doesn't see anything wrong with it. After all, it's helping out the local real-estate market, right? That *helps* the people who live there!

So you might even be right that "most" white people don't intend to do that, but the fact is that there's a sizable amount who do. And really, that's all people who are getting fucked over are going to see.

"Urban Pioneers" sounds like some lofty lie the property flippers tell themselves so they can still look in the mirror without puking. Yeah, they're not greedy; they're noble missionaries, and before they showed up to save Oakland, there was no civilization here anyway, right?

You're wrong in proposing that we prevent the expansion of the ports. Think of all the jobs that will be created with the port economy. It would really better the lives of Oakland residents to have stable jobs there.

Dictatorship Of The Trolletariat

Sometimes I wonder who it is that actually asserts the idea of the more militant side of the radical struggle in Oakland is a white-privileged vanguard. It reminds me of may 1st when I was with the media team during the "Oakland Commune March". The Oakland Commune was heading to meet up with the migrant-workers rights march in East Oak. 'Youths of color' and WHITES were clearly both in equal in the front of the march,most of them masked up. I jumped to the side to grab a picture of the front-line, and out of nowhere this white guy jumps in front of the march and yells "I'M NOT GOING TO LET YOU GUYS TURN THIS INTO A WHITE RIOT, THERE ARE UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS HERE, CHECK YOUR FUCKIN PRIVILEGE YO" to which ironically 2 masked black kids moved him out of the way and said "This aint going to be a white riot" followed by laughter. Eventually the one white-man was pissed, and a bunch of 'security' for the migrant march got mad about masks so the march split into 2. A large amount of people stayed with those masked up compared to those that went the other way.

So yeah, generally liberals do use identity politics to quell and purify movements to their ability as a response to resistance becoming more generalized. They unknowingly play the role of the state in social control by the nature of their organizations/functions. I'm not saying white-supremacy doesn't exist within the structure of capitalism, but to imply we need to create racial divisions in the struggle because some white people actually have to live in certain areas due to cheaper costs is ridiculous. If you think the biggest factor behind gentrification is the white or Asian kid (me) going to a U.C. who cant afford to live in Berkeley is your enemy rather than the capitalist system than you are lost. Especially when those said kids are down with the struggle of Oakland. Welcome to capitalism, where people constantly move, and migrate due to economic factors. Being from somewhere during birth gives you no right to control the struggle with an iron-first, nobody has the right.

"Being from somewhere during birth gives you no right to control the struggle with an iron-first, nobody has the right."

tell dat 2 the Basque, puto

Fomenting these kinds of splits with liberal political factions is the most hopeful course of action at this point. Anarchists got conned into agreeing to non-aggression pacts with liberals. Liberals are obviously one of many enemies of an anarchist reality, and the main benefactors of that arrangement. Liberals will claim leadership over movements that don't belong to them and push out more radical voices. Rather than denouncing those movements as hopelessly liberal, an effort should be made to make distinctions between anarchist and liberal politics explicitly clear and to disassociate from the reformist pacifying voices that seek to shut down revolutionary theory and praxis. To the extent that we can participate in mass struggles while approaching them in a way that promotes revolutionary consciousness and the imperative of direct action, is the extent that we will be able to grow the anarchist movement and present a serious challenge to Capital and the State. This isn't the role of a vanguard, but of a grouping of people that realizes that individual freedom is inseparable from social freedom. None are free until all are free. If one's desire is truly an anarchist society, part of that comes with the responsibility of developing an anarchist consciousnesses through propaganda, both of deed and thought. Social conditioning is one of the main obstacles to a broader understanding of anarchism, and should be undermined at every opportunity. This isn't cynical politicking, no more than anarchist violence against politicians and the rich is equivalent to it's opposite. That's a bunch of post modern bullshit trying to convince people that everything is just shades of grey, that taking a stand on anything is folly in a world of relativism. And so people are left acting for personal reasons, feeling unable or unwilling to take any kind of principled stand and risk being ridiculed for their earnestness. While not completely powerless, we are mostly powerless in isolation. Only when we are able to come together, sometimes even just in small numbers, do we have the collective strength to challenge the powers that be. There were glimpses of this during Occupy. Hopefully anarchists can continue to expand on that and help to shape a revolutionary movement that is widely understood, supported, and welcome to the broader public. Then we will have a real insurgency and an opportunity for a real commune, not the image of one held up for spectacular consumption by the radically sympathetic masses.

Um actually a bunch of masked protesters of whatever races were about to BLOCK the immigrant march from entering the park, by facing them masked with giant shields as if they were the fucking cops. People at the front of the immigrants march, were afraid to continue to the park if it meant a conflict with masked people with shields and were going to skip their stop their and skip their speakers and continue to the Plaza.

A number of anarchist organizers who have been with Occupy Oakland/Oakland Commune since the beginning asked, then yelled at those masked people (most of whom were from fucking out of town, don't think we can't recognize our own in masks) to split the OO/OC group across the streets and flank the immigrants rights march as it entered the park because the intention had always been for the OO/OC march to join the immigrants rights march, not confront it or lead it to OGP.

Don't fucking riot tourist up into our shit, fuck things up and write inaccurate bullshit about it on the internet when you don't know what the fuck you're talking about. If May Day was the first time you rolled with the Oakland Commune, you're a fucking NEWB who didn't know where the fuck you were in Oakland or how many conversations were had between marches to coordinate a positive joining or the work leading up to that day.

All this story tells me is that a bunch of slummers are coming into Oakland getting our kids in trouble.

And if you don't like the iron fist, maybe it's time to quit swinging it around breaking stuff.

The problem that this approach will confront, and I think it's a good approach, is that lots of people want things from infrastructure. The infrastructure they'll get will mostly make them miserable, this is true, but this needs to be articulated. People aren't going to follow anti-civ anarchists on a "suicidal" course of struggle simply because they hate the metropolis. They'll do it b/c the metropolis makes them miserable. The piece is great, but I don't think it spends enough time articulating this -- articulating how development causes and compounds misery. Look at the examples given -- NO TAV, Keratea, indigenous folks in Canada: in all of these cases people were striking at infrastructure because their livelihood was threatened by it. Without that, you'll just get a few abortive attacks that will leave scratches on the infrastructure at best.

A broken window is a bit more than a scratch, comrade!

Yeah. A bit more.

You're right, in political terms "its a pain in the ass," outside of widespread rioting and semi coordinated uprisings on May Day (then its "terrorism" to the government or "fighting back" to us and myself) its carried out by "those fucking kids," or I'm sorrg if you're in Oakland "those fucking white kids.". Maybe this is the tactic we can use to break our comrades out of jail? Oh wait, that's right, can't scratch bullet proof glass with a rock. Maybe it would have been a bit more effective in Paris say 1871. Gues times change. I'll say this though, it is easy.

Like most places, Oakland is not just one homogenous thing. There's a big difference between downtown and say, three miles east. Just for us to bear in mind.

holy shit actually engaged dialogues on @news <3

I'm an anarchist firefighter and I don't think we should be suddenly assuming that people are too stupid to leave burning buildings just because its an anarchist fire.

NO! I'm talking about the inadvertent spontaneous anarchist firestorm, being that it is unorganised, thus anarchist, duh, that there is always the possibility that the anarchist firelighter will not take due responsibility for the welfare of any innocent unaware occupants or people within a radius of 100 metres who MAY have been having a snooze next door in a hammock nextdoor, or been left in a bassinet. This equates to murder, and the firelighters cannot be called anarchists.

>concerned anarchist firefighter

and the firelighters cannot be called anarchists.

boo hoo

Word, and anyone remember what happened to those bank tellers in greece?


Me too. He had that whole Jimmy Smits meets Sam Elliot thing going, with just a touch of bloat. Hot.


KONO 2012


This is a really fine essay and I'm glad to see that Bay of Rage is still putting thoughtful pieces out there even while the Bay seems mired in scene dramatics.

This is a great article. I think the shift from gentrification to development makes a lot of sense. Another shift that would be useful, and avoid the traps of anti-gentrification politics, would be to focus on rents and landlords. This is really the core issue behind gentrification -- shit just gets too expensive.

The expense of rent is not the core issue. As the article conveys, the issue is design and order. Gentrification is a process of development, both of a physical confinement, as well as the cultural globular of the myth of the middle-class, or bourgeois ideals. Even the recent report by the government admits the middle class dose not exist as a group of people, but as an aspiration and a trend of consumption.

It may not be the core issue from the perspective of understanding what's happening. But it is a core issue in terms of the shit people care about. Most people don't give a fuck about this abstraction called civilization. They do care about their own misery, which is exacerbated by development (and by civilization). I like this piece a lot, but it seems to be only interested in speaking to an anarchist subculture. Which is fine, if your goal is to change the conversation among anarchists. But if you want to actually start destroying infrastructure, you're going to need more than a 100 people in black bloc, and you're going to have to give people some reason to hate civilization that isn't moral or ideological.

In other words, the following will not cut it: "Anti-infrastructural struggles, struggles against the myth and physicality of progress, provide a ground on which anarchists and social antagonists can articulate a total refusal of society. Campaigns or actions against one specific developer or another, as fertile as they may be, are also well within the domain of leftists and reformers. Attacking the very functioning of this society, the way it moves commodities and mediates exchange, is opaque to the logic of the left. A praxis of critique and attack positioned against progress (which is only the refinement and spread of empire) will not create jobs, but rather destroy them, in will not preserve a neighborhood, it very well might impoverish one and, most of all, it cannot as easily be turned on its head to buttress the functioning of this repressive society."

The laudable goal of opacity to the left, in this case, also means opacity but all but a very small group of people. It doesn't need to be that way, however, if people spend some thinking about how to articulate development and progress in slightly different terms. I also think this paragraphs just misses how easily a certain liberal environtalism can recuperate antidevelopment struggles, but that's a point for another day.

I do live in an impoverished neighborhood with no jobs or "prospects". And my attention is on the abandoned properties and the prospect of forming a culture dependent on direct use and control of those properties, and primarily as an ecology. You're quite right, that it is easily co-opted as liberal environmentalism.
We are in a different situation than Oakland, but are upfront, in good faith, that what we want is anarchy, ie open, common spaces, battle fields where we fight against racism, misogyny,heteronormativity , etc where we can be in communion and conflict with our neighbors, and not with the "system".
The article may well be right to imply that strategically, in Oakland's current stage of development, it has passed gentrification, passed the plain of persons, is now at a stage of mechanization, and that fists should be thrown at the mechanisms of the machine.
But i don't know Oakland. I know my neighborhood, and that the emptiness is a void, a place of ease where we can move toward each other. Maybe in Oakland there is no more room, no place of ease, and people need to open up the void. Someone, i forget who said, "In war, all plains of battle, are level."

Land is essentially the foundation to life, you're right, it's about re-occupation, translated to evicting the neo-colonialist landlords. The banks are the landlords, consider temporary occupation of 3 to 6 months knowing that due process for evistion takes that long. In a way it's hit and run tactics. Or else you find a piece of vacant wilderness and subside temporarily, like being a nomad or gypsy, become self-sufficient and go from there.


We are in the situation where we can get city-lots for $30 at auction. So, we are able to use them for more than six months. The houses here are more applicable to that advice. however, it would be reasonable to expect to get a house here for $10 and stay in it in a semi-legal squat for up to two years. There are other ways to go about the use of land here, and we do, but in the long run it comes down to building relationships with the people here in the neighborhood that antagonize and destroy hierarchy. Gentrification is starting here just this year! We're on the front.

But we don't consume very much. No Toyota hybrid cars. I was wrong to say race isn't an issue because as long as its an issue for anyone its an issue for us.

You know what, I retract my statement. You're somewhat right.

I'm not sure rent is a core issue in Oakland. I do see the occasional really crazy ads for, say, one of those stupid "edgy, urban" loft spaces for $2K or $3K a month, but is anybody who has that kind of money really crazy enough to spend it for the luxury of living on San Pablo Avenue or near MacArthur Bart (!!)?

There are plenty of cheaper rental options around, and renting here is far less expensive than in San Francisco or, oh and here's a big joke, in Emeryville.

OMG, the very stink of Emeryville hits you in the face so bad now that you can close your eyes in the backseat of a car and know, just from the stench, that you're driving past E-ville. But over the last decade or two, a ton of those overpriced lofty developments have popped up, and I guess people rent them because it's Not Oakland, but the joke's on them because it's freaking Emeryville.

It never used to smell that bad, either, but all the construction over there has dug up a lot of industrial waste and probably some dead bodies. I still remember back in the 90s when a number of residential hotels on San Pablo burned down, one after the other, in the space of maybe two or three years. Up went the Trendy Urban crapboxes, in came the condo flippers, and I only hope that when some of those people go out on their "bay view!" balconies with coffee in the morning, just to have that stink blow right in their faces, they're mostly people who have bought those overpriced, unheatable, butt-ugly condos in hopes of flipping them to the next sucker and oops, now they're stuck LIVING in that mess. Nobody who knows the terrain would ever rent one.

You're way off base -- rents may be cheaper than San Francisco, but that's like saying your BMW is cheaper than a Jaguar. For poor people without section 8 Oakland is fucking expensive. Rents have increased massively in Oakland, and not just the bourgie areas but West O and East O. What do you think gentrification consists of? Do you think the class composition of an area changes to become middle-class without poor people being pushed out due to rents? How does the class and racial composition of an area change if not by changes in rental values?

I hate to call privilege, but your comment really reeks of it.


also, the fact that you can still find deals says nothing. you have to consider quality, too. obviously there's a lot of totally fucked-up properties in oakland, but people in general prefer not to live in shitholes.

my anarchist credibility depends on my living in a shithole at all times dude
I have to hurry past yuppie redevelopment because if I linger more than 2 minutes, it's break something or -10 anarchy points.

LOL...yeah, that's why I see a cap on the whole gentrification issue. A lot of the newbies see anything beyond their North Pole enclave as a shithole, so while a few of them may be stupid enough to pay $2000 for a boxy studio, it's certainly not the trend throughout the city.

We've got several section 8 units in our building; this unit here is an amazing one bedroom with views all over the place, all utilities included, and we're at $800 a month, which is the going rate in this very safe, quiet neighborhood. (LOL...and hell no, I'm not advertising it!)

If there's a Temescal bubble, it's pretty much staying in Temescal, maybe some spillover into Rockridge, which has always been "trendy" although hell if I've ever figured out why, speaking of shithole apartments. It's really not impacting prices in the rest of Oakland, because most of the newbie hipsters are frightened of the rest of Oakland. LOL...and the more stupid-priced, crackerbox loft junk the developers build up there to contain them, the less likely they are to venture out to my "ghetto" part of town...BOO!

rents in west oakland have gone up an immense amount... also it's not just temescal. it's the entirety of north oakland (which used to be primarily african-american and is now primarily white) where rents have doubled.

i wish people would stop talking out their ass or at least learn to distinguish between claims about personal experience and claims about things in general, like rent city-wide. just because you found cheap rent doesn't mean anything about whether or not there has been rent inflation.

I know that the ASKING prices for rentals in West Oakland has risen somewhat, and sometimes to crazy degrees. But those are for vacant units. I'm guessing that the rents people are actually willing to PAY to live in West Oakland are quite a bit lower. They can really only go up so high before the only people who will sign on are out-of-towners who don't realize that, hello? West Oakland is the heroin neighborhood.

That's not to say that the speculators haven't tried, however. Back before the housing "bubble" burst, there were a number of outta-towners who snapped up some of the rundown Victorians out on the west side, poured a lot of money into them, and then expected that they would magically sell for a million dollars or more.

Heh heh heh heh heh. Dude, you just invested half a million dollars installing stained-glass windows and marble for miles in your newly renovated shooting gallery!

Then a suspicious number of those houses started burning down, and the yuppies were all over TV hollering, "The junkies burned down our houses!" Yeah, right, the junkies. The junkies had always been there. The renovated gingerbread houses didn't start burning down until some of the owners had no luck at all selling or renting them for the exorbitant prices they were asking.

Anyone who's paying a fortune to live on the west side needs to move.

Temescal's more of a planet unto itself anymore - I never go there unless I have to, usually when I'm craving eritrean food, because Asmari's the best, hands down. But the newer, pricier joints are a joke. But hey, if the people who live there want to stand in line for overpriced slop at Burma Superstar or Bake Sale Betty's, that's their problem.

A lot of the black families that have moved out of Temescal, by the way, left because they were being offered phenomenal amounts of money for their longtime, paid-for houses. I have a friend up there who's lived in his house for three generations, and before the "bubble burst," he had realtors driving him crazy at all hours of the day and night begging him to sell and move on. He had no interest in leaving his family home, but he does laugh like hell at the sheer ugliness of some of the new condos being slapped up around the neighborhood.

temescal does not equal north oakland. and a lot of the families that lived in n. oakland did not own their homes.

North Oakland and Temescal were always synonymous when I lived there in the 80s, although as I remember, nobody who actually lived there cared that much what the neighborhood was called. The people who do care are the ones who stand to profit, whether in money or in some imagined cachet, by saying "I live in Temescal (as opposed to, say, the Murder Dubs.)"

On the grand scale of things, it's just Oakland. Most of the people on the planet have never been here, and when they look at a map, they don't know or care who's in Temescal or Dogtown or even Piedmont, really. It's all just Oakland.

in a year, it'll be absolutely transparent what an idiot you are. rents are starting to head through the roof b/c the spillover from sf. you're living in a dream world.

What spillover from SF? There are plenty of places for people to in the bay area besides SF, and Oakland is rarely their first choice.

Beware of newspaper articles that are basically realtor press releases. The real estate industry is desperate for those old commissions they used to get. The old, inhumanly inflated house prices of "bubble times" is never "coming back," which is obviously a good thing. Meanwhile, there's a glut of houses on the market that aren't moving, because they're still overpriced, few people can afford to buy them, and those that can don't want to buy them here.

So the realtors are now hoping to make their money selling commercial real estate, as in properties to rent, and in order to sell that stuff they've got to convince potential buyers that "Rents are going to rise in Oakland any minute."

You're either buying into the hype, or you're here trying to sell it...not sure which.

The fact is, rent can only rise so much in Oakland anyway, because we have rent control ordinances here. They really work best, though, for people who move into a place, make a home, and stay put for a while. In a rent-controlled community, the landlord's always going to stick you with a higher baseline figure when you move into a new place, because he know there's a limit to how high he'll be able to raise it later.

You don't seem to understand that house prices and rental prices are not correlated. In fact, the latter have risen while the former have fallen.

Rent has objectively risen in Oakland in the past few years. You are wrong and you sound like a spacey drugged out weirdo

There's only so much you can learn on the internet. Shocker!

I really hate you.

Agreed. This shit you've been responding to shows people don't know dick all about Oakland and rents in Oakland. Rent inflation is a thing.

Plus, living with 7 adult people with any income at all in a shithole collective house for $2500 in Ghost Town is a pretty vast difference from living with 1 or 2 adults with income and several children or dependent relatives in a shithole for $2500 in Ghost Town. As in, the collective house full of white middle class kids playing anarchist from SoCal wins at pushing out the poor/working class family from the shitty neighborhood (which is cool cause they'll get some street cred for having lived there, amirite?)

The vast difference is, anyone with any damned sense who's got $2500 a month to spend on rent is NOT going to spend it moving into Ghost Town. The street cred kids might be that stupid, but real Oakland residents will pretty much say, "$2500? You've gotta be shitting me!" and go somewhere else.

And part of that has to do with the WAY people come upon their vacancy information. LOL...the freshly pierced anarchists from Newport Beach, for instance, would probably call a realtor. They may be afraid to use Craigslist in Oakland. Also,they don't live here yet, so they don't know somebody who was just talking to somebody who's got a cute little place to rent, or neighbors about to move out from across the hall, or the ladies from the church to spread the word that somebody's looking to move. Not everything in Ghost Town is going for $2500. Somebody paying that may well live on the same block with somebody paying $750 for an older, nicer place.

I guess the fear is that everybody who has places to rent is going to jack up all the units to $2500 a pop, or sell their place to somebody who will knock it down and put up a bunch of stupid lofts. Think I'll wait to borrow that trouble; Oakland hasn't morphed into Seattle just yet. There are already hipsterly places like the Uptown with all kinds of units sitting empty ("OMG, there were HOMELESS people there, right outside MY window at night!"), so the market for such places does have a definite saturation point.

Again, the median cost of a rental unit in Oakland is $1380. The trendy, crazy-priced yuppie units may be driving that figure upward, but there are still plenty and plenty of neighborhoods where a great, safe apartment can be had for well under a grand a month.

The last broad-scale rental inflation I remember was about a year or two back when everybody thought the "dot com boom" was going to last forever. Then that fell apart, the wealthy commuters all fled, and rents went back down to even lower than before, because the landlords had a lot of vacant units to fill in a hurry.

I like to think there are a lot of people squatting, too, in those thousands of empty foreclosures, and that we just don't here about them because they're lying low.

When I first read this, I though, yeah right! What wealthy yuppies are going to live in crazy overpriced live/work units anywhere near MacArthur Bart when they could live in Albany or Alameda or El Cerrito or even the Oakland hills for the same price or less?

The first batch of fugly condos at McArthur Transit Village will include mainly low-income housing units, probably for people on Section 8:

Unit Mix: 2 studios, 22 one-bedrooms, 29 two-bedrooms, 37 three-bedrooms
Rents: Estimated to range from $450 to $1,150 per month, depending on household income and apartment size
Income: Affordable to residents earning $27,100 to $45,150 (30% to 50% of Area Median Income for a four-person household)
Estimated completion: May 2013

However, there are also 500+ "market rate" units coming shortly down the pike, and it will be interesting to see how the developers interpret "market rate" (and how many hapless fish they draw in. MacArthur Bart? Really? LOL...I don't think many yuppies even take BART to work. Most of them drive, and while some of them might want to come hang out in Oakland in the evenings, I think there's a limit on how many really want to live here 24/7.)

Anyway, the median price of a "new home" in Oakland is supposedly $479K (this is from a realtor's sight, though, so barrel of salt). The median asking price is $350K, the median sale price is $265K, and the median price of a foreclosed home is $231K (so hello, guess what's been selling? Not no live-work units for half a million!)

There are nearly 3000 foreclosed residences available in Oakland right now. The median rental here is $1380 a month.

If the MT developers have any sense, they'll cut their losses and just designate ALL those new units as Section 8. Otherwise, they're liable to have that empty net out for quite some time, waiting for their shipload of suckers to come in. My sense is that the gentry of Temescal (otherwise known as the North Pole) have expanded about as far south on Telegraph as they're going to go. LOL...once they're down at MacArthur, they can't get away with telling their friends, "Well, it's basically South Berkeley..."

If you ride BART between 6 and 9 am, you'll see LOTS and LOTS of yuppies ride BART at that time. It's more convenient than driving, even if you can afford to drive, parking in SF is difficult.

Those sound like wannabe yuppies. The real ones would have private parking in SF, and probably be living there too, or in Marin.

Hell, Pixar's 40 minutes away tops, and guess how many of their workers live in Oakland, or even Emeryville? And they damned sure don't take the bus to work.

I really value the critique put forth in this article. The one area that I wish to be elaborated on is part 3 of the final paragraph of analysis. It suggests to "destroy whiteness as an identity," and I am curious of what is specifically is meant by this and what tactics does this entail. Simply suggesting the reader "destroy whiteness" without any further analysis seems to leave a very important component of the essay unaddressed.

It means no more cream in your coffee and no more Kanye West

smack white boys
especially if they are white anarchists in the bay area
smack them all and send them home
all hail the marxist people's vanguard
we will achieve a multiculturally integrated metropolis one day

don't move to oakland. if you already did, go home.

this isn't a statement about where white people should or shouldn't live. i just think we all belong where we are from and migrating around the country to subcultural hotspots is only going to promote separation of radical perspectives from the general populace. sparks should go to the powder keg not just to other sparks to enjoy being sparks together, but i'm afraid this is all too much what 'radical communities' are all about.

Fuck that! Oakland's got medical weed, regular riots, and vegan soul food, and you want me to move back to Bute to build the commune at "home"? NO WAY!

Sure hope that's sarcasm. I honestly can't tell.

"i just think we all belong where we are from..."

What are your opinions about immigrants?

whites: make like tiqqun and move to the country!

Smash windows not capitalism

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