Cover illustration by Kyung Chyun. Videography by Federica Nanfeng & Peter Cote. Video editing by Dana deLaski of Film Snacks.
The Neighborhood’s Table
Combating Gentrification Through Intentional Hospitality
The Neighborhood's Table is an initiative for Studio ATAO offering responsible, actionable, and replicable strategies for hospitality businesses to collaboratively combat displacement with their local community, and invest sustainably in their neighborhoods.
Gentrification is one of the most pressing issues in the U.S. today. Since 2000, nearly 20% of neighborhoods with lower incomes and home values have experienced an influx of wealth and capital, often with the intent to change the area's demographics over time. In Los Angeles county, the number of gentrifying neighborhoods increased by 16% between 1990 and 2015. In that same period of time, 27% of New York City’s neighborhoods have (and continue to) gentrify, with average rents in some areas increasing as much as 78%. These neighborhoods that historically suffered from lack of investment are now reckoning with what feels like the choice between improved community infrastructure and resources, at the cost of displacing long-term residents.
But neighborhood revitalization doesn’t always have to come at the expense of its residents. In particular, hospitality businesses - often viewed as proxies for gentrification - are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between neighborhood members, community organizations, private enterprise, and the local government: as spaces for gathering and collaboration, as well as a resource to feed and care for the community. However, there are few publicly available resources aimed at mobilizing the hospitality industry to actively participate in anti-gentrification efforts. While there exist many organizers and businesses practicing community investment, their ideas and strategies still need to be captured in a hospitality-specific framework that models how businesses can improve, invest, and uplift the neighborhoods in which they operate.
Mainstream food and beverage media further contributes to these cycles of gentrification, by neglecting to evaluate hospitality businesses for their relationship to gentrification in their coverage. They often opt to avoid the topic altogether, or glorify new changes as objective improvements. This lack of accountability disincentivizes hospitality business owners and professionals from seriously engaging with the uncomfortable work of listening to their community and divesting from behaviors that contribute to displacement and exclusion in the neighborhood.
“Although food is a flashpoint for gentrification, cities can use [food] to strategically to bring gentrifiers and long-term residents together around a fertile movement for equitable and inclusive cities where diverse communities can thrive.”
We strongly believe that those most qualified to address current problems in society are those most impacted by these issues. We plan to apply our methodology of centering those most impacted (in this case, those living through the effects of gentrification) and uplift their recommendations for structural change. As such, our goals for this initiative are three-fold:
Document, highlight, and amplify the existing practices of organizations and businesses in gentrifying areas* that have yielded positive results for community members.
Structure collaborative focus groups for individuals, community organizers, businesses, developers, and policymakers to brainstorm and experiment with new programs that center the needs of the most affected community members.
Synthesize learnings from our research and focus groups into a hospitality-specific framework, with actionable resources for implementation, that all hospitality business owners can apply in their efforts to combat displacement and support their neighborhoods
We hope that together these actions will encourage a larger shift in how private businesses approach the communities they operate in and, in turn, build coalitions between individuals, community organizations, and businesses to influence future policies and practices.
We, as a community-based think tank, see our role as not to be consultants who come and go, but researchers who partner with existing community leaders to create adaptable systems and resources that others can use to leverage in their own neighborhoods, on their own terms.
Understanding Gentrification Primer
A written resource explaining the dynamics contributing to gentrification, with a focus on the hospitality industry.
A public survey to capture the sentiments of residents in changing neighborhoods, and how they view the role and responsibility of hospitality businesses in their area.
Collaborative Focus Groups
Using our Experimental Salons model to facilitate discourse between individuals, community organizers, businesses, developers, and policymakers to collaboratively experiment with new hospitality-based projects. Learnings will be captured in the final toolkit.
Community Town Halls
Public feedback sessions open to all. One of these events will be dedicated to creating a rubric for media to evaluate hospitality businesses' community engagement when considering coverage.
Hospitality-Specific Framework for Action
Tentatively titled, How Hospitality Businesses Can Take a Community-Invested, Anti-Gentrification Stance in Their Neighborhoods, this toolkit will offer recommended practices for, and successful case studies of, hospitality businesses proactively working towards neighborhood revitalization.
Detailed White Papers
Year-long case studies of how two hospitality businesses approached neighborhood integration and combating displacement.
Educational events meant to bridge knowledge gaps in the real estate development process, and encourage cross-industry collaboration between hospitality business owners, community members, and developers.
We are honored to be working with a group of experts and visionaries to review our work so it fulfills our mission of enabling hospitality businesses to integrate meaningfully into their neighborhoods and create coalitions for change.
Rae Gomes is the former Executive Director of the Brownsville Community Culinary Center. She is a dedicated writer, social justice activist, organizer, and racial justice trainer. Read her work in Civil Eats here.
Javier Cabral is a James Beard-winning writer and editor. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief in L.A. Taco, where he has regularly covered gentrification and food culture at large since 2005. Read his work here.
Reem Assil is a Palestinian-Syrian chef based in Oakland, CA and owner of Reem’s California, sitting at the intersection of her three passions: food, community, and social justice. Before dedicating herself to a culinary career, Reem spent over a decade as a community and labor organizer, building leadership in workers and residents to fight for living wages, affordable housing, and a voice in their jobs and their neighborhoods.
Matthew Gates is real estate analyst, published researcher, thought leader, and the Founder and CEO of In The Building LA, a digital media platform dedicated to sharing real estate related news and information on the people, projects, and policies impacting communities in South Los Angeles and Inglewood.
Know of a mission-aligned business owner, community organizer, neighborhood leader, developer, journalist, or other forward thinkers working at the intersection of hospitality and gentrification? We would love to join forces with them! Our inbox is always open for your suggestions.
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