This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
The Seattle Times has a front-page story on the changes light rail is bringing to the neighborhoods along MLK Way. It’s a fine read, but I wish it had dug a bit deeper into the underlying reasons why the neighborhood is changing.
Pivoting off of daijimin’s post on the subject, I think there’s a much more complicated story to be told here. We know that light-rail was a disruption, and that many of the Asian immigrants who lived in the neighborhood moved away because of construction. But much of that was going to happen anyway. And anyone who thinks those communities won’t thrive outside of the Rainier Valley has obviously never been to Renton…or Federal Way…or Lynwood…or…
The story of immigrants to America first living in urban areas and then migrating out to the suburbs as they prospered is almost as old as America itself. After all, New York’s Lower East Side is no longer a bastion of Italians, Irish and Jews. And as an Irish-Italian descendant of those immigrants, I’m glad they made their way out.
On the other hand, if they’d held on to the real estate, I’d be sitting pretty right now! Which gets us to the other side of the coin: if you believe, as I do, that the cul-de-sacs of today could become the tenements of tomorrow, then it’s problematic, from a public policy perspective, to consign the poor folks to the auto-dependent suburbs at a time when auto-dependent lifestyles are on the wane.
Still, the newly-middle-class still seem more interested in movin’ on out (to the suburbs) than movin’ on up (to, say, a deluxe apartment in the sky). And not just in the U.S. Thousands of gated suburban communitites are going up in China to house that country’s newly mobile middle class. It’s mostly those of us who’ve lived for a generation or two in the suburbs who want to try living in the city for a change.
All of this is to say…. it’s complicated!