Gentrification Is a Hard Problem

A 577-unit market-rate development planned for the Crenshaw district in Los Angeles.Los Angeles Department of City Planning

Gentrification has been a flash point in race relations for some time now. In Los Angeles it’s an endless battle, with activists fighting to keep everything from skid row to historically black neighborhoods out of the hands of the rich. One councilmember not only wants to reject a housing proposal proposed for an empty lot in his district, he wants to establish “anti-displacement zones”—which probably means rent control—around all upscale housing developments.

It’s a difficult issue because it’s so easy to see both sides. On the one hand, longtime residents really do get pushed out as rents go up and affluent white folks move in. It seems obviously unfair to toss that onto the bonfire of all the other abuses and inequities that blacks and Hispanics already suffer. On the other hand, can we really say that low-income areas should stay low-income areas forever and never be improved? That hardly seems like a great answer either.

I don’t have anything new to offer on this front except to recommend this story from the Washington Post. It focuses on one particular area of grievance, but it does a good job of laying it out from multiple points of view and without trying to put all the blame on one side or one thing. In a small way, you will probably understand the issue a little better if you read it, and that’s something I so rarely get to say these days.


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.