House History, Condensed and Reflected

The history of my house — and thanks to those of you who read the long blog posts about it — can now be found in a different form in the Winter issue of the journal Boom. I wrote an essay for Boom about why I started the project, what I found (a condensed version of the story of my house I wrote starting here), and reflections on what I had learned once I was done. I also had help from pseudonymous friend Burrito Justice creating some custom maps for the online version of the essay.

If you’d rather hear the story in audio form, I read the essay (plus a few embellishments that were cut from the published version) on my podcast recently. Stick around after the reading for a talk with Burrito Justice about the challenges of mapping history and a bit more reflection on what I hope is next for my city.


4 thoughts on “House History, Condensed and Reflected

  1. I read your lengthy blog on the history of your house on Slate. I live in a similarly “gentrifying” area, downtown Los Angeles. A very old and historically rich area of the city which holds so much depth for a city often thought of as shallow. Like you, I am middle class and white. Downtown Los Angeles has the biggest centralized group of homeless people in the US. The whiter, wealthier groups moving into luxury lofts and condos are in stark contrast to the poorest of the poor, sleeping on our doorsteps. You researched the history of your house looking for answers to who is on the right side of this gentrification debate, forcing poorer people out of older areas that, in many cases, have become dilapidated, in DTLA’s case, some of the most beautiful and architecturally significant buildings in the country. My research and experience have brought me to look at why the poor, which are usually repressed minorities, cannot afford to be a part of the revitalization of these areas. The reason is America’s thick, unequal despotic devotion to capitalism. The poor have no resources to be a part of these improvements and we don’t encourage them too because they can’t pay the steep rents or buy the expensive coffee. There’s a cultural divide between rich and poor that’s been widening throughout that whole history you discovered. There is no state or federal funding to help them into housing. There is no affordable housing to mix them in with the luxury lofts and condos. Financial inequality is the reason behind this great divide. We can afford to provide programs to provide affordable, supportive housing to the poor and drug addicted. We can fund schools and teach kids that they can go to the “great Universities” that we did so they can partake in all this improvement more equally. We don’t put money into these efforts in government or, nearly enough, privately, because those with much are not used to helping others get there. We’ve been taught to only care about getting ourselves there. We need a cultural and financial shift towards equalizing the playing field. Until that happens, gentrification will continue to force culturally rich but financially poorer groups out so only we can enjoy cleaner streets, renovated buildings and these beautiful old neighborhoods that we should all be a part of.

    • Thanks for reading the piece, Amanda. I think you’re right that at the core of a lot of what’s happening spatially in American cities is related to income inequality (which, if you dig a layer deeper, has its own causes). We’re doing a bad job of living up to our “land of opportunity” rhetoric. I wish I had more hopeful things to say about that, but I don’t feel like our politics are pointed in a helpful direction.

  2. Hi Brock,

    I also came across your article on Slate. I’m moving to Oakland in a few days, but I grew up nearby and have been working here for about a year now. I actually looked at a small apartment on 56th and San Pablo, above the corner liquor store near that mystery lot with all of the used kitchen appliances.

    I hope this isn’t weird, but I’m also trying to create my own project about redevelopment and life Oakland. I would love to exchange ideas, resources, whatever with you.

    Thanks for your work; I appreciate it immensely.


    • Thanks for reading and being in touch, Dana. I’m happy to talk with you; we should trade emails. I’m at a brockwinstead at gmail. Send me a note and we’ll go from there.

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