Julian Spector is a former editorial fellow at CityLab, where he covers climate change, energy, and clean tech.
The Guardian Shield, a masked neighborhood defender, was no match for a 22 percent rise in rent.
It’s midnight in a darkened residential street. The masked man in the red suit hears a noise behind him. He slows his pace, straining to locate the sound. There it is again. Someone, or something, is tracking him. And it’s getting closer. He picks up his pace, scanning for routes, and turns down an alleyway.
Wrong choice! This one’s a dead end, with nothing but a few empty personal compost bins and a mural advertising that new bone broth parlor down the road. He unsheathes his police baton, raises his monogrammed ballistic shield, and pivots to face the adversary. As the cryptic intruder steps out into the glowing aura of a streetlight, Guardian Shield feels the pang of recognition like a gut punch.
“You can fight crime all you want, Guardian Shield, but you can’t outrun … Gentrification!”
Nearly a year ago, a citizen of Beaverton, a town of around 90,000 located seven miles west of Portland, donned a red lycra jumpsuit and began patrolling the neighborhood as Guardian Shield, an unofficial nightwatchman. His Facebook page describes him as "a local Superhero who patrols the neighborhoods and acts as a deterrent and First Responder to any and all possible situations."
Guardian Shield specializes in conflict de-escalation, The Oregonian reports:
He wears lacrosse shoulder and knee pads, military boots and motorcycle gloves. He carries a video camera, a police baton, pepper spray, dog spray, a flashlight and a cell phone.
He uses the flashlight constantly, lighting dark areas around garages and bushes as he patrols. He has pulled his pepper spray but hasn't used it. He has, however, used his cell phone to dial 911.
But the stretchy-pantalooned patrolman met a foe he couldn’t defeat when the rent on his two-bedroom apartment jumped from $980 to $1,200, The Oregonian reports this week. In December he plans to move to Marion County, further from the dark gravitational pull of Portland. The metro has been deemed the most gentrified city in America in recent years, based on growth in median household income and median home value.
The departure of Guardian Shield further demonstrates America’s contradictory attitudes toward housing: it’s both a necessity that should be affordable and a commodity that should grow in value. As housing prices grow, sometimes people regrettably get displaced. Even super-people.