Friday, May 05, 2006

Anti Yuppie Graffiti

New Yorker condo project at 300 L Street NE in Washington, DC
The red graffiti on the condo sign reads 'yuppies out.'

[This picture is dedicated to the regular commentator 'ihateyuppies']


  1. Who sent this to you? I'm guessing that you weren't just walking through the 'hood in NE DC; nor were any of your suburbanite readers.

  2. I live on the other side of H St, and trust me, no Yuppies are moving to L. We're not that desperate.

  3. I took the picture. :-)

    I was driving through that neighborhood. I am very familiar with DC and like to drive and walk the various neighborhoods.

  4. Great, then you are already familiar with decent rental options in DC and how they compare with buying an old rowhouse: (much more expensive to rent than own for a variety of cultural/socioeconomic/psychological reasons that I'm not going to argue about, but I'm sure people can see if they think about the history of DC and America's urban neighborhoods in general)

    Here is a nice rental:


  5. I wonder what creative innovative marketing techniques the developers are going to use the lure the YUPPIEs in.

    My suggestion would be "make to prices reasonable" but I have a feeling that the prices will be lofty and the BS will be piled-up high and deep.

  6. Don't call me BORF!!

    Anyway, I blame the real estate developers for a big part of the gentrification crisis. Developers are catering to upper-income professionals for living space on cheap land. The developers get rich off the naive yuppies who overpay for the condo properties.

    Real estate developers don't care about middle-class people. Middle-class income in the Washington, DC area is between $40,000-$70,000 according to my standard.

    Sooner or later, just like the oil wells in the Saudi desert, you will have "Peak Yuppidom". There are only so many upper income professionals in the total population. You can tap the well of Yuppies living in the District and that well is getting emptier by the day.

    The greedy developers and the money-throwing yuppies moving into the former middle and working class neighborhoods of our cities are causing tremendous social upheavel.

    Neighborhoods once populated by generations of African-American families are being displaced. Churches and community centers are being torn down for Yuppie-like retail shops and kitschy restaurants.

    Gentrification has gone too far in our Nation's Capital.

  7. Give the focus on "high-end" this and luxury that, Im not sure exactly what a yuppie is these days.

    anyways that H st corridor is going to very very nice someday

  8. "African-American families are being displaced."

    Irish-American and Italian-American families were displaced in those very same neighborhoods at one point in history. It happens.

    Now, if you actually live in such a neighborhood and are routinely harassed because you aren't "from there", then you are entitled to your opinion. If you are on the outside looking in; your opinion is still valid, but not entirely accurate. There are WAY too many liqour stores and check-cahsing joints (not to mention drug dealers and prostitutes) in DC. The "displacement" needs to continue and the poverty and despair need to be diluted further - for everyone's benefit. That said: it will be criminal if all of the District starts to look and feel like Cleveland Park or even Dupont Circle.


  9. Bryce - Not trying to pick a fight here, by any means, but, where are the poor people supposed to go? How does gentrification, based upon housing alone, "dilute" the pool of poor people?

    The only way to "dilute" the pool is to make less people poor. Seems to me you do that with jobs, not condo development.

    This started as a housing bubble blog - it's remarkable how the discussion has expanded.

  10. You really shouldn't hate yuppies, especially if you happen to be a middle class family. Those DINKs pay lots in property taxes while not sucking up public resources for medicare and schools. They effectively subsidize the schooling of middle class families.

    Public officials know this and encourage growth of the DINK population. When a condo building is proposed, they will heavily restrict the number of units with more than 2 bedrooms in order to limit the number of families with children that will move in.

    If those yuppies leave, the burden for paying all those goodies approved in this boom cycle will be shouldered by middle class families. You don't really think the teacher unions, sanitation workers, etc will accept a pay cut even if the tax base disappears do you?

    I wonder how it will play out. Local governments have been spending the free money from property appreciation like if it would never end. What happens when that stops and the tax revenue is no longer there? Home owners taking a hit on property value loss are not going to appreciate a property tax rate hike in order to compensate.

  11. dc_too, I'm glad that you raised that point. There is indeed an affordable housing crisis in DC; and I do not advocate kicking "poor people" out of DC.

    There are enormous low-income housing projects in DC. They are densely populated islands of poverty and despair.

    We just need to look at the Northwest One plan for Sursum Corda for an example of how to handle the affordable housing crisis. Keeping "poor people" locked into poverty and despair is unacceptable. So is kicking them out of the city, taking the land they live upon, and making it a haven for yuppies.

    That is why plans like Northwest One call for a true mixed-income neighborhood. There will be a mix of market-rate and subsidized housing. There will be retail and entertainment options. It will in fact dilute the poverty, yet the people who live in Sursum Corda have the option of buying back into the Northwest One neighborhood after Sursum Corda is torn down.

    It isn't right to keep people concentrated in enclaves of poverty, and it isn't right to keep a huge swath of land less than a mile from the Capitol building set aside for "poor people". Everyone wins. Or that is the plan, anyway.


  12. Response to PTT:

    There's a flip side. Because of gentrification, property taxes for people of all socio-economic backgrounds have skyrocketed! If you own property in Anacostia, your property assessments will be make your jaw drop.

    The District government will jack up assessments based on "potential" value of property in anticipation of future redevelopment. As more yuppies move in, this will tax the services of police, fire, water & sewage and garbage collection for instance.

    It's a Catch 22. If more yuppies move in, middle-class people get hurt because property taxes go UP and general cost of living increases too. If more yuppies leave, you are right, the tax burden falls more on their shoulders.

    How do we find a balance? Right now, the District looks more like two different societies: affluent and poor with not much in between. This is not how a successful, functioning city should appear.

  13. Response to Bryce:

    Which is why need socio-economic balance in the District and other major American cities. The trends show that urban centers are increasingly becoming unequal. You have greater extremes of high income earners and those living in poverty while the middle class continues to shrink.

    I don't want to see District neighborhoods to become theme parks for Yuppie life styles. On the other hand, hookers, pawn shops, and drug dealers are not attractive either. Where can we find middle ground?

    Should there be subsidies for middle income earners?

  14. "Public officials know this and encourage growth of the DINK population. When a condo building is proposed, they will heavily restrict the number of units with more than 2 bedrooms in order to limit the number of families with children that will move in."

    The City of Falls Church tried something like this a couple of years ago and ended up in a civil rights lawsuit for housing discrimination along with the developer.

    There are "housing rights advocate" groups constantly looking for someone to sue so they can get paid to "educate" and "monitor" the offender through a settlement. It takes a pretty unsophisticated municipality to try something that dumb these days.

    The market takes care of it anyway. The overwhelming majority of people with kids want to live in the 'burbs or at least in a house with a yard.

  15. Well thats the thing. Yuppies moving in do increase property values and as a result all taxes in the area increase. But why can't the local government decrease the corresponding property tax rate and keep the net tax collected the same per housing unit?

    A condo building replacing 4 townhouses usually means 96 more housing units net gain. Thats 96 more taxpayers if we do a 1 to 1 ratio.

    Public service costs for these Yuppies is a net gain on the part for the local government. They pay more in taxes than they suck out. Your local sales tax revenue has also increased due to the high disposable income of Yuppies.

    What rational is there for the local government to not decrease the property tax rate to avoid an undue burden on your middle class citizens? There is none other than the need to pay for more entitlement goodies. Why is that the Yuppies fault?

    I happen to like Yuppies and happen to hate my local government with a passion.

  16. Ihateyuppies: "Should there be subsidies for middle income earners?"

    Technically, there are. As a general rule housing assistance programs at local, state, and Federal levels have provisions to subsidize up to the median househould income for whatever the area is: MSA, state, municipality. The reality is that there are not enough funds to subsidize everyone who qualifies, so generally the most needy are getting the assistance.

    This is not always the case, some programs are run, at at least used be, on a first come, first serve basis. So you end up with young, single guys earning $50k/yr buying subsidized condos in Old Town Alexandria. (True story)

  17. Well, I think that we can agree gentrification is taking place and is transforming DC. Commercial and Federal money is playing a role too. Northrup Gumman or Lockheed Martin (I forgot which) has a brand new office complex in SE in a "nontraditional" area. (just one example)

    The reason for that is because the land is undervalued. Services in DC need to improve, and the government needs to stop being so "New Orleans-ish", but why pay $$$$$ for an office in Rosslyn to be close to DC when you can be IN DC for $$$?

    Folks, auto traffic is typically less congested in most DC residential neighborhoods than it is in Ashburn, at any time of the day, any day of the week.


  18. So in other words, city governments should take the "wealthy uber alles" and damn the middle-class and poor approach?

    If you cut property tax for the middle-class, you better believe that upper-income yuppies will demand property tax cuts too. Ooops...silly me, they are getting some tax cuts compliments of George W. Bush.

    Anyway, I think city government should take an activist approach by FORCING developers to allocate a percentage of condo housing for middle and low income people. I have no faith in the market system when it comes to combatting inequality in American society.

    I am sure some yuppies will feel uncomfortable with working-class people living in the same building or neighborhood. God forbid...the horror of such dirty, simple people living within the same proximity. I would think that most yuppies have a heart and understanding to appreciate mixed-income real estate developments.

    Some times you have to force socio-economic integration down the throats of people. The civil rights laws passed by Congress in the 1960s is a good example. Racial and economic barriers should be shattered in this country.

  19. In response to Rebar:

    Local governments should pass laws that FORCE real estate developers to allocate affordable housing properties to lower income individuals and families.

    The market system comes up short every time.

  20. So Bryce,

    Only wealthy people deserve to live in neighborhoods where you don't have to rely on an automobile? So, people who can't afford the bubble prices in the District, must settle for outer-suburbia where you need a vehicle to travel everyhwere?

    Gee...I guess only the yuppies should enjoy the benefits of "smart growth". Fuck that shit!

  21. Yes ihateyuppies, that's how it should work.

    You probably already know that most world class cities outside of the US are organized this way: Those with the $ live in centre city with all conveniences, shopping, culture, etc. easily accessed by foot or short transit rides. Those who can't afford this lifestyle are stuck with living far away, and enduring long cummutes.

    In this respect the US has been backwards all along, I mean, why do tha lowest wage earners working in my downtown office building live within an easy 30 minute walk while the wealthy owners of the businesses live a hellish two-hour-each-way commute in the Va sticks??? This makes no sense.

    The simple fact is that DC's "gentrication" is nothing more but the city evolving into an organization that it always should have been, at least in comparison to most large, established cities outside of the US. I hope this trend continues, and I think it will unless its sidetracked by DC goverment incompetence like in the 1980s, or hijacked by the auto/oil industries like in the 1950s.

  22. Wait a second. Lets say a condo developer builds a 100 unit building. He is forced to sell 25 of those units to low income families at a 50% subsidized price. Given the current climate, it has to be a minimum 50% reduction. To compensate, the developer has to spread the cost to the other 75 units.

    If that 50% gain (difference between normal price vs subsidized price) were to hold up, the low income family is still faced with the stiff property tax bill. To alleviate this, you have to reduce the property taxes for those families, another entitlement.

    So not only do Yuppies have to subsidize schooling, they have to pay more for the units up front and at the same time absorb a higher property tax rate than their neighbors who are sitting on a guaranteed 50% gain.

    That sounds fair. I'm sure there will be lines of people signing up for that plan.

    The only economic barrier is lack of education. You can't blame that on Yuppies. I grew up in public housing and worked my way through college as did all my siblings. Public school teachers might suck, but that doesn't mean you can't read your textbook on your own. Math doesn't start getting complicated until you hit calculus.

    But I forgot, the man keeps the poor kids from putting in the effort to read. I'm not sure who I despise more, my local government or the bleeding heart liberals that keep voting for them.

  23. ihateyuppies,

    Is that what I said? No. I think you let your bias creep into the picture. (that is usually what happens when profanity is put forth)

    Anon 10:53; I agree about US cities being the inverse of European cities. 5000sf of poorly constructed "new home" in Western Loudoun is going to become a symbol of poor vision rather than a symbol of "wealth".

    ptt; HUD gives developers money to set-aside affordable units. It is easy money for the developers - they don't lose out by building "affordable" housing. (see Our tax dollars at work.


  24. "Let the Poor Eat Cake" Bryce noted:

    "In this respect the US has been backwards all along, I mean, why do tha lowest wage earners working in my downtown office building live within an easy 30 minute walk while the wealthy owners of the businesses live a hellish two-hour-each-way commute in the Va sticks??? This makes no sense."

    So the wealthy deserve to live anywhere they want to. But poor people must endure the hellish commute because well...they are poor. Poor people are lazy and stupid, right, Bryce.

    Are you telling me that non-wealthy people don't want close convenience to shops, public transportation, or the library for instance?

    That's really fucked-up logic there, Bryce.

  25. I didn't say that either, sweetie pie. Take a moment and focus both brain cells upon whom wrote what, and where they wrote it.... maybe you'll catch on.

    Also sounds like you hate Europe. Thats the way things are in Europe, I didn't make it that way, and you're angry at a stranger on the internet because of the way society in Europe is structured?

    They make generic versions of Paxil now; sounds like you need some.


  26. So, is it just a sad fact of free markets that there's no demand for moderate-income stuff in DC? I mean, yeah, the crap on a lot of H street is pretty nasty. And I'd love to live in a high-rise around union station, but I definitely don't want a "luxury apartment home" with granite countertops. But there doesn't seem to be much middle ground anywhere - it's either super-froofy and $10 Martini bars, or 40-oz malt liquor bodegas.

  27. THe thing with Europe is that their cities happened before there were cars. People with families *do* want a yard and to use their minivan. That screws up the simple "the richer live closer" math.

    I guess the real solution is to make LOTS AND LOTS of places for people to live, so that moderate-income (but not on welfare, just joe average beaurocrat) people can live on U street, H St, Capitol Hill, etc. Then again, that's what they're doing now, so maybe in a few years that'll be the case?

    So maybe the right answer is to require someone to build, without setting any price guidelines, an equal number of units in "prime" locations (next to Courthouse Metro) as they do in "so-so" locations (H and 10th NE). (Yeah, i know different jurisdictions and it'd never work, but I'm just trying to make a point) The thinking being that a couple who makes $90K combined can comfortably afford a new building in a marginal neighborhood, and 100 of said couples would make the neighborhood more viable without being yuppies. (think of 2 people each making $45K. That's two 20-something teachers, not lawyers)

    Anyway, just rambling.

  28. A house in Irvine California 2700 SF old in size, built in 1979 ratten dogs won't live in it. It is on the market for $1000,000.00. Is that a bubble or what?.

  29. Perhaps the yuppie haters could pool their money and go ahead and build housing for the poor. "more everything for everybody at no cost to anyone but those evil rich people!!!"

  30. The graffiti was likely written by a bourgeois bohemian. DC's anti-business, tax and waste policies are the reason I can't find a job in the city and have to work in a soul crunching office park in NoVa.

  31. "THe thing with Europe is that their cities happened before there were cars. "

    DC, Boston, NYC, Philly, etc. were all designed and built before cars were invented. Before anyone freaks out and starts hurling hateful things in my direction: Look into it. It is a fact. Why that fact is so difficult for 'normal' people to understand is something that I cannot fathom.

    So perhaps if you are someone who only just now realized that DC was designed and built-out before cars were invented; could you explain why you didn't know that? I'm honestly interested in knowing the reason.

  32. DC wasn't built-out before cars. Sure it was designed that way, but when the car took over (post-war) the streetcars were gone from DC and the DC area had about 400,000 people in it. NYC had what, 5 million people (and a comprehensive rail network) before 1950. And rich people there live IN the city. Same with Boston. Couldn't tell you about Philly.

  33. Really? 'cause the carriage houses and horse stables on my block, and on the next block, and on the next, and the next, and the next.... ahem...

    Well, they all seem to point to the fact that horses were the primary mode of transportation back in the 1800's when these neighborhoods were actually built.

    The Marine Barracks in SE? Built before cars. The Smithosonian "Castle"? Built before cars. The White House? The Capital Building? The Lincoln Memorial? Some of the buildings on what is now Walter Reed Hospital campus? It goes on and on and on. The city was built with no cars in mind.

    I just spent some quality time on I-95 south and then again coming back north to DC. Suburban sprawl IS designed with cars in mind, and it isn't going to work in the long-term.

    Your point about where rich people lived is precisely my point, too. Another comment pointed out how socioeconomics are arranged in and around European cities, which is pretty much how this topic came up. Rising gas prices and increasing congestion are making the "old way" (rich in the city, poor in the 'burbs) come back into play. (I'm not saying it is right or wrong, just that it is happening)


  34. How big are the rats in that part of the city?

  35. Nominal. The large feral cat population keeps rodents at bay. Yep, real, live "alley cats" exist in real, live cities. They're pretty cool actually.


  36. I live about 2 blocks around the corner from where that picture was taken. I'm 36, white, and I work my ass off at my job. I also work my ass off on my house. I am lovingly restoring a hundred-year-old row house that I bought in a barely liveable condition. When I'm done with it there will be a nice house where there used to be a dump. It's inspiring the neighbors, too -- the guy across the street just painted his house in response to me painting mine. Incidentally, I paid a lot of money to have the opportunity to work my ass to the bone night and day. That money enriched an african american guy who grew up in this hood. He lives in a nice place up in NW now. But I deal with his former neighbors, I don't have easy access to nice restaurants, I have to keep an eye open for crime at all times, and there's plenty of other BS associated with living in the hood.

    I am doing this for several reasons, both selfish and altruistic, both practical and idealistic. But first and foremost, I sincerely believe what I am doing is a responsible civic act. I am taking it upon myself to make this city a better place. I am working to decrease crime, raise standards of living, and make more of Washington, DC a nice place to live. I therefore resent the "evil gentrifier" bullshit. You know who has a problem with "gentrification?" Spoiled white kids who would be too scared to walk down my street at night. The people who have actually lived around here for the past 20 years (read: native black people) aren't sorry to see the "gentrification." They're quite glad, in fact, that at least one more house on the street doesn't present a threat of drug dealing, car jacking, or violence. And we actually hang out. I know 90% of the 40 or so people who live on my block, and I know most of them reasonably well. How many of you "I hate gentrification" people can say that? See, we actually have a community, even though I'm "yuppie scum" and they're working-class black people. You talk a good game, but you're talking it out your ass. You hang this label--"gentrification"--on a social phenomenon that you actually know nothing about.

    But go ahead. Go ahead and hide out in georgetown and Cleveland Park and tell me what a rapacious scum I am. And maybe you could look up from your laptop while pissing your Sunday afternoon away and come visit the actual hardworking people who will change this city for the better. I'd be happy to introduce you to this city you claim to be defending for the first time. But that's right, you wouldn't be caught dead down here. Until 5 years from now when you'll be telling me what a visionary I was and envying my enormous profit. But meanwhile, you'll call me a greedy prick while I'm putting my body and safety on the line every day to change the city. Ah, change is bad you say? Right. because the people around here would be better off with the crack dealing and prostitution and child abuse that used to be routine (and public) here? Get real.

    And, by the way, let me state for the record that I'm a very solid member of the American Left with credentials that go way back. But this knee-jerk reaction againt "gentrification" is nothing more than a bullshit fashion statement. It has nothing to do with reality. Don't believe me? Come on down to 5th and I, NE and I'll show you first hand what it gentrification consists of.

    Ben in NE

  37. Ben,

    Thanks very much for your valuable prospective. As the owner of this blog I am NOT against yuppies.


  38. it may be too late for this thread, but i'll add my two cents worth to the idea of developers providing 'low income' housing within the mix of their high end developments.

    i was part of the architectural design team for two high multifamily residential properties. One building was rental units; the other was all condo units. We had two different developers. Each one decided to take advantage of subsidies etc to provide 'affordable housing'. What a joke! OUR affordable housing units were all studio units with crappy views. If i were a DC schoolteacher, i could live in a single room with a lousy view or i could endure a lousy comute but actually have at least one bedroom seperate from my living room and kitchen. I'm in Phoenix now, getting ready to work on similar type projects. It appears that the criteria is similar here, too. Take the smallest worst units and rent them at a discount and then claim the breaks because they're called 'affordable'.

    After having lived in Denver, DC and now Phoenix, i find that many of these 'affordable' housing units are instead subsidizing twenty somethings whose income temporarily meets the thresholds set by the govt. They get to live a in 'cool' building or a 'cool' location and when their income pops up above the level to stay in their unit, they sell or give up their lease and scuttle out to the burbs so they can have kidlets, the mini van and a yard.

  39. Ben,

    Good post. I have a few questions for you though.

    1. Do you have a family?

    2. How much did you pay for that property?

    3. Do you think the real estate bubble in the District has REALLY helped working class blacks?

    Ponder these questions and we'll have a chat.

  40. I live about 3 blocks from that property. I saw that a while ago, pretty funny.

  41. I don't know about L, but I live down between I and K, and there are plenty of working professionals on my street.

  42. i live in dat naborhood...and i seen many of my friendz have 2 move out because of these white people (not 2 b racist)....we wuz doin perfectly fine until yall had 2 come...itz kinda funny...once we start to better our naborhoods the wite pplz wanna come back around...while the whole time we were there thru the hard times...ima slow/stop this gentrification as long as im alive...ima show yall the pain we went through for many years...KEEP D.C BLACK!!!