A Drunk Stole My Kale. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

Today’s Link of the Day, a gripping tale of tragedy, redemption, and kale, comes from the vibrant, increasingly yuppie Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC.

About two weeks ago, my Tuscan kale plant disappeared. … we wrote it off as lost, a casualty of the urban environment in which we knew fenceless gardening to be a risk. And then, over the weekend, we found this wet note sticking out from under a flowerpot. [Note reads: "To: Wonderful Gardener. From: A Remorseful Kale Thief (I was drunk & I'm very sorry."] Attached to the back was a $25 gift card to Ace Hardware, where we plan to restock our gardening supplies in the spring. Never has my faith in humanity been more emphatically restored. Kale thief, if you’re reading this, all is forgiven and then some.

Back in the early days of our relationship, Ben borrowed my laptop and left it attended for a moment in the law school library. Some other enterprising law student, no doubt bound to be one of those shysters who advertises on billboards using dollar signs, made off with it. Ben was devastated — so upset, in fact, that I ended up calming down so that I could calm him down. (Good trick, btw, if you can pull it off.)

What’s the most valuable thing anyone has ever stolen from you? Did the thief make recompense somehow? Or have you ever had to express your remorse for taking something that wasn’t yours?

Photo via Washington City Paper

Telling Stories About Appalachia: An Interview With Adam Booth About Poverty Culture and Storytelling

Adam Booth is a native Appalachian and professional storyteller who teaches Appalachian Studies at Shepherd University in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle. This spring, I saw him speak at a session on new Appalachian stereotypes at Marshall University, where he discussed moving away from the pop-cultural barefoot-and-pregnant image, and into a reclamation of traditional practices and crafts like canning, foraging, square dancing, and quilting. Booth characterized the young people in their 20s and 30s who are doing much of this reclaiming as "Super Appalachians" who make themselves vessels for their cultural heritage. Immediately I knew who he was describing—and they reminded me of people I know in Brooklyn. I started thinking about the rising popularity of old-time culture in both urban and rural areas across the United States, and got in touch. We spoke by phone about Appalachian identity, the fetish for poverty culture, the popularity of story slams, and the coal economy.

Cities Cutting Property Taxes to Help Longtime Residents Affected by Gentrication

A burst of new home construction in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and other cities have caused neighborhoods in those cities to quickly gentrify, and if you are a longtime resident and homeowner in those cities, it’s possible that you’ve seen the value of your home skyrocket as much as four times in a single year. Great, right? Not exactly. Not if you can no longer afford the property taxes and don’t want to sell your house. The Times reports that cities are mobilizing to help their longtime residents affected by gentrification by giving them cuts on their property taxes—which alleviates the burden among longtime residents, but will ultimately affect each city’s annual revenue. Still, the cities believe investing in longtime residents is worth it:

The tax adjustments are part of a broader strategy by cities to aid homeowners — who continue to struggle financially since the home mortgage crisis. In Richmond, Calif., lawmakers are attempting to use eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages to try to help homeowners keep their houses.

Housing experts say the arrival of newcomers to formerly working-class areas — from the Mission District in San Francisco to the Shaw neighborhood in Washington — is distinct from previous influxes over the past 30 years because new residents are now far more likely to choose to move into new condominiums or lofts instead of into existing housing, making the changes more disruptive.

The San Francisco Squeeze

San Francisco has the least affordable housing in the nation, with just 14 percent of homes accessible to middle-class buyers, said Jed Kolko, chief economist at the real estate website Trulia. The median rent is also the highest in the country, at $3,250 a month for a two-bedroom apartment.

“Affordable housing projects are constructed, and the money set aside for that purpose is used, but the demand is just far greater than what can be supplied,” said Fred Brousseau of the city budget and legislative analyst’s office. Evictions under a provision of state law that allows landlords to evict rent-controlled tenants if they convert a building for sale have more than tripled in the past three years, just as they did during the first tech boom.

To Yelly Brandon, a 36-year-old hairstylist, and her boyfriend, Anthony Rocco, an archivist, the obstacles to finding housing became clear when they spent two months searching for an apartment. At open houses, they said, they were competing with young tech workers, who offered more than the asking price and cash up front.

“People were just throwing money in the air,” Ms. Brandon said.

In the Times, Erica Goode and Claire Cain Miller report about the “backlash by the bay”—how the middle- and working-classes are increasingly being pushed out by tech workers with big bank accounts. Neighborhoods like the Mission District, a once heavily Hispanic working-class neighborhood, has seen a dramatic change. But some of the changes are less about luxury apartment buildings and moneyed residents like Mark Zuckerberg buying homes in the area:

And they grumble about less tangible things: an insensitivity in interactions in stores and on the street, or a seeming disregard for neighborhood traditions. The annual Day of the Dead procession, meant to be solemn, has turned into a rowdy affair that many newcomers seem to view as a kind of Mexican Halloween.

Kevin Starr, professor of history and policy, planning and development at the University of Southern California describes the biggest problem with pushing middle and working class families out of the city: “You can’t have a city of just rich people. A city needs restaurant workers, a city needs schoolteachers, a city needs taxi drivers.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

OK, Gentrification is Lousy. Now What?

The problem, ultimately, is capitalism. It is a system designed to channel goods to the people willing and able to pay the most for them, including real estate.

Embracing Change in San Francisco

Gary Kamiya has written a thoughtful and provocative, though reasonable, essay about gentrification and the fate of San Francisco. Kamiya, while fearing that his city will turn into another Manhattan, argues that the city will change, as cities do, and rather than creating a futile us vs. them dynamic, we should accept the inevitable and maybe cool it on the preemptive class war.

Gentrification in Gif Form

In New York magazine, Joe Coscarelli looks at a digital art project by Justin Blinder which uses Google Street View "to highlight the changing landscape of various neighborhoods throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn." Coscarelli also links to a recent story by Justin Davidson: "Is Gentrification All Bad?"

Growing Pains in Washington D.C.

There is something unsettling about the sheer pace of the change, about the way you can practically see the process of gentrification unfold before your very eyes, like a giant wave washing over the city, neighborhood by neighborhood, bringing in its wake a seemingly unending tide of shiny new shopping centers, chic cafes, upscale apartments, gourmet markets, fancy gyms, dog parks, bike lanes, and other yuppie amenities—not to mention surging house prices and rapidly shifting demographics.

“Behind Every Jane Jacobs Comes Giuliani with his Nightstick.”

Mueller's painting with too broad a brush. Not so much a broad brush, even: a flamethrower.

Detroit Would Rather You Not Take Pictures of Its Ruins

I called Philp to ask him what people like me, outsiders with no knowledge of the city and getting this constant barrage of ruin-porn and gentrification panics, should know about what it's like to live there.

Google Buses Now City-Approved

There was an unusually well-attended transportation board meeting at San Francisco City Hall yesterday, as the topic of debate for the evening was the new pilot program for Silicon Valley commuter buses. The San Francisco MTA board of directors approved the proposal unanimously, which means that companies can buy passes to use city buses at cost, which come to about $1/stop per day, or about $100,000 per year.