City Rising is a documentary featuring the effects gentrification has in California cities. Gentrification is the process of revitalizing a lower income area to meet the needs of the middle class, and it is typical that the current residents get displaced because they can’t pay the rising prices.
One of the cities featured in this documentary is Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood, specifically in the revitalized area rebranded the Triangle District.
Oak Park was originally a suburb consisting of predominantly white families and a handful of black and Mexican-American families until the 1940s. After World War II, community growth decreased dramatically, forcing white business owners and families to sell their properties. Minorities quickly settled into Oak Park after that because it was one of the few neighborhoods that allowed non-white homeowners.
By the late 1960’s the California State Fair Commission decided it would be better to move the fairgrounds into northern Sacramento, which was the primary source of Oak Park’s economic activity. The documentary explains how Oak Park’s continued economic decline increases crime rates and police presence and eventually adopted the reputation it had in the 1980’s.
This all changed in the 2000’s when the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency and the St. Hope Development Corporation collaborated in turning downtown into an economic engine, starting with renovating the Woodruff Hotel and Guild Theater into lofts and small businesses.
“This project is a much-needed catalyst that will boost the economy and vitality of the Oak Park community,” said former council member Lauren Hammond.
However, not everyone in the community agrees with that.
The founder of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, Tanya Faison, is concerned on how changes in the community will affect its current residents as newer residents begin to flood into the area.
“The area, which used to be mostly, predominantly black… I go there and I don’t even see black people anymore,” Faison expressed in the documentary. “Our mayor has taken it and flipped it and renovated it. People are being criminalized. People are being paid to move out of their apartments.”
Balancing the needs of residents while also trying to stimulate economic activity through a renovation is a struggle for cities, Manuel Pastor, director of the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity explained. “How can you get in the economic activity that you need to provide to your residents? Public investment is a sign of our public commitment to particular areas and particular people.”
The documentary KCET City Rising: Documentary on Gentrification and Displacement can be watched here.