NARRATOR: Gentrification has become a hot news topic in recent years and the data could explain why.
Rental rates in Long Beach have increased 26 percent since 2010, according to The Downtown Long Beach Alliance.
Yet, despite emerging as the major urban issue of the times, I found that many Long Beach residents don’t seem to want to talk about gentrification. Many people I attempted to interview declined because they either didn’t know what gentrification was, or they didn’t feel like they played a part in it.
Josh Butler, executive director of Housing Long Beach, believes that people’s reluctance to talk about gentrification may be due to lack of awareness.
JOSH BUTLER: I’m not sure how aware now people are of that entire situation of what’s really occurring in their neighborhood or not, or maybe they just see it as a benefit to the community. And maybe they’re not aware that the tenants that are being displaced are not getting any relocation assistance.”
NARRATOR: 25-year-old Austin Root – a Boston, Massachusetts native and a Long Beach resident of two years – says that initiating the conversation is harder than having the conversation itself.
AUSTIN ROOT: I don’t really talk with my neighbors a lot, I hear them talk with each other a lot. You can tell the community’s very tight-knit, but there seems to be a barrier. Maybe that’s just because I’m a stranger, or because I’m white and they’re hispanic. Whatever the reason is, we just don’t talk to each other.
NARRATOR: Luckily, after approaching about 30 people, one Latino Long Beach native agreed to sit down with me and discuss this issue. The 23-year-old, who chose to remain anonymous, had this to say about his neighborhood.
INTERVIEWEE: I’ve been living in Long Beach my whole life, which has almost been 24 years around the 4th Street and Cherry area… Rent’s going up. More expensive businesses are moving in, like there’s expensive furniture shops that I could never afford… that most of my family could never afford.
NARRATOR: Interviewing him in this ‘hip’ coffee shop in the East Arts Village District seems ironic considering the shop’s affluent clientele and high prices. Although the recent spike in rent means that many long-time residents have to move out of their homes, new businesses like these still manage to thrive.
INTERVIEWEE: There’s two wine bars that if you go to poorer areas in Long Beach you’ll never find because wine tends to be more of an affluent alcohol beverage. And so poorer communities don’t really get to have that luxury to walk to a wine bar like they now do in my neighborhood.
NARRATOR: Besides rising costs, he’s noticing that the changes are coming in many forms.
INTERVIEWEE: When more of a white presence comes into more of an ethnic neighborhood things tend to get more fixed around the neighborhood faster than they would.
NARRATOR: Lynna Nguyen, a Long Beach resident of only one year, says she hasn’t had any issues with the long-term residents in her neighborhood.
LYNNA NGUYEN: Everybody’s been really friendly so I haven’t had any issues. I really like Long Beach, I just think it’s really cool. I like the vibe it has. It’s very easy going, which is why I chose to stay here instead of L.A. Also, of course the affordability of the rent but I guess realistically speaking we can see it rising in the future. That’s something to consider if you’re considering moving here.
NARRATOR: Reporting for VoiceWaves, this is Nayobi Maldonado-Ochoa.