Welcome To Niketown

When I found out that Mi Tierra, the beloved Mexican supermarket and restaurant in the Whiteaker, was forced to leave its home of 10 years, my heart sank.

This displacement is not an isolated event. It is a consequence of the complex and insidious process of gentrification. Gentrification is planned and predictable, and it involves economic investment in a historically affordable neighborhood and, ultimately, the displacement of poor people and people of color.

When hearing the term “gentrification,” images of succulent-filled coffee shops, microbreweries and young, white hipsters come to mind. These images, like the displacement of businesses like Mi Tierra, are consequences of gentrification, not the primary cause.

Our economic and legal systems encourage and enable gentrification with astronomical tax breaks for luxury businesses (e.g., 5th Street Market) and utilize a host of other strategies to lure money into “up-and-coming” neighborhoods. Left unchecked, gentrification leads to boring, homogenous cities that working- and middle-class people cannot afford to live in.

I’m not an expert on urban planning or community development, but we can’t wait for experts to address these issues. We need to educate ourselves about how Eugene is being run like a business so that we can advocate for policies that keep housing affordable, promote services and gathering places that aren’t based on growing capital, and protect community-serving businesses like Mi Tierra.

Nathan Mather