The way that a certain place is often times looked at is based upon the surroundings and the physical look of the location. What is seen as beautiful and belonging in one area of Beverly Hills might not be the case if it were put in an area of Downtown Los Angeles. In choosing a physical site to analyze, I decided to go with a lot that was located a block away from my home in Fontana, California. As a young kid, this site was a dirt lot in which many families would bring their horses to dance and run laps around.
It was seen as a community site to many in the sense that different families from across the community would rejoice and come together. However, within the past four months, a private investment company bought the lot and is currently in the process of creating a seven to eight home gated community. Because it is a private investment company, finding a map of the specific area was difficult, but I used a district zoning map that was found on the city’s website.
I also used another land-use map that was drafted up as a result of community input on how to make the city a better place.
In recent years, Fontana has been facing the problem of gentrification in both its northern and southern parts of the city. With the building of this gated community in one of Fontana’s lower-income communities, it reinforces Setha Low’s idea of sociospatial exclusion.
A gated community around this small neighborhood would create a hierarchy between what is considered middle class and the rest of the lower-class community. The location that I chose, is in comparison with Setha Low’s example of Moore Market as it is an area that went through “rapid gentrification” (Week 6 Lecture A). Despite it once being an open land, that many of the community members believed was open for anyone, it is now a private property that will belong to wealthy middle-class families. In picking my site, I decided to go with a site that I have seen development occur over the past couple of years.
This site is close to my actual home and is within a five-minute walking distance. I wanted to focus on the sociospatial exclusion aspect of this location and the gated community brought that into the context. The land-use documents I used were a district zoning map of the whole city and a map that was created based on what community members believed the city needed improvement on. Upon visitation of my site, I decided that I would be using a pen and notepad to examine the signs, the gates, and the homes/surroundings of the actual location. I went on a Sunday mid-day to avoid any construction workers and occasional traffic. With the observations that I was able to gather, I was able to understand how gentrification and sociospatial exclusion plays a role in displacing low-income families and communities of color.
Upon traveling through one of the main streets, Randall Ave, you see a one and a half acre land with the completion and construction of eight homes compacted together. Around the homes is a seven foot metal fence with a “NO TRESPASSING PRIVATE PROPERTY- VIOLATERS WILL BE PROSECUTED” sign in the middle. Attached to the top of the fence is a light pole with a discreet camera observing the surroundings and entrance of the small neighborhood. Three out of the eight two-story homes are finished whereas the other five are under construction. The outside design of the homes are very modern and are targeted for families that want to live in a small community, with similar incomes. Another physical aspect of this small neighborhood is that it is considered to be a private lane/street as, unlike surrounding neighborhoods, it is a dead-end cul-de-sac. The gate and the cul-de-sac is an example of the sociospatial exclusion because not only is a gate prohibiting entry from any person, the cul-de- sac does not allow for anyone to go through the neighborhood, therefore excluding and creating a hierarchy within a community.
The District Zoning Map that was used, was an overall general zoning map of the entire city. When zooming in on the specific area, it is highlighted yellow which is color-coded for “Single-Family Residential” homes. This zoning map did not provide much information of the location itself, as it is fairly new construction (Appendix 1). Another land-use document that I decided to research and look into was a community input of how they perceived different areas of Fontana. The specific area in which the new homes are being built was “[felt] unsafe” by those that participated. In doing research, I found that South Fontana, where this site is located, has an average median income of around $20,000 to $45,000, whereas North Fontana has an average median income of $75,000 to $120,000. These homes are averaging a sale price of $450,000 to $530,000 and are not built with the intention of attracting lower-class families. The selling price and location of this small neighborhood is an example of how gentrification works and how it is used . In building a small, wealthy middle-class, reserved neighborhood in a low-income area of Fontana, it exemplifies the gentrification that the city is undergoing and is slowly displacing the people of color in these communities.
The creation of a small gated neighborhood in a low-income community, raises many different ideologies of how it excludes those that live here. This site also brings about in-place and out-of-place as it can be seen in both contexts. Beginning with Setha Low’s piece “Spatializing Culture: An Engaged Anthropological Approach to Space and Place”, her methodology of the systems of sociospatial exclusion and the social construction of space describe how the once vacant lot was a place where “peoples’ social interactions, conversations, memories, feelings…convey particular meanings” . In the case of this site, it was more than a lot as it created a place for families to join together and watch horses. Being a city that is currently undergoing gentrification, the building of this neighborhood in a low-income community helped “uncover and illuminate [this] larger [issue]”. It helps us understand the way that sociospatial exclusion also takes place in the form of gentrification.
The new neighborhood, the gated community and the cameras installed around the small neighborhood reinforce this concept of excluding a certain group of people. Being located in the center of a low-income region helps place this into perspective as it is mainly minority groups of people of color in the surrounding communities, but these homes are targeted for wealthier middle class white folks. This illustrates the bigger image which is that people of color are being displaced and moved from their own homes to make way for what many like to call the “dominant white race”. The formation of this neighborhood also brings into light what we consider to be in place and out of place. In the land-use document where community members are asked about their opinions on certain areas of the city, the specific area in which this neighborhood is located is considered to be “unsafe” and “very dark”. As described earlier, this location is in a low-income community and price range for these homes is above $400,000. The target of these homes is not the families that have been here for years. It is meant for the wealthier families that find themselves moving into this city. This neighborhood then becomes what is considered to be out of place as it is not like the older communities that have been established with people of color.
Tim Cresswell’s methodology of in place and out of place in the context of graffiti is similar to what this wealthier neighborhood will mean to the surrounding neighborhoods. For example, Cresswell’s take on graffiti in his article “The crucial ‘where’ of graffiti: a geographical analysis of reactions to graffiti in New York” highlights that when discussing graffiti, “different cultural values clash [and] that normative geographies get defined, maintained, and reproduced by those with the power to do so” (Cresswell, 330). In this example, we can contrast the graffiti to the recently built neighborhood and compare it to the in existing neighborhoods that are around it. This small neighborhood is aimed for wealthier families and because it has a stark contrast to the average $25,000 income community, they create a sense of hierarchy that only wealth takes into account. What once was a community empty lot for horse riding now has become a gated community that although is part of an inclusive community meant to bring everyone together, the gates and wealth of the families exclude other members of the community. It becomes an out of place neighborhood, that based off of wealth and physical barriers, does not match in place with the open welcoming, low-income neighborhoods.
Place and race are concepts that when applied to different spheres have different connotations and meanings. In the case of applying it to a specific site, it shows how the physicality and location of it plays a role in the perception of race and place together. The one and a half acre lot that was once a site for horses to run, is now eight home gated community. Although in the actual zoning map the location was zoned as a residential area, it was not claimed until recently and the memories that were made there are now covered with homes. The gated community and the pricing of the home is not meant to be in the same place as the neighborhood it is in right now; but, because of gentrification in the last couple of years, the out of place are now becoming and displacing the in place.