Living local, urban design, sustainability, landscape architecture, and places in the East Bay. Design that works where it is.
I read a thoughtful blog post a few weeks ago from The Girl Next Door is Black, and it inspired me to write about Longfellow.
For the last few years, I’ve worked and walked in Longfellow, an Oakland neighborhood that is mostly African American. A lot of young white families are moving in. Watching the neighborhood change has made me think about gentrification and diversity. It would be a devastating loss to have the original families priced out of this neighborhood but this post is about the positive energy that diversity brings.
I originally thought the neighborhood was vibrant because it’s diverse. After considering that further, it occurred to me that it’s full of energy, in part, because the African American neighbors spend more time outside socializing than people in white neighborhoods. In that case, Longfellow is becoming more diverse but probably not more vibrant.
But my gut tells me the excitement in Longfellow is building. I think a population of all ages is also adding its spark. The older people on the street bring graciousness and civililty. They greet passersby and wait for a reply. The incoming white families are mostly young. They’ve chosen to live in a neighborhood considered to be African American. Young people in Oakland are often more than accepting of differences: they actively seek diversity.
There are other remarkable qualities of the Longfellow neighbors, black and white: they are walking and riding bikes. As a matter of fact, there’s a tendency toward bike-themed design throughout the neighborhood. They are also growing food in their yards. These traits are probably evidence of a community that wants a sustainable lifestyle. The by-product is a neighborhood where people are active and outside.
It turns out, Longfellow is probably vibrant because it’s diverse.