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 a new initiative from Studio ATAO that aims to create a responsible, actionable, and replicable  framework for hospitality businesses in gentrifying areas to organically connect with their neighbors, collaboratively combat displacement, and invest sustainably in their neighborhoods.

Initiative Overview

 

1

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.”

- The Conversation

2

 

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:

 

  1. Document, highlight, and amplify the existing practices of organizations and businesses in gentrifying areas* that have yielded positive results for community members.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 

 

*Right now, we are conducting preliminary interviews with community leaders across the country. At the beginning of 2022, we will focus our research on two neighborhoods - one in NYC, one in LA.

Educate

Engage

Activate

 

Understanding Gentrification Primer

A written resource explaining the dynamics contributing to gentrification, with a focus on the hospitality industry.

See prior examples here.

Public Events

Learn-along events for consumers and industry professionals alike to examine hospitality-specific aspects of gentrification, such as panel discussions and expert Q&As.

Cross-Functional,

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.

See prior example here.

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.

See prior example here.

 

3

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.

 

More advisors to be announced shortly.

Get Involved

 

1

2

Sharing our campaign within your sphere of influence is completely free, and makes a huge impact! Download our Press Kit, visual assets, and social media ready captions here.

3

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.

Get the latest sent to your inbox

Subscribe for the latest information on this initiative, new content, our regular newsletters & more!