Monday, July 12, 2004

Venice Gentrification Stirs Class Stuggle

Arguments about who can live by the ocean has erupted into open political struggle over the fate of Venice's local neighborhood coulcil. Thus far tires have been slashed, urine-soaked paper towels have been delivered and the local representative Council has been de-funded and thrown in disarray.

History: A progressive slate has had control of the local Neighborhood Council since an opposition candidate's dog was caught voting in an earlier election (she was supposedly testing the system). The progressives have opposed the City's homeless vagarance ordinance and are openly anti-gentrification in their support for the right of the poor to live in Venice. The opposition claims that the activists have not given the same attention to other issues as they have for the homeless and affordable rental housing and that the quality of life is at risk.

Analysis: Local land use decisions are often the point at which class and issues of property rights versus the public good come into most stark relief. I have often viewed fights over affordable housing and gentrification as having great potential for class-consciousness raising. Why should a long-time resident who has worked his/her entire life for a neighborhood's benefit have to move once the neighborhoods finally does get better. The message: It is the economic system (real estate markets) that makes such conflict necessary. Fight the larger issuse, with a mind on the smaller one.


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