Did gay men gentrify Capitol Hill?

A study highlighted by The Atlantic Cities site says that there is a connection between “Gayborhoods” and gentrification:

The results of the study do point to a connection between gay neighborhoods and some of the markers of gentrification. Across the board, the researchers found neighborhoods that began the decade with larger concentrations of gay men saw greater income growth, and, especially in the Northeast, greater population growth as well. This last finding, perhaps one of the most significant in light of current debates about gentrification, largely backs up research done a decade ago by UCLA’s Gary Gates. (However, several of the study’s other conclusions, including the finding that gay couples were no less likely to live in racially or ethnically diverse neighborhoods, contrast Gates’s research from the 2000 Census).

Of course, the study is also filled with confounding takeaways when considering Capitol Hill’s development:

Contrary to popular perception, there was little evidence that gay or lesbian households were more likely to live close to downtown. Gay men, however, were more likely to live in neighborhood tracts with older, historic housing stock.

OK, the classy old housing stock fits the narrative.

The more interesting question might be where in Seattle are gay men “gentrifying” the neighborhood next? Looks like a neck and neck race between West Seattle, First Hill and the Central District.

UPDATE: Just in case it’s not clear, it would be absurd to pin the “gentrification” of any area on any one group or factor — yes, even tech workers. In the meantime, The Seattle Times has posted a look at the areas of the city that have “gentrified” the most.

18 thoughts on “Did gay men gentrify Capitol Hill?

  1. Are there even any cool (the coolest in any given metro area) neighborhoods anywhere is the entire country that aren’t the most mo-ish? Things stay pretty tired without us around.

  2. Well the guy in the left side of the picture (was he reflected from the windows of the Crypt?) is gay porn star Roman Ragazzi who kinda committed suicide awhile ago. So I guess he won’t be personally gentrifying the neighborhood. On a more serious note, if all gays are perceived as wealthy, that’s used to assert that gays don’t need rights. So this article is an interesting read: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/headlines/the-truth-about-gays-and-money-2/ – Sincerely, not an A-list gay on Capitol Hill

  3. As a thirty year resident of Capitol Hill this post stunned me by the lack of knowledge of the history of Capitol Hill and the history of what was until very recently a marginalized group, the LGBT community.
    The post and the study it references is profoundly bigoted and profoundly flawed. It is steeped in the same myths and stereotypes that gay men like Jews are rich. Thirty years ago when I moved to the Hill, I was like most LGBT folks who decided to live there (yes it was not just gay men, but Lesbians, Transgender and Bisexuals who moved there as well). I was young, poor, working as a paralegal and finishing up a BA (coming from a family with no money I went to school full time and worked full time and not being particularly smart it took a while to finish my BA).
    We moved there because for most of us it was the first time we could be fully ourselves and for the first time be with others who were like us or straight people who fully accept us. It was a time before most schools or colleges had supportive LGBT organizations.
    Capitol Hill was ground zero for the HIV/AIDS crisis, initially there was no test and it was years before a diagnoses was anything but a death sentence. So we lived in fear of our own mortality and struggled to help our friends get the care from a system that initially treated us as modern day lepers. Today when I walk around Capitol Hill, I pass apartments where so many friends suffered and eventually died. Like most men my age the majority of my friends were dead before I was out of my thirties (one of the ironies of life is that I spend my 30′s attending funerals and my 50′s attending weddings).
    It was also a time of gay bashing on the Hill and of murders of gay men that remain unsolved to this day. Violence against LGBT folks on Capitol Hill would be the fist political issue I worked on after I came out.
    In some sense we were “immigrants” from a “country’ that did not accept us to a “land” we made our own. We responded to AIDS when no one else would, we respond to violence against us when the authorities did not. We moved out the secrecy of Capitol Hill bars to build business, nonprofits and athletic organizations on the Hill. Beginning with Cal Anderson we ran for office. Capitol Hill is still unique in the nation, sending four gay men to the legislature over a continues 26 year period.
    The Capitol Hill’s LGBT community was the opposite of gentrification. It was unique mix of folks of different economic classes and races seldom found in the larger straight world at the time.
    Capitol Hill’s LGBT community would be an incubator that would change the entire State of Washington, laws against bulling in schools, hate crimes laws, civil rights laws and marriage equality. I can assure you like AIDS and gay bashing these were not issues the gentry cared about.
    And yes we went on to prosper, some emotionally, some politically, some spiritually, and yes some financially. And yes I have benefited from what Capitol Hill gave birth to. Thirty years ago no one would have believed any of us would occupy the position I have today or that any of us would marry in our life time.
    Thirty years latter I still live in this neighborhood that has given me so much. No longer in an apartment off Broadway but in a house (purchased by my hard working husband with help from his parents, who as Japanese Americans experienced their own struggle against discrimination). Young LGBT people still move to the Hill, often confident and secure in who they are as persons. But if you look a little closer you will find young people who still arrive on Capitol Hill as refuges from violence, rejection and discrimination. In either case like thirty years ago, they are not the gentry, the are Capitol Hill.

    • Thanks for the comment and apologies for any misunderstanding caused in linking to the Atlantic post. I thought the study was mostly interesting as an alternative view at gentrification in a week where we’ve had to ask some different questions about what is happening and why people are blocking Microsoft buses, etc. As I noted, the study has major holes but, again, I was interested in a surprising take on gentrification. To be more clear, I’ve also added that it would be absurd to pin gentrification on one group or one factor. Which makes the answer to the headline an obvious nope.

      • Having read the Atlantic story, I don’t think Richard Florida meant to imply that gay men caused gentrification — only that there was correlation. And we all know correlation doesn’t equal causation. But finding patterns like these can lead to insight, as long as we don’t stop at the headline level.

        Also, perhaps everyone should be using a less value-laden term than “gentrification.” I think it’s thought of as bad; hence linking any group to it can be seen as implying that that group is in and of itself bad. I’m sure some people do think this. I’m pretty sure demographers do not.

        By the way, that Times map surprised me. Ballard, SLU, Pike/Pine, CD I expected, and to some extent Beacon Hill wasn’t a surprise. But High Point and Delridge? Wouldn’t have guessed.

    • Um, that response was a bit too defensive for what was essentially a Sunset magazine type article (limited science) correlating — not looking at causation — of variables. Maybe my idea of gentrification if different than yours, but to me it basically means improving the cultural/dining/commercial opportunities and aesthetics of an area. You bring in a lot of young, creative, displaced types together in a small space, and it has the potential to seed a beautiful neighborhood. IMHO, there’s nothing wrong with saying gays improve a place.

        • This, of course, is an impossible problem in a macro sense. I don’t think people should be disincentivized to improve the place they live, and once improved, it-that-shall-not-be-named, occurs. Obviously, we should do everything we can to mitigate displacement, but that involves money and courage (more housing and denser zoning allowances) and even that might only slow the process down.

          • In 2016, with a (2 minute to CBD and 4 minute to UW) subway station operating bi-directionally every few minutes for 20+ hours a day, this problem is going to accelerate in a very non-linear way.

      • Your idea of gentrification is flawed, David. One key component of gentrification is the displacement of marginalized or poorer groups by the more affluent and politically powerful. That is, the change comes from outside the community being affected. It is not simply “improving the cultural/dining/commercial opportunities and aesthetics of an area.” Those changes can occur without gentrification when a community reinvests in itself. Few long-term residents are arguing that change in-and-of-itself is bad.

        “Ed Murray” superbly pointed out that the current Capitol Hill community evolved as a refuge from the politically powerful who ignored their needs. This community was built by people seeking systematic changes to assure their rightful place in American society. Many advances have been made, but there’s room for much more improvement.

        What long-term residents are lamenting is the dilution of their community by outside forces. They are no longer in control of their own neighborhood. The very forces they sought refuge from are now overtaking the neighborhood and destroying the unique community that formed here.

        To you, “Ed Murray’s” response seemed defensive, but it bears the markings of a deep understanding and passion for this unique neighborhood. If “Ed Murray” is indeed the Honorable Mayor, I wonder if he has any plans or ideas to prevent that community from disappearing.

          • I’d love to hear his comments, too. I was just talking to a friend tonight. He grew up in the south end, but spent quite a bit of time at his grandparents’ house near Lake View Cemetery — so he didn’t quite grow up on Capitol Hill, but came as close as you could without actually doing so. He moved to the hill itself after high school and lived there for a number of years before circumstances took him elsewhere. Like many people, he’s never made enough to be able to afford to buy in the city.

            Well, if this was a problem before, of course it’s more of a problem now. He’s looking to rent, and forget about Capitol Hill — it’s proving difficult for him to find anything affordable in the area. Sad to see the city pricing out people like him who have been living here for decades. This is a real problem. Does anyone have a real solution?

        • “Gentrification” is in the eyes of the beholder. Many people’s retirement plans involve selling their long-lived-in homes and moving to a smaller home and/or less expensive place to live. For many, maybe even most, their home is the largest savings acct they have, and they live their lives counting on it as a very big asset. I seriously doubt the lots of older people who have sold their homes on Capitol Hill or in Central District, taken the substantial ca$h, and retired to a place of their own choosing would necessarily call this “gentrification”, nor consider it a “problem”, either. Try looking it from the perspective that many who exit a neighborhood had planned to for years, and the whole picture changes.

  4. Madrona, my neighborhood has become very valuable in the last ten years,because it is close in/and a great neighborhood and people want to live close in/ and in a desirable area , so therefore the neighborhood goes up in value. Sadly this results in rising rents and property taxes which forces those who can’t afford to pay to leave for less close in areas like the outer ring suburbs.

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