Healthy Development without Displacement?

Industrialized agriculture has made us increasingly disconnected from our food and the farmers that grow it. Consequently, many are turning to urban agriculture as way of bypassing the conventional paradigm that food is strictly a commodity. The notion that food should be produced as cheaply and efficiently as possible is in question, as awareness grows surrounding the social and environmental repercussions of industrial food.

This cultural shift in favor of “slow food” is reflected in the rise of community gardens, farmer’s markets, food trucks, ethnic eateries, and craft breweries. San Diego State University professor of geography, Dr. Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, studies the relationship between food and ­place. She notes that developers and real estate professionals are responding to increased demand for healthy and local food by designing neighborhoods with gardens and other food-centered amenities. Her recent research suggests that “Green space increases adjacent property values by 15 to 30%.”


Gentrification Map

On the surface, it appears that the proliferation of community gardens and mixed-use projects offers a win-win situation to developers and residents. However, urban revitalization can have unintended consequences; rising property values often results in the displacement of the original residents, typically lower-income households and people of color. This is already taking place in City Heights, where gentrification in North Park is expanding to the east. The map above by Dr. Pascale Joassart-Marcelli illustrates community gardens in green dots with host spots of gentrification. Community gardens tend to appear in lower-income communities where vacant lots are more readily accessible. 

This phenomenon requires those of us in the food justice movement to think critically about our goals and how we seek to achieve them. Historically, growing food in urban spaces has been used as a form of resistance and has allowed marginalized communities to work towards self-sufficiency. How can healthy food access be addressed if community gardens play a role in gentrification?

Project New Village and partners are exploring this issue in the development of the Good Food District. Find out more about the project in upcoming posts!

Written by Livvy Stanforth, Intern