Get our free newsletter
Not according to longtime D.C. writer Harry Jaffe, now with the Examiner. Jaffe leads this morning’s column:
Change is coming in Washington neighborhoods. It’s driven by natural, cyclical shifts that have remade cities even before the Romans set up camp along the Tiber River. It’s coming quickly; it can’t be stopped.
Then he describes Ward 8 activist Ab Jordan‘s criticism of white families moving their kids into neighborhood schools, and continues:
Change is coming to Anacostia. The city has relocated offices to Good Hope Road. Homeland Security is setting up on Martin Luther King Boulevard. New condominiums and apartments are rising. No doubt some white folks might move in. Memo to Jordan: Anacostia was white until the 1950s.
True, when white students choose public schools, on Capitol Hill in particular, some black families from other neighborhoods might get pushed out. This is difficult and painful and can create conflict. But it’s the inevitable byproduct of change.
But wait! Jaffe wasn’t so sanguine about that kind of change last week, when he bemoaned the 14th Street NW “riot corridor” becoming “condo canyon”:
The riots of 1968 that burned 14th Street started a half-block north when a brick went through the Peoples Drug store, then spread to the corner of 14th and U. The neighborhood declined for two decades. The Metro came in 2000. Pioneers moved into apartments. Artists and writers took up residence over small bars and restaurants.
Now there seems to be a condominium going up on every corner. A developer has dug a huge hole across from the Black Cat indie music hall for 100-plus condos. Buildings are rising behind chain-link fences everywhere.
There are still plenty of storefronts that remind us we are in an urban village: Yum’s Carryout, a check-cashing store, Sam’s Pawn Shop, an empty lot here and there. They give the place that lovely, disheveled look and edgy feel. I fear the street will be sanitized soon.
Jaffe expresses a wish for the city to put the brakes on neighborhood retailers like Ruff & Ready and Pixie’s being displaced.
If the city would enforce district zoning rules that seek to protect local flavor, landlords might not be able to stuff their retail spaces with bars and restaurants. Otherwise, developers looking to make a buck will make 14th Street just like the nightly free-for-all that has made Adams Morgan grimy, dangerous and less livable.
But isn’t that just another form of the change Jaffe says today is inevitable? Displacement from more expensive neighborhoods is often what causes less expensive neighborhoods to develop, after all. Midcity retailers even asked for those very zoning rules to be changed to allow for more bars and restaurants, figuring they’d help the shops that now don’t have daytime traffic.
You can’t try to stop the later stages of gentrification in one area and tell another to accept its beginnings.