Insight

Is New Always Better?

The rapid rise of gentrification in major cities leaves residents wondering.

Road facing bridge at sunset
JZ

Janice Zhou

October 23, 2020 08:00 AM

Large cities across the country are seeing rising rates of gentrification, and California residents are grappling with how to best manage the phenomenon while mitigating its negative impacts. According to a U.S. News article from August 2019, San Diego ranks as the second city in the U.S. with the highest intensity of gentrification, with 29 percent of the neighborhoods are gentrified out of a total of 627 neighborhoods.

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition ranked the country’s 20 most intensely gentrified cities during a five-year period ending in 2017 based off data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. Of the 20, California had five of them: San Francisco-Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

We talked to two attorneys recognized by Best Lawyers to discuss the impact of gentrification on residents.

Arthur O. Spaulding, Jr.
Partner at Cox, Castle & Nicholson
Recognized for Real Estate Law Since 2007

What are the effects, either positive or negative, of gentrification?

The negative effects are all related to disruptions to affordable housing. Rents rise. Homelessness increases. Public health suffers. Workers are compelled to move great distances away from their jobs and must commute to work, increasing air pollution and straining family relationships.

The positive side is mostly related to benefits to individuals affluent enough to afford to buy housing that may be rental-housing stock in presently marginal neighborhoods. The buyers redevelop that housing to higher standards, thus “improving” the quality of housing in those locations. This brings with it an increase in property taxes as assessed values increase, producing some economic benefits to the communities. In addition, a claim can be made that the more affluent buyers also spend more money than those who used to occupy homes purchased, increasing sales tax revenues. But all of this comes at the expense of those renters who are forced to relocate and often must move outside of the cities in which they used to live.

There’s a form of gentrification known as “green gentrification” which replaces lower-income housing in order to construct a green, resilient park or shoreline. What do you think of gentrification in the name of helping the planet?

I think this is a very bad idea unless it is also paired with an effective redevelopment program to create affordable housing that replaces housing being converted. Taking the Bay Area as an example, there is an existing lack of affordable housing, and the level of homelessness in the city is high. It’s hard to imagine finding additional property within the city on which to create affordable housing as a concomitant municipal program to green gentrification, let alone fast-tracking its development.

How are cities in California being gentrified specifically?

Think back to the great Dot Com Bubble here in the Bay Area in the late 1990s. The high-income employees of the Dot Com companies essentially invaded the areas south of Market and began “upgrading” many of the city’s neighborhoods that had been rental housing for lower-income people for decades. This has now been repeated in the era of the boom in High Tech. San Francisco simply became an unaffordable place to live, unless you were extremely wealthy.

Note that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are currently producing a bit of a reversal to this trend, but that, in turn, is leading to a new “gentrification” of the former second-home destinations like the Wine Country and Lake Tahoe. Rental housing in those “resort” destinations has been eroded substantially as second homes are either occupied by their owners full time or are purchased for primary housing by affluent city refugees

Michael H. Zischke
Partner at Cox, Castle & Nicholson
Recognized for Land Use and Zoning Law Since 2007

What is your opinion on gentrification?

Gentrification is a fact of real estate life; it has positive and negative effects. It’s best to focus on reducing negative impacts than arguing about gentrification itself.

Is there a legal way to fight gentrification?

I do not think so. We can fight the negative impacts, and so by promoting affordable housing and making it easier to build second units (and harder for neighbors to raise claims against them), but the economic trends are what they are.

How can racial disparities in housing be broken down in terms of gentrification?

There was a very interesting article in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago on racial disparity in housing in San Mateo and how it could be attributed to a mix of historic private and public actions, including racial covenants in subdivisions, government lending practices, and actions of private developers concerned with market value. The point of the article was that these historic practices have left a lasting imprint in a variety of ways. including dissuading minority purchases who do not like the idea of buying into a subdivision when the title report shows a racially restrictive covenant. I recall having that concern when I bought my first house in the 1980s and writing to a state legislator suggesting there should be some requirement to get rid of any CC&Rs that have such covenants, not just have a clause in the title report that they are unenforceable, but affirmatively get rid of them. There may be some serious practical problems with doing that to all CC&Rs that contain such covenants, but it is a small example of what we should do to try to resolve the issue.

Headline Image: ISTOCK.COM / SPONDYLOLITHESIS

Related Articles

As Courts Grapple With the COVID-19 Pandemic, Scarlett Law Group Adapts


by Sean Stonefield

Best Lawyers honoree Randall Scarlett on obtaining results despite unprecedented challenges.

Scarlett Law Group

ESG Changing Texas’ Legal Landscape


by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers breaks down the growing industry trend of ESG standards and how its altering the field of law in the state of Texas.

Texas’ Ever Changing Legal Landscape

House Trap


by Heidi E. Storz

Special districts are often being used as profit centers that leave residents to foot the bill. These homeowners deserve protection from unscrupulous developers who attempt to fleece them and avoid accountability.

Special Districts Changing Property Ownership

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers: Real Estate and Infrastructure Publication


by Best Lawyers

Featuring the top legal talent from The Best Lawyers in America, Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America and "Lawyer of the Year" recipients for real estate and infrastructure as well as thought leadership from some of the nation's top lawyers.

Real Estate and Infrastructure Publication

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

New York In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

Courts in the New York area have continued to hear cases, many of them years-long battles that are still ongoing. Here is a look at some recent court cases.

New York In the Law

Southern California in the Law


by Gregory Sirico

Courts in Southern California have continued to hear cases, many of them years-long battles that are still ongoing. Here is a look at some recent court cases in Southern California.

Southern California in the Law

South Florida In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

Courts in South Florida have continued to hear cases, many of them years-long battles that are still ongoing. Here is a look at some recent court cases in South Florida.

South Florida In the Law

Northern California In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

We explore three legal cases in Northern California.

Northern California In the Law

Tampa In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

We explore three legal cases in Tampa.

Tampa In the Law

The Best Lawyers in Northern California


by Best Lawyers

Our 2022 Best Lawyers in Northern California publication features top-ranked legal talent in Fresno, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Rosa.

The Best Lawyers in Northern California

Midwest In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

We examine five court cases that are ongoing in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and Indiana.

A Look at Court Cases in the Midwest

Washington, D.C. In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

We explore three legal cases in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. In the Law

Nikelle Meade – Texas 2021 Lawyer of the Year


by Best Lawyers

Land Use and Zoning Law Austin, TX

Texas 2021 Lawyer of the Year

Elections Dustup


by Rachel Shrewsbury

Two election security bills working their way through the Texas House and Senate are creating divisions within the Texas GOP and meeting stiff opposition from many who view them as voter suppression.

Elections Dustup

Dress Codes


by Janice Zhou

A controversial bill banning religious symbols leaves Québec divided.

Religious Symbols

Trending Articles

The Real Camille: An Interview with Johnny Depp’s Lawyer Camille Vasquez


by Rebecca Blackwell

Camille Vasquez, a young lawyer at Brown Rudnick, sat down with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer to talk about her distinguished career, recently being named partner and what comes next for her.

Camille Vasquez in office

Announcing The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from the United Kingdom.

The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom 2023

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: The Best Lawyers Honorees Behind the Litigation


by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers takes a look at the recognized legal talent representing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in their ongoing defamation trial.

Lawyers for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Announcing The Best Lawyers in France™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from France.

Blue, white and red strips

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Germany™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Germany.

Black, red and yellow stripes

Education by Trial: Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom


by Margo Pierce

The intricacies of complex lawsuits require extensive knowledge of the legal precedent. But they also demand a high level of skill in every discipline needed to succeed at trial, such as analyzing technical reports and deposing expert witnesses.

Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Belgium™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Belgium.

Black, yellow and red stripes

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in France


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms, including our inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recipients.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in France

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

We Are Women, We Are Fearless


by Deborah S. Chang and Justin Smulison

Athea Trial Lawyers is a female owned and operated law firm specializing in civil litigation, catastrophic energy, wrongful death and product liability.

Athea Trial Law Female Leadership and Success

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms, including our inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recipients.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany

U.K. Introduces Revisions to Right-to-Work Scheme and Immigration Rules


by Gregory Sirico

Right-to-Work Scheme and Immigration Rules in

Destiny Fulfilled


by Sara Collin

Was Angela Reddock-Wright destined to become a lawyer? It sure seems that way. Yet her path was circuitous. This accomplished employment attorney, turned mediator, arbitrator and ADR specialist nonpareil discusses her career, the role of attorneys in society, the new world of post-pandemic work and why new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson represents the future.

Interview with Lawyer Angela Reddock-Wright

Famous Songs Unprotected by Copyright Could Mean Royalties for Some


by Michael B. Fein

A guide to navigating copyright claims on famous songs.

Can I Sing "Happy Birthday" in Public?

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom


by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?