Do Parks Push People Out?
By Pendarvis Harshaw
October 1, 2018
Do Parks Push People Out?, asks Pendarvis Harshaw in his latest article in Bay Nature Magazine. The feature takes a look at the latest round of cleanup and proposed development at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard neighborhood in southeast San Francisco. The 13-mile “Blue Greenway” imagines a stretch of land connecting China Basin to the Southern Border. For Hunters Point Shipyard, the city has proposed a mix of open space and real estate development, including 12,000 new homes, shopping, offices and manufacturing.
However, as Harshaw's interviews with longtime community residents reveals, the intentions of the city do not necessarily align with the needs of the community. Former industrial sites, including the shipyard and the former PG&E power plant have created a deeply polluted environment that will require decades of clean up, an effort largely spearheaded by the community. It has also deeply affected the predominantly African-American community, with rates of asthma almost twice the national average, and a far higher rate of birth defects and infant mortality than the rest of the county.
Clean up and eventual redevelopment of the site inevitably raises questions with regard to whom the cleanup is really for. Described as “green gentrification,” this process of transforming a previously undesirable neighborhood through environmental cleanup, restoration, and neighborhood greening frequently also ensures the existing community's eventual displacement. Although parks themselves do not cause displacement, their existence does not protect the existing community from market forces, nor are the parks necessarily built for the existing community.
Naturally, one result has been pushback from community activists in the form of a “just green enough” strategy. Unlike conventional ecological restoration approaches, “the ‘just green enough’ strategy depends on the willingness of planners and local stakeholders to design green space projects that are explicitly shaped by community concerns, needs, and desires rather than either conventional urban design formulae or ecological restoration approaches,” Dean Jennifer Wolch, Dr. Jason Byrne and Dr. Joshua Newell co-wrote in a 2014 journal article.
In a conversation at her office in Berkeley, Wolch told Harshaw that it’s not just about drawing up blueprints for housing and showing up from another part of the city to plant native plants. “Part of the process has been heavy community outreach,” she said.
To read the article in full, click here.