(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and  do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff  or publishers)

A recent surge of young and hip newcomers being  called “hipsters” has Somerville residents up in arms, but why?  According to a Boston Globe article by Beth Teitell, the mysterious species can be summed up as “skinny pant wearing tattooed 20/30-somethings that partake in activities like chicken raising, bike riding, suit-vest wearing and microbrew-ing, all with a “more-ironic-than-thou attitude”.  These stereotypes are superficial and harmful to the fabric of our community. While the majority of the mocking is done in jest, the unspoken bitterness between newcomers and old-timers is apparent.

For the past few months, multiple articles have been published referring to the “hipster” migration into Somerville as a crisis, and a cause for concern. The Somerville Times’ William C. Shelton addresses his concerns in his article “Dear, Hipster.”, An open letter to newcomers that modestly pleads for the new arrivals to commit to our community. He describes the hipsters as people who “…maintain [their] hair, prefer music and films, embrace philosophies [and] engage in modes of discourse…” While the majority of the article is spent giving a thoughtful history to the undoubtedly curious arrivals, Shelton uses a tone that reflects the majority of the negative feelings residents harbor towards them. The pleading insinuates that the newcomers are not inclined to help the community or be productive. He requests that the hipsters help to reweave the fabric of the community and that they “be themselves”, a difficult task in a city where the majority of the residents spend their days condemning you for the way you look.

The notion that our hipster friends need to be asked to help out in the community, (as if they are known for being unhelpful and rebellious) is a gross, biased and uneducated generalization.

This generalizing is not good for our wellbeing as a community. Instead of focusing on how different these people are from us, or how eccentric they dress, or how organic their diets are, Somerville needs to focus on integrating them into the community. They are not strange creatures. They are Somerville residents like the rest of us.

The entire situation has become about how they look, and what they do for fun. I wear skinny jeans. I wear flannel. I prefer organic and locally grown food.  Am I a “hipster?”

The emphasis on their lifestyle choices and irony levels are irrelevant.

There is no crisis, there is no problem that needs to be fixed.

There is no need to write letters begging them to help out in our community, because if anything the new comers are doing more and working harder to make our city thrive than the people complaining about them.

This isn’t about what they do or how they dress, but what they represent. To the old timers in the city, they represent the fear that comes with the realization that the city is changing. In reality, they are nothing more than new faces in our big little city.

– Joey Del Ponte

 

60 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: There is no hipster crisis so stop labeling people”

  1. Jim says:

    There absolutely is a crisis, its a complete infestation. There are fixie bikes everywhere, empty American Spirit cigarette packs in every flower bed, and the irony is endemic. Honestly, if I see one more empty Narragansett tall boy in my front yard, I’m calling an exterminator. From what I understand, the only real things that keep them away are: lawn signs for Republican candidates; music from bands such as Slayer; right wing radio; and active discussions of Austrian School economic principles

  2. Ray says:

    Oh Jim, you concentrate on such minor inconveniences… I take it you weren’t around in the ’70′s when our cars were robbed, our parks set on fire, our animals abused and trees were rarer than the Do Do bird. I’m 49 and too old to be a “hipster” but they treat one another with respect (as well as old townies like myself), clean up after their dogs and trigger the opening of a good restaurant or two. Yeah, they may not have the best taste in beer but they sure make for pleasant neighbors!

  3. Matt says:

    Thanks Joey (and no thanks to you, Jim).

  4. AusDoug says:

    Perhaps Jim’s comment is meant in jest? A Colbert-esque jab. Either way, look around – young people are driving a good portion of Somerville’s economy.

  5. ritepride says:

    Yeh I saw 2 hipsters today side by side pushing their baby carriges up the sidewalk today. An elderly man was walking slowly toward them. When they got near the man did one of them slow down or stop so the man could get by….No they made the man step up on to the uneven lawn trying to balance himself while they continued their journey….God help you if you delay a biker on the sidewalk or the hipsters.

    I put a lot of volunteer time into the city, more than any politician has ever done. I did not get paid. So in my old age as a long term resident of this city, I expect respect from the hipsters (another term for Yuppies) and the others. I wish that man had stood his ground and made the hipsters stop so he could pass by, I know I will.

  6. Jim says:

    Clearly none of you have a sense of ironic humor (a pre-requisite of hipsterism). I’d take hipsters over rowdy/entitled Tufts students any day of the week. Plus, fixie bikes are way less annoying than luxury SUVs w/ out of state plates driven way too fast by Tufts kids.

  7. ritepride says:

    Yeh right Ray…now we have gangs, druggies living in buildings with the elderly, burning occupied homes instead of open parks, Restaurants that open and dont make it past 1 or 2 years, then gone as their customer base, [hipsters, flippers], etc. has sold off and moved out. I havent seen one of my hipster/flipper neighbors come out and offer to help me when I’m struggling for several years with my cane trying to put out my rubbish barrels….What city are you really living in Ray?????

  8. 617 says:

    I recently did some door knocking for an important ward Alderman race and I have to say that not only could hipsters care less about their community (basically shut the door in my face while still talking on a cell phone call) but their whole attitude seems to be “Caring is sooo cliche bro, I’m all set with your caring and your community….show me the fluff!” I mean this is pretty well documented. It’s like their job not to care.

  9. MarketMan says:

    ritepride: Your complaints are not about hipsters. Your complaints are about people without manners, compassion, or empathy. There does seem to be a lot of that from the younger generation, but it isn’t particular to hipsters, youngers, Somerville newcomers, etc. It’s called the “Me Generation” for a reason.

  10. MarketMan says:

    youngers -> yuppies

  11. faxR4fools says:

    Hipsters and flippers and gangs, oh my! Hipsters and flippers and gangs, OH MY!!

  12. SomeGirl says:

    Thanks for a great article, Joey!

    I am living in the same city as Ray! I am a life long resident of Somerville. I, too, have met very nice and respectful “hipster” people over the years. Whether we like it or not, Somerville has changed. For those who are no longer happy living here, why do you stay? It will never be the same as you once thought.

    I had a great time growing up in Somerville in the 60′s, 70′s, and 80′s. Twenty-four plus years later, my three children, who are now in college, had a great time growing up in a “different” Somerville. I accepted the changes as time went along and adapted. Apparently, some people refuse to accept and adapt.

    Ritepride, thank you for your years of volunteer work. I certainly appreciate it. However, the “newbies,” “yuppies,” “hipsters,” etc. could give a crap what you did in the past. Therefore, demanding respect from them is wishful thinking. They are only interested (for those who are) in how to make changes today.

    There is a reason why Somerville received the “All-America City Award” in 1972 (Old Somerville) and 2009 (New Somerville). It remains to be seen, Somerville is a great city to live in no matter who lives here!

  13. Don says:

    Seems like a lot of these crybabies didnt even READ THE LETTER

  14. Anthony says:

    Dude, I remember growing up you would see the Barneys’ riding their bikes down the street and they would be chased back over the line, back into Cambridge… Somewhere after 1985 somebody dropped the ball and let these Yuppies into the city … and it all went to sh*t from there …

  15. emir says:

    prob w/hipsters isn’t really them- it’s the press goo-gooing over joeyboy’s supposed turning our town into a place that’s economically feasible to think of visiting, settling down in, becoming an entrepreneur in. next we’ll be arguing about whether somerville’s the best gay town in new england. and so on.
    meanwhile the young-uns that start their parties past 11 and act like their rental is an extension of sorority house daze are treating their neighbors like garbage. that disrespect is def a problem- what can we do about it? 617 and MarketMan: you nailed it.

  16. PixiePocahontas says:

    rite pride,

    Wait unti buyers remorse sets in.
    Maybe not so much for the transient hipsters, “Young Upperclass Professionals”, but for condo owners and other residents who bought homes 5-20 years ago. While we keep paying inflated taxes, our services are diminished, and it’s pay raise and party time for the rest.

    When I heard stories about shoddy condo building, that’s when I realized just how bad things had become. The situation over re-zoning added to my deep concern, and latest on what one alderman did to change business district to residential, $10 million to be exact, I had enough.

    If we weren’t continually being hit from all sides- parking fees, invalid ticketing, questionable practices of ISD -paying employees salaries separately from the tax fund, there wouldn’t be such outrage.

    RE lawyer who tried to swindle my home, that story proved to me that what has been brought forward is real.

    And if city employees deserve a raise, it should be the taxpayers and residents who vote on it after they have a thorough evaluation based on performance.

  17. Rat Pack says:

    Ray, I think you’re delusional. Hipsters move in and out of my neighborhood near Davis, and 99% of them never take the time to even nod at a neighbor, much less say hello. And they are gone before you know it, replaced by another equally anonymous resident. I will soon put up a fence around my front yard, something I am loathe to do, in order to keep hipsters’ dogs off my grass to ‘do their duty’. They will stand there and look right at you while their dog sniffs around on your property looking for a good spot. They expect you to enjoy what they enjoy, because it’s ‘cool’. Porchfest is a prime example, heaven forbid you should not want a live, amplified band at the house next door to you, while their listeners and their dogs gather in your driveway and yard. 99% of them do not vote or get involved in local elections or local campaigns. It is the townies who are doing things like raising money for high school scholarships and charities, and actually sending their kids to the Somerville schools.

  18. Matt says:

    Joey – thank you.

    A question we are not asking is what makes people want to invest in their community.

    One reason is they grew up here. A second is its a great place to live with lots of arts, culture and entertainment. A third is its convenient to the city, but is not just a bedroom community. A fourth is it is becoming a better and better place to raise your family – schools are improving, increased emphasis on green space, and lots of family oriented city programing. The fifth is it is relatively affordable.

    @ritepride – I have read a lot of stuff you have written and my gut sense is if you saw someone with a child you would also do your best to stand aside to let a mother and child pass – just like you would likely give up your seat on a bus for a parent with a young child. If the women were not polite and thankful for the gentlemans kind actions, then shame on them.

    @617 – I do not know how we can better engage with people who see somerville as a 2 or 3 year stop on the journey through life. This is no different today, than it was 10 or 20 years ago, but with each new group of people coming in a chunk of them stay and add to the interesting mix that is somerville.

    As the city evolves it has put more emphasis on things that are important to people that have arrived over the last x years. These include walkablity, non-car transport, green space, local jobs, integrated affordable housing (rather than projects), community based events (somer-streets / fluff / public movies), community gardens and farmers / artisan markets. And it appears, at least over the last 10 years they have also kept their commitment around traditional focus like elder services, schools, city roads and bridges.

  19. Jon says:

    Matt, relatively affordable? What is relative in your opinion?
    What about the ‘hipsters’ who are selling their home brew and have chosen to call it ‘SlumBrew’. How’s that for becoming a part of your community? Most people I know will not go to any establishment that sells it.
    The real problem is that as more and more ‘hipsters’ arrive, the city caters to them more and more. And why not? They have money to spend. The elderly and the disabled, are left out of many of the wonderful things going on in Somerville. And while there are some events planned with families in mind, the policies of the administration are pushing famililes out.

  20. Rat Pack,

    I have similar issues you described about porch dwellers and parties, some are during the week. There is no real enforcement on curtailing this issue–believe me, I have tried.

    I’ve also considered a 5 foot fence and a locked gate, so idiots would stop coming into our yard and taking things that don’t belong to them, our lawn mower in our back yard which was not in plain sight, other items and latest is our pine cones. I know, ridiculous as it sounds, but it’s just entitled behavior and being too cheap to go to the craft store and buy their own–or a sense of encroachment and superiority we see everywhere in our city–”I’m taking it because I can get away with it and who are you to stop me”, attitude.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with it if they asked politely, as did the guy who was out of work and wanted our old gutters and copper piping, but others have been seen doing it during the day when we leave for work. I also allow the bottle collectors to come in to the yard because some are homeless and look as though they haven’t had a meal in weeks.

    It’s based on common courtesy and principle–our yards and our homes are our properties. Trespassing is also forbidden to properties of homeowners, not just businesses, so why is that acceptable and not enforced?

  21. Somerbreeze says:

    @Matt “Relatively affordable”–

    Man, my coffee spurted thru my honker when I read that bit–talk about Somerville Fluff!

  22. Dobie Gillis says:

    You’re right, there is no hipster crisis, because hipsters do not exist as human beings. They are not a class, they’re not a race, they’re not a religion. You aren’t born a hipster, you actively pursue the hipster moniker. They’re a fad, a fashion statement that will disappear when the next counter culture clothing line comes out. So please stop acting so persecuted. It is you, not us, that are “labeling” yourselves. After all, who would self-identify themselves as a hipster to begin with?

  23. SomeGirl,

    Sounds like your well rehearsed statement came directly from city hall.
    We are really tired of the self-promoting award ceremonies. Save it for the Globe.

    If you were a genuine local resident of this city who was not a member of the “go-along-to-get-along” shop of horrors, you would understand the serious issues facing our elderly, disabled and working families of this community. Are the cherry pickers out today? How many families are being awarded special treatment, while the rest of us continue to pay their bills? Can we ask the Globe to list salaries and jobs of all who work within the administration? Please don’t forget to list all families together so we can see the lineage.

    I think your slip is showing.

  24. Matt says:

    Re: relatively affordable: Compare cities or neighborhoods within 5 miles of downtown, (driving from winter hill it is approximately 5 miles to post office sq.) So you have charlestown, cambridge, brookline, south boston. south end, dorchester, roxbury etc. Yes parts of dorchester, roxbury, charlestown, and east boston may be less expensive, but I would say we in somerville enjoy a far better quality of life – but that is my opinion.

    I think we have had the discussion on marketing gimmicks, nostalgia and how they don’t line up well for many long term residents. I would suggest Pretty Things as I think it is hands down a better beer as well as a somerville owned and operated.

    I personally thought porchfest was a great way to meet some other people in my neighborhood, the music wasn’t always my thing, but that wasn’t the main draw for me anyway. Also – Porchfest sponsored by the city was on the weekend in the afternoon scheduled for 2 hours and ended by 6p despite how it was portrayed by other posters. Some of the events that happen are things i have no interest in and are an inconvenience but, thats the way of the world.

    Pixi – Clearly you have some crazy neighbors, it sucks that someone stole your lawnmower – but frankly I could call that entitlement rather it is theft. The pinecones is odd, but pretty much in line with the other stories i have heard you tell from your neighborhood.

    The closest parallel I can offer is having someone using my trash bin in my driveway to dispose of something and I would rather that then leaving it on the sidewalk. We share stuff on my street be it something for cooking, lawn mowers, parking passes/driveway spots when someone is having multiple guests over.

    Also the first post from “matt” on this thread was not from me…

  25. ritepride says:

    ‘Matt’ The issue was the lawn was not smooth and you could see the man wobbling and trying to steady himself. Common decency, one of the women should have moved for the elderly man.

    I always gave my seat on a bus, hold the door, etc for a woman as it is the proper thing to do. Unfortunately in this city if you are old or handicapped, no one shows dignity or respect.
    Especially from our lead employee, ahem, the self described ‘CEO’ whose family operated nursing homes.

  26. X-Slacks says:

    Cuckoo-hontas rides again!

    :P

  27. Somerbreeze says:

    @ X-Slacks – You, to, may take a long walk off a short pier for your condescending remark.

  28. Matt says:

    Thanks for the clarification Ritepride – What I said, I meant with respect to you and the man who stepped aside.

  29. Matt says:

    On a fun note – take a look at todays (10/4) poll “Are so-called “hipsters” displacing long term residents?” Despite the letter from the editor above this is a continuation of us vs them rather than stating what is happening and then talking about ways to fix it.

    - We know that new residents displace old residents.
    - We know that rents and property value have gone up almost every year in recent memory and overall incomes have declined nationally.
    - We know that somerville is becoming less affordable to the average family.

    There are a few ways to help people to stay, subsidize market rents, price control (affordable housing/rent control), or grow your housing stock overall. Asking people which of those things they would prefer would be an interesting poll question that some may find less inflammatory and may actually start some meaningful discussion.

  30. X-Slacks says:

    Condescending? Not in the least.

    Just performing my self-appointed duty to call Cuckoo-hontas on his – eh – “her” – umm – it’s B.S.

    Every time.

    Now, you go enjoy that walk yourself.

  31. A,Moore says:

    Matt, it makes me think that maybe they could have a discussion here when they have a poll sine we can’t make comments to the poll question. Not sure how they feel about it but they have been very liberal here to us in our discussions, debate or whatever it should be called depending on the moment.
    My point of view on this is more that the older residents are finding the city has little to offer then anymore in the way of commercial busines. Everything is geared to one group of people rather than something for all. So that the older ones don’t wish to be here as really is not the kind of restaurants or stores that they want and go to. So many that can get by on their income just can’t stand it here anymore. This besides the affording it part. This is what I get from many of the older people here, not so much about the new people coming in.

  32. Bob says:

    Agree Matt. All of this anti-hipster talk is a side show. Substantive conversations are a refreshing suggestion.

    Tools to Combat Gentrification

    Subsidized Housing: I think we should raise the inclusionary zoning for affordable housing from 12.5 percent to at least 15.0 percent in all areas that are not at 15.0 percent or above. It’s the developers who take a hit, and I think the Somerville market is so hot right now that the developers will build even with the change.

    Rent Control: I think this is an idea that has been tried and failed. It creates a disincentive for landlords to maintain their properties and creates inequality among those who need to move to a different home for whatever reason (e.g. family size, change of job, etc.) versus those who can stay in the same home for a long time. It seems arbitrary and not tied to income.

    Public Housing: I could go either way on this. If managed well, public housing can be a great resource for low income families and individuals. However, these developments are usually so big, they create low-income neighborhoods onto themselves and aren’t really integrated into the community. That said, Somerville has some pretty decent public housing (okay, not all of it).

    Higher Zoning: I think the City has up-zoned many properties in the last few years to increase density and housing supply. I think this makes sense, although I’m concerned these new 55+ foot developments are being put next to smaller multi-families. Meanwhile, whole stretches of Brickbottom and Inner Belt are wastelands.

    Condo Conversions: I think we should generally discourage chopping up single family homes into smaller units. This basically creates fewer places for mid-size families to live, albeit, you would have to have $650-$900k to get a single family these days. I think the days of lower- and middle-income families being able to afford single family homes in Somerville are over, and I can’t think of any realistic solution.

    What other ideas do people have? Somerville has been a landing point for many immigrants in the past. Do we want to preserve this quality of Somerville, and if so, how would we do it?

    What about the kids who grew up here and want to stay? Should they get some sort of housing subsidy, and if so, who pays for it?

  33. PixiePocahontas says:

    Bob,

    Great ideas and well constructive post. Now if we could get the present administration to own and adapt to your suggestions we would have a much more united community of tolerance and acceptance. Our frustration lies in the fact the present administration refuses to work with those of us who are struggling to remain. This is the primary reason we have taken to the online posts. There is no other place to express our frustration and concern for those who will potentially become displaced. Personally, I feel the developers have been given free reign to do as they please without any consideration of how it effects our long-time residents.

    When I look at some of the surrounding towns, I see more stable communities where ours is so erratic. Too much change all at once puts a great deal of stress on the people who have lived here for decades.
    There should be limits on zoning and changes to neighborhoods. Rapid escalating costs and continual housing displacement of elderly, disabled and families destroys the fabric of a community. Transforming Somerville into a gentrified transitory community is unsustainable in the long run. Somerville will be one large hotel, with people coming and going, community will be lost. Many use our city to make money on their real estate so they can afford to buy in wealthier towns, to aquire the single family home with green space they can’t get in Somerville. If you are going to do a full and complete assessment of what gentrification does to an urban working class community, please include those details.

    Could you also elaborate on rent control, second section of that paragraph. I don’t understand what you are trying to convey- “creates inequality among those who need……..”.

  34. PixiePocahontas says:

    Bob,

    “What other ideas do people have? Somerville has been a landing point for many immigrants in the past. Do we want to preserve this quality of Somerville, and if so, how would we do it”?

    By educating the community about the barriers and dangers created from ongoing racism. Have monthly community held meetings and teach tolerance in schools. There should also be no tolerance rule by emploees and students who display bigotry. More ESL classes for those who wish to be integrated in our community. Many feel isolated and distrusting of members of our community.

    “What about the kids who grew up here and want to stay? Should they get some sort of housing subsidy, and if so, who pays for it”?

    Institute a separate fund. Once the auditing has been completed, I’m sure someone can figure it out. The administration is behind the times in ways of efficiency. Saving time also reduces cost. More should go into how they manage our city from their desks. Their idea of creating a mega complex at union sq. for a Donald Trump City Hall and police headquarters is a concern when the infrastructure of town management continues to be working in the last decade. Old city buildings and schools should be included in their demo plans, maybe they should offer them up as a donation for the affordable housing fund of displaced locals. That would be a great start. If you expect residents and home owning taxpayers to be happy, two way streets always work best.

  35. French political thinker and historian,Tocqueville wrote:

    “It is odd to watch with what feverish ardor Americans pursue prosperity. Ever tormented by the shadowy suspicion that they may not have chosen the shortest route to get it. They cleave to the things of this world as if assured that they will never die, and yet rush to snatch any that comes within their reach as if they expected to stop living before they had relished them. Death steps in, in the end, and stops them before they have grown tired of this futile pursuit of that complete felicity which always escapes them”.

    Tocqueville warned that modern democracy may be adept at inventing new forms of tyranny, because radical equality could lead to the materialism of an expanding bourgeoisie and to the selfishness of individualism.

    In such conditions we lose interest in the future of our descendents…and meekly allow ourselves to be led in ignorance by a despotic force all the more powerful because it does not resemble one.

    Tocqueville worried that if despotism were to take root in a modern democracy, it would be a much more dangerous version than the oppression under the Roman emperors or tyrants of the past who could only exert a pernicious influence on a small group of people at a time.

    While Tocqueville saw egotism and selfishness as vices, he saw individualism as not a failure of feeling, but as a way of thinking about things which could have either positive consequences such as a willingness to work together, or negative consequences such as isolation, and that individualism could be remedied by improved understanding.

    In contrast, a despotism under a democracy could see “a multitude of men”, uniformly alike, equal, “constantly circling for petty pleasures”, unaware of fellow citizens, and subject to the will of a powerful state which exerted an “immense protective power”.

    Tocqueville compared a potentially despotic democratic government to a protective parent who wants to keep its citizens (children) as “perpetual children”, and which doesn’t break men’s wills but rather guides it, and presides over people in the same way as a shepherd looking after a “flock of timid animals”. (source: wiki)

    I draw from the great thinkers of our past, since their endless strife towards freedom and equality for humanity is a treasure for those who seek guidance.

    Bob, maybe you can present this at your next meeting. It should be presented at each Alderman meeting, zoning board meeting and every other meeting which involves all community residents.

    They need to be reminded who is paying their salaries–it’s not only the newcomers, it’s also the people who have dedicated their lives to this city, whether through work, as long-term resident, homeowner and taxpayer. We do matter and we also make it possible for all the rest.
    It takes a person of true character and courage to face opposing views, but ignoring this problem only makes it worse. It causes a lingering, deep resentment within the community, as well as distrust and lack of understanding.

    What we need most in our city is a community center which would serve as a base for workshops which would provide guidance, and a meeting place for elders so they can interact with others.

  36. Matt says:

    Bob, first thank you for the very thoughtful response. As i think about the problem of displacement the issue – for me – is focused around that of the older residents in the city and how we can protect them. My ‘solutions are focused on them and not people who grew up here or the young family of 4, who is also struggling is making the choice to live here and their options and ability to adapt is exponentially greater than that of our seniors.

    I agree with the 15% I don’t think that it is overwhelming nor will it ever create the high densities of poverty that we see in the housing projects of the 60s (and all the problems that come with them). I also agree with the thoughts of others that would like to see a guarantee % of units set aside for people who have lived in the city for a X years and within that an allocation for seniors.

    As for subsidies for individuals I have some mixed feelings here, I think we should have an income based, sliding scale tax abatement for owner occupied units (not multifamilies) for seniors to help them to stay in homes they tax increases due to valuations are making it difficult to continue to stay in these homes. If we want to make it very fair, make it an agreement between the owner and the city where when the home is sold, inherited 10% of the assessed value goes to the city to continue the program for others, making it a sustainable program. The other way this could be paid for is by cutting the real estate tax exemption for people under 65 (i like this idea less)

    Where I have a problem is the concept of right of return where if you were born, grew up here you should receive some sort of assistance to come back or stay. Young people and families should be encouraged to strike out and make their own way in the world which may be in somerville but, never at the expense of others who have struggled to make it here.

    Regarding brickbottom / innerbelt. I expect, and would like to see a more residential version of what is going on at Assembly sq. 4-5 story mixed use, condo / office / lab / retail and office space at a grand scale.

    Also, I would appreciate if you could help me understand the opposition to transitioning multi-families into condos. Price point not withstanding, don’t they help to create a more permenant, less transient community than year to year leases?

  37. Matt says:

    A.Moore: you brought up a great point – commercial businesses are not catering to the needs and wants of long-term residents. This is a challenging problem and if you put an academic hat on looks like a failure of markets not policy.

    First things first – I agree with you. My godmother has abutted porter sq since well before the red line, she has trouble getting around so I help her out by doing some shopping for her. She refuses to buy from the stop & shop in porter because the prices are outrageous compared to the market basket down the street. She has no interest in places like Painted Burro or Bronwyn partly because they are too exotic for her taste, partly because the atmosphere (loud and a little chaotic) and partly because of price. When I have taken her to these places on off nights she has enjoyed them but in the same hand they continue to be unapproachable to her.

    There are different ways these business could become a little more available to (older) long term residents of the city. The city commerce group could work with business owners to create programs that could grown their business while being more inclusive. Think boston restaurant week style menu/pricing for at lunch one day a week with a senior discount. This doesn’t fix the problem of people feeling excluded but it might help.

    The other side of the coin is when traditional, reasonably priced places open up, the community needs to support them. Brunello which opened up on Broadway a few years ago had good food, reasonable prices and a welcoming staff but it floundered and eventually closed because people didn’t shop there.

  38. ritepride says:

    ‘Bob’, ‘Pixie’ and ‘Matt’ have some good interesting points. Honestly Somerville City Hall, Central Library, should remain where they are.
    The only reason for this idea is the mayor wants to take care of his developer buddies. Union Square historically will alway have flooding problems. There is a river running underneath it.

    The mayor’s priority is development. Floating bonds means somebody is getting a “finders fee” and making money at taxpayers expense. Everytime the city does a project they float bonds. Thus another reason they want to move City Hall, Central Library.

    Time to slow down on development in Somerville and work with what we have and stop anymore tax exempt status in a city that in nearing 60 percent tax exempt property now.

  39. A.Moore says:

    What happens is many of the people I Know do not eat in Somerville outside of the Mount Vernon or 99. Brunello’s was okay but he didn’t really do so called normal food. Most everyone here on Winter Hill went once and that was it. I had talked to him once but didn’t get anywhere. I understand it’s his business but Ollie’s had the same problem. The place taking over the Paddok will most likely be gone within 2 years. Not enoough of a changeover here in Winter Hill for the hipster(had to say that) restaurants.
    ritepride, why keep the library up next to the high school where we most likely will use it. Put it down in Union Square so a lot fo the kids won’t bother to go there.

  40. A.Moore says:

    Matt, I guess I didn’t clarify the Brunello thing but it applies to what I think in this are as it stands now is for these places to have the right combination of both worlds. I had he would would see this and maybe get it going. Plus the store front was terrible. Always gave it a closed look. But in time it will change here as in most of the city.

  41. PixiePocahontas says:

    Matt,

    “My solutions are focused on them and not people who grew up here or the young family of 4, who is also struggling is making the choice to live here and their options and ability to adapt is exponentially greater than that of our seniors”

    Your statement is not only harsh and inconsiderate, but also based on lack of experience. Do you have a family of four, and do you know how costly and taxing it is to move to another location? School age children don’t always adapt well when they are uprooted from friends and schools.

    Moving should be of free will. If you are forced to go due to job loss, thats different. No one should be forced to move from their home because greed and poor local government planning has decided it’s best. That is a self fulfilling motive which brings wealth to only a few individuals, one being developers. Buyers remorse will eventually set in. Somerville is not the Disneyland many hope it to be. They should take a poll on how many who have moved here still feel the same as they did when they first arrived. The majority of my tenants have complained about excessive parking fines and lack of spaces available. When you introduce more condos, you also put a strain on roadways and it creates overcrowding, and limited parking.

    Let’s hope you never have to experience displacement. You just might be looking for a new place to live, aside those you criticize.

  42. PixiePocahontas says:

    A major overhaul of how our taxes are assessed, since I do not believe this practice is fair to the homeowner who continues to live in the city for decades, while others who let their homes rot away, but still collect high rents. Their are a number of double standards that need to be abolished. One having to do with how the city determines who pays more tax than another. I’ve had my home assessed on four separate occasions, all during a 2-3 year period, each time I pulled a permit. I believe instead, I should have received one reassessment based on completion, not arbitrarily. Doing home comparisons is inaccurate, system is flawed.

    Taxes should be based on income, so elderly can remain in their homes. I would rather see my tax dollars benefitting an elder, before a beer fest and circus show. If the newcomers want it, they should pay for it themselves out of their artsy entrepreneur fund since the claim is, business is booming.

  43. PixiePocahontas says:

    By the way, Matt, there is no Stop & Shop in Porter Square. Was that a misprint or are you a plant- someone who’s working to shift the dialogue to benefit others. Do you even live in Somerville? Star market/Shaws has occupied that space for over 3 decades, I’m surprised you got that wrong.

  44. PixiePocahontas says:

    Matt,

    Again you are hopelessly delusional with regard to “people should strike out on their own”. Maybe during healthy economic times, not during this unstable climate. The only ones who can transition are those who have high paying jobs or mom and dad, the trust fund. They won’t ever disclose the latter two, because their pride prevents them from that important detail.

    Condos are not built for families, they don’t have enough space, one to two bedrooms max.

    Again, you are promoting the elimination of multiple family dwellings which their is still demand, since some have no desire to own a $450k condo. Those who do have the money and elevated status. What you repeatedly fail to consider is the majority only buy to sell and make a profit.

    I see far more renters engaging in the community because they have money to spare.

    Your next poll should ask- how many long term residents and renters, give back in terms if buying from local business and how many eat, drink and make purchases outside of our city.

    Those making over $100k are not hanging out in Davis Square, they are off to touristy areas like the Cape summer homes and NH, ski chalets. And will be found downtown nightlife other times. Most couples I have rented to do the same, but parents owned vacation homes which made it easier. Conducting an unbiased study would reveal this, so anyone who says the majority of newcomers spend their money in our community is not sharing the entire story. It’s not going towards areas of improving community, it’s aimed at creating one powerful group who seeks only to dominated and destroy the other.

    Maybe when have finally taken over every block in the city, maybe they can build affordable housing in Wellesley, Winchester and Belmont. How would those towns feel about that transition?

  45. PixiePocahontas says:

    rite pride,

    Thanks for highlighting the important fact about the river running under union square, and potential flooding issues for the multi-million dollar “Las Vegas Style”, City Hall Complex. Maybe they plan to elevate the entire area with marble steps and Roman columns.

    Agreed about non-profit tax exempt which also hurts the homeowner and small business owners. Conflict of interest plays a major role when one alderman at large has personal relationships with university on the hill.

    They have promised commercial business would come for years as Mitt Romney had when he was governor. But they won’t come unless it benefits the business, their not dummies.

    If Somerville has become so lucrative a place, where does all the money go?

    Between RE tax revenue, traffic/parking and ISD, that should leave a surplus, so why do they continue to increase taxes, water and services?
    Maybe they should stop awarding pay raises and get back to fixing what needs repairing, like SHS. Maybe they have bigger plans for that footprint.
    We may never know until the construction crew arrives. It’s definitely become more like a corporation is running the show, so what does that indicate?

    Something very wrong in Dodge.

  46. RM says:

    A person does something that isn’t right. That person is being a jerk.

    A person labels a group of people and makes declarations about how every person in that group acts or will act: *that* person is being a jerk, too.

    Some people are rude, inconsiderate, and selfish. No question about it. But my goodness it’s sort of silly to say “A person of thus-and-so age group, who wore thus-and-such types of clothing acted inconsiderately, and now I’m casting judgment all people of that age group or who wear those kinds of clothes.”

    Somerville was built by immigrants: Irish, Italian, Latino/a, Caribbean, Vietnamese; and young folks, elderly, college kids, professors, laborers, doctors, homemakers. We’re all in this together.

    If someone is a jerk, which some people are, then that one person is a jerk and we should call them out for it. But to take a whole group of people and call them out based on what any given member of that group does? That is NOT Somerville.

  47. Matt says:

    Despite what you want to believe no one has a right to live where they want to never mind if it is where they grew up or in some place where they believe the grass to be greener. I described an approach to help people who are on a fixed income stay in their homes. Again, I don’t think anyone is entitled to live some place whether they always wanted to or they grew up there. I make an exception for seniors on fixed income that i would also extend to active duty service members. If you want to subsidize your own children’s desire to live in somerville please do it our of your own pocket and not out of mine.

    People buy property to live-in in a community that they like (most often of their own free will). They may see themselves living in that home for 1, 2, or 20 years. At the end of that time period they hope to sell it (usually of their own free will) for more than they paid for it. I would say EVERYONE hopes to sell their home for more than they paid for it. That’s not a bad thing – despite your opinion.

    The decision to convert to condos is usually based on math. Currently in Somerville, and much of the greater Boston area, it is cheaper to rent than it is to buy because of high demand. This means the property is more valuable to broken up and sold as condos than to be rented as a multi-family. (Because the value of the multi is based on the expected income from that property). The people doing the conversions are just making the best decision for their family.

    Regarding families… I still fail to see your point. A 2 or a 3 bedroom unit is no more or less accommodating to a family if it is a condo or an rented apt. As for building new units, you are right, many families prefer bigger units than a 2 br, others choose to live in a specific community in less space for other reasons…more of that free will and choice.

    On stop and shop – you win. I messed up – it was star when I was a kid walking to my grandmothers from the T. I do my best not to shop at either stop and shop or Shaws (who can really tell them apart) for the reasons stated in the earlier post. By the way I was that you described what a “plant” was without resorting to Wikipedia, however if you did copy it from someplace I would encourage you to cite it. I did try to change the dialogue on the thread to focus on the underlying issues behind the fear and resentment of hipsters (and anyone who moved here in the past 20 years).

  48. Feathers Fluffed says:

    There is no way “SLUMBREW” should have been allowed to be produced. Its derogative, offensive, rude,and just WRONG ! In the old days we would have smacked someone for saying that. Us real Somerville people are offended to the max. The mayor should have banned the name. Terrible slap in the face of Somerville. The height of disrespect

  49. Mom says:

    Good job Joey!

  50. Ron Newman says:

    how exactly would the mayor have the power to ban a beer name?

  51. Jon says:

    Under Mayor Capuano it was very difficult to convert a 2- or 3-family home to a condo. Now it is expremely easy. Most people who are renting are doing so because they cannot afford to buy. Theoretically, every property which is flipped into condos, takes 1, 2, or 3 rental units off the market. This is the main cause of lower income residents being pushed out of the city. The city likes the condo conversions because it makes more money.

  52. Matt says:

    Jon, Thanks – that makes sense. I think there are a couple options, incentivize owners to keep multifamilies (carrot), disincent owners from converting (stick).

    An interesting idea I just thought of would be to have the city housing authority start buying condos and converting them into affordable housing so that the stock of affordable housing permanently increases, it is spread across the city rather than being lumped into large tenements. I think the solution could be a mix of any above. Any other ideas?

  53. Bob says:

    Hi Matt -

    To clarify, I’m not opposed to turning a multi-family into condos. Speaking for myself (the owner of a unit in a multi-family), it’s the only way I was able to afford to buy my first home. If it’s a one-for-one conversion of rental units to condo units, it doesn’t seem problematic.

    My hesitation is about chopping up homes (or lots) into smaller units (irrespective of whether the become apartments or condos). It usually removes a family-sized dwelling (3+ bedrooms) from the market, results in yards being paved over to make way for off-street parking, and creates greater density within residential neighborhoods that weren’t necessarily designed for more households.

    I would like to see housing policies that promote new construction (or adaptive reuse) in under-developed areas (old auto lots, gas stations, warehouses, etc), while we strive to preserve the character and density of mature neighborhoods. MaxPac seems like a good example of new development, whereas 16 Linden Ave, which put 8 units where there were once 3, seems like an example of shoehorning units into a neighborhood.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments on here.

  54. marie says:

    Everyone’s comments would be totally helpful, but for one thing. What is happening now is what the administration chooses to happen. This will not change.

  55. A.Moore says:

    Broke my heart to see that Lindon Street property developed. The house needed some tlc but that yard was nice.

  56. Matt says:

    Marie, whether or not that is the case, the first step we have to take is to identify the underlying issue and expose it, talk about it and find ways to correct them. Lets change the dialogue and get constructive rather than just purely critical.

  57. Feathers Fluffed says:

    I thought the conversation was about “hipsters?”

  58. marie says:

    Matt,
    How I wish that were possible. I have been involved in lots of development issues and attended many many neighborhood meetings. Trust me, it does not matter. Do I like that? Of course not, but that is how it is. Talk to the people who thought their input mattered at 180 Washington Street, or at Morrison and Willow Ave. (where residents were taken to court for questioning the developer, who in the end didn’t even build according to the approved plan). You can talk about it ad infinitum, but in the end it is only talk. It is the city and the developers versus the residents. It’s why I have finally made the choice to leave, because I am watching my neighborhood disappear as more and more high-density buildings with no set back are built.

  59. nick amaral says:

    So I’ve lives in this city all my life, 44 yrs. I’ve seen changes in every aspect some good and some not so good .
    That’s part of life.if you don’t like it,move on and move away.
    anything is better than the GANGS that have infested East Somerville.

  60. Amy says:

    I am very curious to know why, if there is so much opposition to the current administration, did Curtatone run unopposed in the recent election. I live in Ward 2 and don’t recall a single candidate raising his/her hand to run against him.

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