Error message

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in taxonomy_field_views_data() (line 444 of /home/reimagi8/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/modules/taxonomy.views.inc).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in taxonomy_field_views_data() (line 444 of /home/reimagi8/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/modules/taxonomy.views.inc).

Urban Justice

Urban planning, housing, transportation, the privatization of public space and the criminalization of people of color and poor people.

San Jose Flea Market Faces BART Expansion, Displacement

Called La Pulga or “the flea” by the region’s Spanish-speaking communities, the San Jose Flea Market has been a South Bay community institution for more than 50 years. The 120-acre open air market is the largest in the nation and attracts over four million visitors annually. For Mexican, Central and South American, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, and South Asian immigrants, it has provided a one-of-a-kind opportunity to incubate small businesses offering an unparalleled variety of affordable, culturally-specific goods and services.

In 2007, the Valley Transportation Authority in Santa Clara County released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report on the planned 16-mile extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train line from Fremont to San Jose. Its northern most stop would be located on Berryessa Road right by the flea market. Shortly after the report’s release, the owners of the property where the flea market is located hired a consulting firm to draw up plans for an upscale mixed-use residential and commercial development. Then, without informing the vendors, the owners appealed to the San Jose City Council to change the site’s zoning designation to allow for development, and received it—given the potential for new housing stock along the BART extension corridor—thus paving the way for the flea market’s closure.

Transit Oriented Displacement: Circa 1965

A former Oakland Chinatown resident remembers the arrival of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to her neighborhood. Adapted from an interview with Fran Troy for a radio documentary on KALW’s Crosscurrents by Lindsey Lee Keel.

The three square blocks called Madison Square Park was once a thriving neighborhood until the wrecking ball of urban renewal made way for what is now Lake Merritt BART Station. It is paved over now, but the house where Fran Toy grew up was right here, where Madison Park is today.

“I lived there from the moment I came home from the hospital until four days before my 22nd birthday, when I left to get married,” says Toy, adding that it was a safe neighborhood of Victorian duplexes and apartment buildings. “We didn’t even lock our doors!”

Like Toy’s own family, most of the neighbors were working class, many of them immigrants from China. Although she grew up during the Depression, Toy and her siblings did not know they were poor.

Related Stories: 

Building Transit Oriented Community in Oakland's Chinatown

Home is more than simply a place. It is a connection to a community of people, the comforts of familiar sights and sounds, and the sense of belonging. As history has shown us, numerous urban “renewal” efforts in the name of eliminating blight disregarded people’s visions for their homes, resulting in displacement of individuals and disintegration of communities. Today, the trend is to promote transit oriented development (TOD) in the name of addressing climate change. But if development is done inequitably, it represents the latest challenge to low-income communities of color.

Related Stories: 

Lake Tahoe Development Creates "Poverty with a View"

As the snow piles up around Lake Tahoe and tourists flock to the resorts, it makes for happy hotel and restaurant managers, casino and shop owners, but rising snow levels also means higher heating bills, more traffic, and a greater cost of living. For a tourist, the higher prices and traffic congestion are a temporary inconvenience—the price of visiting one of the most beautiful places in the world. For the low-income local community, the consequences are far more serious as the increase in wealth around the Tahoe basin has led to a flurry of developments and redevelopments, each pricier than the other.

Vail Resorts, owners of Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe and Vail Ski Resort in Eagle County, Colorado, see the development of ski villages as a means to increase business from skiers and snowboarders. The ski villages—patterned after old European resorts—try to recreate a certain alien mountain culture where visitors can stay, eat, play, and spend their money. More than a mere tourist trap, a ski village like Heavenly Mountain Village is fitted for an affluent tourist with its art galleries, chic coffee shop chains, brand-name ski stores, realty offices, and the occasional local high-end boutique or restaurant.

Related Stories: 

Foreclosed Tenants Shut Down Utility Shut-offs

Shortly after the birth of her youngest child, Kim Isaacs received notice that her West Oakland apartment building was now owned by Countrywide Home Loans, which had foreclosed on her landlord. They wanted her out. Isaacs had become one of the hidden victims of the foreclosure crisis—tenants in foreclosed buildings. According to a study by the statewide organization Tenants Together, 7,000 housing units hit by foreclosure in Alameda County last year were tenant-occupied. That’s 40 percent of all the foreclosed units in the county.

Countrywide offered Isaacs $1,000 and two weeks to find a new place to live, pack up her things, and move out. “I told them, ‘No way!’” she said. She needed more money and more time to find another place for herself and her seven children. And as a member of Causa Justa/Just Cause, an Oakland and San Francisco tenants-rights organization, she also knew that city, state, and federal laws prohibit new property owners from simply evicting tenants.

Related Stories: 

Social Cartography: The Art of Using Maps to Build Community Power

By Eli Moore and Catalina Garzón

It was November 2008 and eight leaders from environmental justice community organizations were scrutinizing a map of southeast San Francisco showing areas experiencing problems with diesel trucks. Hand drawn blue and red lines indicated the locations of freeways and truck routes in the neighborhood. “Why do you think these problems exist here?” asked the facilitator. The response was immediate: “Because the people who live here are poor! And the people in charge don’t listen to us.”

In recent years, mapping has increasingly become a key strategy for analyzing and communicating issues in public health, urban planning, environmental justice, and human rights. In mapping their own communities and reflecting on the maps they create, people can develop and advocate for solutions. Developments in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and internet-based mapping, and greater accessibility of digital data sets have made mapping feasible for people with moderate resources and technical training. Also, a growing appreciation for geographic thinking and the value of looking at social and environmental problems through a geographic lens have helped, even as concepts of space and place become mainstream.

Not all mapping processes, however, are participatory and it is still rare for non-professionals affected by the issues being mapped to be involved in the decisions guiding map creation, analysis, and distribution. In the U.S., there is such an abundance of easily accessible data that asking residents to generate their own seems redundant. Yet, we believe that this type of mapping holds great potential for shifting the relationships of power that are the root cause of social and environmental injustices.

Related Stories: 

Floodlines: Preserving Public Housing in New Orleans

Among the roughly 15,000 people gathered in Detroit for the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) this year were some 250 grassroots activists and organizers from New Orleans. They were seeking insight from activists in Detroit—the other U.S. city with the largest percentage of empty or unlivable housing—albeit the Rust Belt took several decades to achieve what Hurricane Katrina did overnight.

Of all the housing issues that New Orleans faced following Katrina, the battle over public housing developments stands out for its blatant bigotry and unfairness. Not long after Katrina, politicians, developers, and planners began talking about tearing down all the remaining public housing in New Orleans because, as Baton Rouge Congressman Richard Baker gloated, they had “finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans! We couldn’t do it, but God did.”[1] In truth, a lot of the public housing had made it through the storm in solid condition and with a few repairs could have been used for many years to come. But the decision-makers had their own agenda and chose to follow their prejudices and stereotypes with city council president Oliver Thomas (who later went to prison for a corruption scandal involving bribes related to a city contract for a parking lot) stating, “There’s just been a lot of pampering, and at some point you have to say, ‘No, no, no, no, no’!.. We don’t need soap opera watchers right now.”[2]

Related Stories: 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Urban Justice