We’ve asked Zachary (Pullin) DeWolf, Vice President of the Capitol Hill Community Council, to contribute to CHS about community civics and politics on a semi-regular basis. If you’re an expert and want to share with the community in a recurring CHS column, we’d like to hear from you.
The historic draw of Capitol Hill, its evolution into the nucleus of LGBTQ culture, is rooted in its mantle as a neighborhood that families moved away from. Housing was affordable, LGBTQ services were convenient, and jobs in downtown Seattle were close-by. Recently, however, our neighborhood is known for its skyrocketing rents, displacement of longtime residents, a sanitized culture, and rapid development.
When urban areas and inner-cities are “rediscovered,” with their high walkability and mixed-use development, naturally the complex and challenging conversation comes back to gentrification. Many Seattle neighborhoods see gentrification evolve over decades, framed as the revitalization of neighborhoods. On the exterior, it is positive, rapid growth meeting the demands of substantial population surge.
But, one person’s view of our neighborhood as revitalized may be another person’s characterization of our neighborhood as gentrified. Frankly, revitalization, reinvestment, or renewal of a neighborhood is not inherently bad, but unchecked gentrification challenges us to reflect on how our role in gentrifying a neighborhood transforms it, detrimentally.
Gentrification is a deliberate, calculated, and consumerist model of urban growth. Growth by way of gentrification, even with both real and perceived economic development and neighborhood revitalization, generates unequal benefits in our community and means the loss of the diversity that our neighborhood thrives on.
While many people believe diversity is good and right, collectively we don’t acknowledge how the gentrification we benefit from pushes out vulnerable and valuable populations.
Business leaders understand diversity’s importance for growth and prosperity of a company: diversity of perspectives, experiences, cultures, genders, and age produces innovation and innovation produces business success. Diversity is critical to thrive and innovate in a fast-changing environment.
Business understands the critical importance of diversity. So should our neighborhood.
Earlier this year, as a fellow with the Pomegranate Center, I learned an important lesson:
Geography defines community of place. When we draw the circle wide enough, it includes people with whom we have little in common – except physical proximity. Our future depends on finding ways to collaborate with people who have divergent viewpoints. Healthy communities transform differences among people into gifts.
Actively creating shared community, as opposed to passively perpetuating gentrification, means we invest in a strategy that grows and improves our urban areas for all. Shared community is revitalization without displacement.
One way we can all pursue shared community is by advocating for the livelihood of people whose lives are vastly different than our own. So, in pursuit of shared community, The Capitol Hill Community Council made a choice. Instead of our regular monthly meeting, we will attend the Mayor’s Housing Affordability forum Thursday night at the Garfield Community Center to listen to our community’s priorities and keep people at the heart of the growth and improvement of our neighborhood.
Thursday night, November 20th, Join us at 6:30 PM at the Cal Anderson Park Shelter House. We will walk with Central Seattle Greenways, similar to the Mayor’s Find It, Fix It walks, to support accessible pedestrian and bicycle routes by way of the future Denny Greenway to the Garfield Community Center to support affordable housing.