Realtors renaming of Golden Gate neighborhood raises gentrification concerns with locals

November 29, 2012
By
(This story was reprinted from  Oakland Local.)
Published on Thursday, November 29, 2012
by Lauren Soldano
In the last few months, a new word has been coined by Realtors at Lawton Associates, Better Homes and Gardens RE and other local realtors to describe the North Oakland neighborhood between Emeryville, Rockridge and Temescal:  “NOBE,” which stands for North Oakland Berkeley Emeryville. 

Some long-time residents and community organizations – specifically members of local food justice collective Phat Beets – say that the new moniker, as well as other marketing strategies, are making the area attractive to gentrifiers – and not reflecting the neighborhood as it is today.

Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/GoldenGateDistrict
Phat Beets collective member Josh Cadji says the collective first learned about the “NOBE” marketing project when their organization was featured on the neighborhood map put out by “NOBE” Realtors.

“It listed all these hip new places that were not historical institutions or organizations or businesses,” Cadji said.  “Obviously they’re not including black-owned businesses and really, they’re not including restaurants owned by black folks.”

Cadji pointed out that the “NOBE” map’s boundaries are almost identical to those of the North Oakland gang injunction area drawn by the city of Oakland two years ago, still in action today.

“The NOBE folks are branding the neighborhood geographically based on who’s now being criminalized there and who isn’t allowed into that neighborhood,” Cadji said. “Who isn’t allowed into that neighborhood are usually young people of color who are on the gang injunctions list.”

Gentrification, Cadji explained, is the interplay of multiple institutions combining to (intentionally or unintentionally) change the demographic of a neighborhood so that people with money move in and raise property values, thereby making the area unaffordable to live in for historic residents.

“What ends up happening is those people get pushed out,” Cadji said. “It’s important to look at this issue not as individual, but to see that there are structural forces in place that influence our decisions and override our decisions. I think people need to have an awareness of what their presence in a community does and what it means for people who have historically lived there.”

Phat Beets plans to launch a response video to the “NOBE” promotional video and will be continuing their monthly political education series with a workshop on gentrification (presented by Stop the Injunction Coalition) on Dec. 15.

Linnette Edwards, a Realtor and contact for those wanting to purchase “NOBE” homes, chose not to be interviewed for this story. Edwards is featured in a “NOBE” promotional video published in early October and posted on YouTube. She describes the neighborhood as “up and coming” and a “best kept, hidden secret.”

Cadji and other Phat Beets members say the language used in the video creates a colonial narrative, as it depicts the “NOBE” neighborhood as a “new” place, just waiting to be discovered – discovered, that is, by people that consider $400,000 and $500,000 homes affordable. Although not explicitly stated in “NOBE’s” promotional media, the website logo emblazoned atop what some say is the Bay Bridge suggests marketing efforts are targeted towards first-time home buyers moving from San Francisco.

Homeowners Leslie and Mike Smith, interviewed in the “NOBE” video, say that one of their favorite things about the neighborhood is “the diversity.”

Cadji said that diversity, while it may be a “nice concept,” is an acontextual and ahistorical term that warrants further questioning – i.e., diversity for whose benefit?

“Diversity doesn’t really mean anything,” Cadji said. “The white folks moving in might not say, ‘we don’t like the people living here.’  They will never say that, and they probably don’t even think that. But their presence their creates investment in that community whose interests are changing the ethnic or racial demographic – because when white people move in there’s a lot more investment in a community.

“From the city, from the private sector … when it’s poor working class people of color, there’s not investment from the city. There’s always less resources for communities of color,” he added.

Lauren Soldano is a journalist by day and a queer experimental filmmaker by night. Their journalistic interests are varied, but much of their writing centers on issues within activist communities. When they are not interviewing or writing frantically to meet a deadline, they can probably be found whipping up a fancy dinner, reading Bitch magazine, or waiting for the bus. If you think there is something they should be writing about, contact them at lauren.soldano@gmail.com.

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