Yipsters: The New Wave of Gentrification

As a trained urban planner from some very very far left schools, I am taught two major lessons: gentrification with displacement is bad but investments in infrastructure and development in poor neighborhoods is good. So I am fully aware that the very places I love to hang out are the very places that are getting gentrified (sometimes with displacement and sometimes without). We’re talking The Mission in SF, Silverlake in LA, Temescal in Oakland and wherever there’s an art show in Brooklyn. So as I’m sitting there at some new bar filled with skinny jean fitted, thick black glass wearing, Catcher in the Rye poking out of the back pocket perpetual grad students, I am fully aware that the bar just opened up where a vacuum shop once thrived 40 years earlier. And that the taco truck outside, Ritmo Latino store next door, or Chinese herbalist across the street may not survive the onslaught of graphic designers, children’s book writers, and post-docs that will soon overtake said neighborhood. So it troubles me greatly (while I’m sipping on my lychee martini, Miller High Life, or Kettle One Grayhound).

Highland Park: The York Pub (where AzN once dropped $230 for a round of 18 Jager Bombs) vs. Elsa's Bakey (I think Elsa is standing with her arms crossed, cut off by the photo)

Highland Park in LA: The York Pub (where AzN once dropped $230 for a round of 18 Jager Bombs) vs. Elsa's Bakey (I think Elsa is standing with her arms crossed, cut off by the photo, see arrow)

So the point of this blog post is really an apology to the folks that were living in these neighborhoods before urban planners paved the way for these yipsters (hipster yuppies). Yipsters are folks that have the money and youth of a yuppie, but the aesthetics and tastes of a hipster. So they might roll around with a Maclaren baby stroller, but they’re also willing to step into a Mexican bakery for some steaming fresh pigs in a blanket.

While the profession looks down on outright gentrification with displacement (can someone say China Basin or Japantown?), urban planners laud the yipster takeover. The kind that occurs when a really cool bike shop (like Manifesto near MacArthur in Oakland) or a damn good bakery (Bakesale Betty in Temescal Oakland) opens up in a really really bad neighborhood. There is no redevelopment investment or even a Starbucks. A few daring few yipsters (maybe they’re really damn smart people that made a lot of money on some business and wanted to follow their lifelong dream of opening up a hip comic book shop *COUGH* Secret Headquarters in Sunset Junction *COUGH*) decide to put a good business in an area with not much else.

I’m not sure if this phenomenon is an entirely good thing or an inherently bad thing, but I know eventually the neighborhood will turn, and the turn will be towards gentrification. Whether or not that leads to displacement is another thing (or if the residents that stay enjoy the economic benefits). But one thing is certain, urban planning folks love it cause yipsters not only spend a shitload of money on old timey bikes and fair trade coffee and furniture with tons of Umlauts, they also like the ethnic spots that were always there. And if you want proof, check out a little rag called the New York Times or a no-name nobody named Bill Fulton (planning God) writing about the next yipster neighborhood in LA: Highland Park. Fulton actually uses the term HIPSTER in all its academic glory. The End is near.

Echo Park. Check. Silverlake. Check. Highland Park? Hmmmm...

Echo Park. Check. Silverlake. Check. Highland Park? TBD.


5 thoughts on “Yipsters: The New Wave of Gentrification

  1. so are you apologizing as an urban planner or as a yipster (skinny jeans fitted, thick black framed glasses, intellectual flaunting. kettle. pot. black.)?

    i wouldn’t necessarily deem temescal as a hub for cultural diversity to begin with anyhow. if “yipsters” start moving further west, then that’s call for concern. but as for now, north oakland is still a scary place to them. good.


  2. Oh Sherilyn, I’m glad you were able to spot my obvious attempts at self-deprecating humor. The pot and the kettle are both, indeed, black. Temescal wasn’t an ideal place to live 10 years ago. I don’t remember ever seeing white people in that area back then… But everyone I meet nowadays in grad school or through work seem to be living near that Safeway.


  3. I hate that I’m inadvertently part of this yipster thing happening. I work in an office, I like eating ethnic food, and I live in a neighborhood that 3 years ago, white people wouldn’t be caught dead in (Jersey City). Now’s all hot and shit, and I realize that my thick black glasses, long hair, leather jacket wearing ass has something to do with that. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. After three (almost four now) years, I feel like downtown JC is my home, and I don’t want to leave, but I may be priced out soon. This sucks.


  4. You do realize the term “yipster” was probably coined before you were born… right? It has nothing to do with yuppies, and nothing to do with the gen y idiots who think they know what is hip.


  5. What about poor hipsters who move to these poor neighborhoods, because that’s all they can afford? And by the way– They’re not all “white-hip- rich kids”, some are ethnic, musicians or artists, looking for an affordable place to live, who just happen to fit that fashion quota you deem as “yipsters”


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