Originally posted July 22, 2009.
OCEAN BEACH, CA. Recently, we have raised the issue of gentrification here in Ocean Beach, the controversial process of urban renewal. Acknowledging that it has been on-going here in OB since at least the early 1970s, it is important to understand it and to appreciate it when it rears its head.
Many neighborhoods in major cities across the country have experienced gentrification, where older housing is torn down to make way for newer, spiffier, and more expensive homes, condos, and apartments. The process often displaces the poorer – and in many cases – ethnic minorities – from neighborhoods that have historically been theirs.
Often, entire communities have been transformed due to gentrification and entire ethnic groups have been removed over the years. The most clear example is what happened to Richmond, a strong, African-American neighborhood in San Francisco. After years of people and housing renewal, it has been totally changed – and there’s hardly any Black families left – especially poor or lower working class.
Gentrification happens because the new housing can only be afforded by more affluent residents. Whether the new owners move in themselves or rent out to higher-income tenants, the results are the same.
A close-by example is what has happened to Mission Beach. It has been transformed into a tourist-town, with its bay-side housing being turned into a sea of daily, weekly, or monthly rentals for out-of-towners. In the process, the entire neighborhood was destroyed. Take a walk or ride a bike along the bayside pavement and you will witness a ghost-town of historic proportions. There really was a community there once.
Another example of gentrification at the coast is Imperial Beach. Virtually every small house, cottage and shack that lined the sand has been torn down and replaced with two or three story condos.
This is also happening to Ocean Beach. Check out how few smaller, one-story houses remain at the edge of our beach. Recently, there was a spurt of construction and new giants have replaced what once were homes to seniors, students, surfers and young families. The new giants stick out as they are not in conformity to the surrounding houses in terms of bulk and scale.
It is about to happen to the southwest corner of Abbott and Saratoga. An old two-story apartment and the four-plex behind it next to the Saratoga Park, plus the site of the old Dempseys (original home of Hodads) will all face the bulldozer. A dozen three-story condos will replace them all. It is only a matter of time.
I drove around OB yesterday and snapped a few photos of more examples. If large houses or condos are raised on every block over a span of a couple decades, it is a slower process of gentrification, but it is gentrification nevertheless. If entire blocks are changed, OB becomes changed.
If many of the smaller homes, cottages, beach shacks are replaced, OB will lose its character. If the community loses its character, it is no longer OB.