Gentrification and urban gentrification refer to the transformations or changes that take place in urban areas or cities when wealthier, middle or upper class people acquire property in low income and working class communities. This gentrification is believed to bring with it a number of changes more so to the natives. For instance, average income increases and the family size decreases. As this happens, the lifestyle changes as upper class people are attracted to these areas, factories are turned into luxury apartments and investors invest in high valued housing. This results in the poorer native residents of the neighborhood being unable to pay increased rent, house prices and property taxes, thus ending up being displaced.
The above brief explanation of urban gentrification is the same case witnessed in San Francisco. The native residents of San Francisco have been involved in urban struggles and displacement as a result of gentrification. According to John Palen and Bruce London, the resource that is involved in the struggle is the inner-city space and the people involved are the middle class invaders and the usually poor and powerless present residents (22). The new developers in San Francisco are seen as decision makers, cultural taste makers, opening slums for reinvestments for profit, they bring with them new lifestyles for young and energetic couples thus changing the already existing lifestyle of the residents. This does not only result to struggle to maintain their original lifestyle and culture, but also they are threatened with displacement. Consequently, they are forced to form counter movements in the defense of their neighborhoods, lifestyle and culture.
The other struggle that residents of San Francisco have to put with as a result of gentrification is that being considered as working class and low in-come earners; they have to serve the needs of middle and upper class people. In addition, as indicated by Neil Smith, the economic shift often accompanied by political shifts is what is experienced by these residents (38). People may not necessarily be displaced from their homes but also from their jobs for instance when industries and factories are converted into luxury housing. Other times, upscale housing is developed on vacant land. Thus, the working class faces the risk of displacement when their residential area becomes attractive to investors, developers and middle-class households.
Another trend witnessed in San Francisco is the booming housing market fed by low mortgage interest rates and large demand for housing. This in turn has trickled down to the neighborhoods in form of skyrocketing rents forcing the low-income earners to move due to cost pressures. According to a report by the American Housing survey in 2003, most of the residents are forced to relocate with some being directly displaced either by private landlord or government actions. As a result, poor people remain in gentrifying neighborhoods either by doubling up, living in substandard housing or paying a high percentage of their income for housing thus increasing their struggle for survival in such an environment.
Gentrification is sometimes based on the racialization of certain urban populations (Haymes 129). This is the case witnessed in San Francisco mainly with the black populations facing forced removal from the city. This is another urban struggle that the native residents have to put up with and are trying to oppose this move. However, the good news is that these residents, both suffering racial gentrification and displacements, have received some support from the government and well wishers. For instance, they are given public or private assistant in form of rent regulation, programs that include public housing, housing vouchers and exemption from rent increments. This has helped to make their lives easier and more comfortable amidst urban gentrification. The model of urban politics that best explains the San Francisco case is the weak mayor and strong mayor model of urban government as indicated by Bellush (65). This is because this model exposes two sides of government, one supporting new developments and innovations while the other is opposed to these developments and innovations.
In conclusion, though the gentrification of San Francisco may not be kindly welcomed by most of its residents, the benefits associated with it cannot be underestimated. For instance, it has brought with it increased safety, less overt drug dealing, better transportation, improved government responsiveness and more markets thus improving the living standards of people generally.