John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
Signs that your neighborhood has become upscale: computer stores, needlepoint boutiques... exotic-bird shops?
What's the worst thing about gentrifiers? Maybe it's the way they're always accompanied by new hardware stores, newsstands, needlepoint boutiques, and pet stores specializing in exotic Central American birds.
At least that was the public perception in 1985, when the San Francisco Chronicle ran a tongue-in-cheek quiz allowing readers to see if their neighborhood had turned "upscale." The 22-item checklist, published on September 19 of that year, proves a couple of things: one, that even three decades ago, Bay Area residents were ripping out hair follicles over gentrification; and two, boy has the price of coffee gone up! Five dollars for a pound of beans? Try $18.50 for a mere 12 ounces in San Francisco today.
This wonderful cultural relic was recently dug up by Devin McCutchen, a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA who's studying "urban historic theming & spatial justice in post-war SF," he says via Twitter. He found it while perusing a clipping book at the library of the San Francisco Planning Department. The quiz ran as part of a larger news package on the region's rapidly changing demographics (sample headline about gourmet bakeries: "When Cookies Come, Neighborhoods Crumble"), which made some eerily accurate predictions. There was the claim that the city would soon have an "upscale market of single adults and childless couples," for instance. And then there were articles anticipating "rich white people and Asians changing the makeup of the city by the year 2000," notes McCutchen.
Have fun with the quiz—I scored 114 points for my Oakland neighborhood (including the exotic-bird store and foreign-name bakery bonus!), just 11 shy of the number needed to qualify for "gentrified." Maybe this thing's not so outdated, after all.