How the Restaurant Scene Became a Symbol of Gentrification

While redevelopment-related displacement is the result of broader market forces and policy decisions, restaurants and cafes have become an emotionally charged flashpoint for the debate over gentrification.

1 minute read

December 20, 2022, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Blurry close-up of people eating at restaurant table with white wine glass in middle /

Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, Soleil Ho examines their role as a restaurant critic in the gentrification of Bay Area neighborhoods like the Mission. “In my embrace of the new blood that’s come into the neighborhood, have I been actively complicit in normalizing its gentrification?” Ho asks.

To put it in concrete terms, a ‘hot’ neighborhood with gyms, specialty coffee shops and exciting restaurants advances the interests of the urban growth machine, including landlords who set the prices of retail rents, investors who have interest in certain chefs or restaurateurs, and politicians who benefit from shifts in their districts’ demographics.

Ho acknowledges that restaurants, critics, and food reporters fit neatly into that urban growth machine, helping to fuel the popularity and growth of various areas. “Restaurants don’t cause gentrification themselves, but when you live in a neighborhood that’s on the cusp of it, every new coffee shop feels like a jump forward on the doomsday clock of your eventual displacement.” Restaurants and cafes have become a powerful symbol of much broader, systemic forces. And while critics can’t single-handedly stop neighborhood change or displacement, Ho hopes that acknowledging their role in the dynamics of gentrification is one step towards redirecting the impacts of redevelopment to more equitable ends.

Monday, December 19, 2022 in San Francisco Chronicle

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