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Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Creative class" strategy is a total bust

Several readers pointed out to us yesterday that the sociology dandy who made his mint preaching about the "creative class" now admits that it was all a bunch of hooey.

On close inspection, talent clustering provides little in the way of trickle-down benefits.

Here in Portland, his gospel was used to justify all sorts of tomfoolery that has basically wrecked the city for decades to come. Thanks a lot, genius. Not only is it bad for the economy, it really stinks on "equity." The hipsters, it seems, are all white:

On paper, the “creative class” theory worships at the altar of diversity. “The great thing about cities,” [Richard] Florida told NPR last year, “is they're diverse. There's diverse people in them.” Yet even leaving aside their lack of economic diversity, the exemplars of “hip cool” world, notes urban analyst Renn, tend to be vanilla cities with relatively small minority populations. San Francisco, Portland and Seattle are becoming whiter and less ethnically diverse as the rest of the country, and particularly the suburbs, rapidly diversify.

Creatives may espouse politically correct views, but the effect of Florida’s policy approach, notes Tulane sociologist Richard Campanella, often undermine ethnic communities. As they enter the city, creatives push up rents, displacing local stores and residents. In his own neighborhood of Bywater, in New Orleans, the black population declined by 64 percent between 2000 and 2010, while the white population increased by 22 percent.

In the process, Campanella notes, much of what made the neighborhood unique has been lost as the creatives replace the local culture with the increasingly predictable, and portable, “hip cool” trendy restaurants, offering beet-filled ravioli instead of fried okra, and organic markets. The “unique” amenities you find now, even in New Orleans, he reports, are much what you’d expect in any other hipster paradise, be it Portland, Seattle, Burlington, Vermont or Williamsburg.

Florida will have some new line of snake oil to sell, and as long as it fits into the apartment bunker guys' story line, the Portland "planning" people will rebroadcast it loudly. Let's hope the population has had enough of it.

Comments (28)

The article adds a great new phrase to the city planning lexicon: "Talent clustering."

I also got a kick out of this sentence:

Perhaps the best that can be said about the creative-class idea is that it follows a real, if overhyped, phenomenon: the movement of young, largely single, childless and sometimes gay people into urban neighborhoods.

Sometimes gay? You mean like on the weekends?

I'll still take the new Alberta Street and Mississippi over what was there when I first moved to Portland. Unless of course you like drugs being dealt on street corners, abandoned buildings, abandoned cars, garbage everywhere, graffiti and prostitution.

Another key quote:

"Florida himself, in his role as an editor at The Atlantic, admitted last month what his critics, including myself, have said for a decade: that the benefits of appealing to the creative class accrue largely to its members—and do little to make anyone else any better off."

You mean bike paths benefit white males between 20-35 years of age and no one else? Who knew?

But having a lot of un-employed and semi-employed hipsters makes the city vibrant! That's important! We need more unemployed "urban planners" in Portland - that will lead to huge economic growth Real Soon Now.

I think that would have happened regardless...if there is real economic opportunity improvements occur.
Government entities do not produce economic long term economic revititlization. The trolley did not produce the Pearl District, nor does it sustain it.

"I'll still take the new Alberta Street and Mississippi over what was there when I first moved to Portland. Unless of course you like drugs being dealt on street corners, abandoned buildings, abandoned cars, garbage everywhere, graffiti and prostitution."

Of course, with the expenditure of millions of dollars in "development" money, all that decay was pushed out to Rockwood and other points east. Sam Adams' version of "ethnic cleansing".

Maybe I would have a better chance at prosperity through "book deals, articles, lectures and university positions" if I had a hipper name like Richard Florida has. John Denver has a wholesome ring. Is anyone using that one right now?

Portland has its own creative class – young adults who take part time jobs so they can eat and party, ride bicycles so they don’t have to help pay for the infrastructure they utilize, and then basically retire in city subsidized housing.

When a PDC funded storefront improvement loan recipient -aka- my former landlord - kicks out two longstanding minority businesses and replaces them with a trendy wine bar, then jacks up the attached apartment rents to almost double, you either pay up or get herded elsewhere. And you figure that something bigger is lurking in the background.

Good or bad, the push east of low income folks toward the numbers didn't start with Sam, but also with the sim city planners hired by Goldschmidt, Vera, et al. Other factors also contributed. While you are enjoying your craft beer on either Mississippi or Alberta, get on your iPad and look up some Portland history of redlining, the Dominion Capitol scandal, etc. A lot of people cashed in.

"I'll still take the new Alberta Street and Mississippi over what was there when I first moved to Portland. Unless of course you like drugs being dealt on street corners, abandoned buildings, abandoned cars, garbage everywhere, graffiti and prostitution."

I've lived in north/northeast Portland all my life and I guess you will have to take my word for it, that there was a lot more to the neighborhood than than the above.

One of the best lines out of the article that applies to Portland is that "you can't put mag wheels on a Gremlin" and expect a miracle or even potholes to be filled.

Speaking of potholes, this week Portland Bureau of Transportation has been repaving a long section of SW Barbur by Duniway Park. SW Barbur, especially in this section, was already one of Portland's best paved streets-so it makes sense to repave it doesn't it?

Then to make matters more crazy, they are restripping this section narrowing the area along Duniway Park and the old "Y" down from two lanes to one lane going south to add a protected bike lane. Its right at the 90 degree turn heading to Ross Island Bridge that needs two lanes for the tremendous amount of traffic in this area. Also a lot of accidents occurs here, so add another death wish.

The problem with this whole approach is that it banks on creating livability and then waiting/hoping for secondary and tertiary results.

Our plan is basically:
1) Create livability
2) Hope to attract the right people
3) Hope those people are entrepreneurial
4) Hope they build businesses
5) Hope those businesses hire others, have trickle down effects

Only the first step is something that we do directly, by spending on planning and choo choos.

Why couldn't we just cut to the chase and do:
1) Recruit new businesses and make it attract for them to locate here.

Before you say that the government can't do this effectively, Governor Perry of Texas does it all over the West. He calls companies in California and asks what it would take to get them to Texas. That's too pushy for Oregonians, but we could do a lot more than we do.

Austin's got the creative class and a booming economy. Booming right through the recession. It's because they have the causality correct: build the economy, and let the hipsters follow if they want.

The whole creative class thing mystifies me outside of the coolness factor:
- Most artists are starving
- Hipsters don't like to hang in large groups usually so forget economies of scale
- The nature of most creative jobs means they can be anywhere which means collaborative jobs closer to assets like good schools (not in Portland)
- They're a mobile population looking for the next "cool" place
- They're mostly single types who rent as opposed to families that stay and invest in their property and want good schools
- Besides jean shops and fussy restaurants what sort of ancillary business to hipsters like?

So, now we ask.......
What is hip? WEIRD isn't working !

Weird isn't working. But unfortunately the pie eyed hopes it comes wrapped in sells all too easily in Portlunia. PPS is engulfed in Sustainability rather than just teaching the three R's. City and state leaders are engulfed in European ideas, even as Europe flounders in economic malaise and can't even defend itself without U.S military assistance. Portland State University could be a skeptic force against all the illusions our local leaders are prone to selling a naïve electorate; but instead, it only reinforces the fool hearty, costly ideas.

We just need to stop chasing the specious federal dollars, deregulate and allow individuals to produce and transact using the collective wisdom embedded in freely operating markets. In this mode, the government steps out of the way, and lets us free to find efficient and optimal outcomes. Nobody at the top dictates down to us all, for instance, 40% will have college degrees and 40% will have associate degrees. In this latter case, who the heck knows what the right percentages are and for what time period? This and other issues like it are best left to the collective transactions of free individuals. They know best what they want to pursue given feed back by other individuals and entities on the costs and opportunities.

What do/did these people have in common:

1. Drummer Mel Brown
2. A shoe designer at Nike
3. A cashier at Food Front who paints
4. The web designer for Integra Telecom
5. Programmers at Microsoft
6. Someone who makes hemp clothes that they
sell at street fairs.

Answer: they don't have a lot in common, as a group. It's a rather incoherent group, huh, kinda random? Well the only thing those folks have in common is that they are part of Richard Florida's creative class.

So, next time you go to a party and find the Food Front cashier next to his neighbor the
computer programmer for Microsoft, finding common ground with Mel Brown and the Nike shoe designer, call me.

Lee - too bad about Barbur. Nothing nice can be left unsullied. Why don't the downtown business owners complain? People in the burbs do not make the effort to go downtown anymore - rather the opposite of Goldschmidt's grand city revival - ruin the people's transportation (and I don't mean trains).

Richard Florida's rebuttal was an embarrassment. What he and other planners fail to "get" is that while they are espousing diversity and neighborhood character, they can't abide any community not falling into line with their make-over plans. Every place will all look the same if we don't gat rid of them soon (like yesterday). The photo that accompanied Florida's rebuttal was of an English village - notice there are no cars on the "living streets". An example of our European,(socialist?) future if nothing changes.

This was last paragraph of Richard Florida's rebuttal:

Enough already with this tired and divisive debate about families versus hipsters, cities versus suburbs. We know that cities and skills power growth and we know that we’re facing real divides and real inequalities. Let’s get on with the critical task of drafting the new social compact that our urban age requires. Now that’s a debate worth having.

Wow, what are we in for as if we haven't been through enough.
I have a feeling, our Portland planners are already ahead of the curve and have been doing just that, carrying on with "new social compact that our urban age requires" - sounds like the behavioral requirement component needed for living in "their" created cities!
Quite obvious the attitude is never mind the character of neighborhoods in Portland.
There isn't much of a debate either, only controlled meetings, or already back room decided anyway with the avenue left for the neighborhoods is to deal with it in court if you don't like it. Good luck with that when the cards are stacked via planners "set up plans."

Translation of Floridean rebuttal:

"Honey, I screwed up intellectually and the theory I espoused for years was wrong, but I am still a genius and you should let me re-frame this new debate because it'll be different this time, I swear I will analyze the situation correctly and not give cities bad advice."

Who the h*ll ever gave this one guy the right to dictate how communities ought to live?

I have to laugh about the mention of Dallas's booming economy in reference to the creative class, because we've been well ahead of the Richard Florida trend. Repeatedly, we've spent millions on trying to get that established: in the Eighties, then-Mayor Annette Strauss noted that Houston and San Antonio spent much more on "the arts" than Dallas did, so she pushed for creating a ridiculously sterile arts district just so we could say we spent more. At the same time, as big developers were turning the former warehouse district in the West End into yuppie playground, the Deep Ellum area on the other side of downtown was starting to pick up as a nightlife destination. Strauss's solution was to develop and zone the hell out of Deep Ellum so as to encourage customers to go to the West End instead (including a police presence that had no problems with assaulting anyone who didn't fit Strauss's view of acceptable customers). Naturally, it didn't work: the West End is a dying shell, and Deep Ellum is barely hanging on as a destination.

Not that this doesn't stop the continued push for creative class solutions. Right now, the big hype in Dallas involves putting new amenities, such as a park that runs over the tunnel for Woodall Rogers Freeway, in order to attract the young, hip, childless crowd. What's conveniently left out is that these amenities are going in to convince said crowd to move into all of the high-rises that opened up around the American Airlines Center. The businesses at the ground floor are doing well, but between the cost of the apartments themselves and the inevitability of said creatives starting families and realizing that their neighbors are going to continue to party their brains out every night, the turnover is pretty high and only getting higher. And this is in a place where the unemployment rate for young professionals is much lower than in Portland.

The final note on this is that there's only one group that really benefits from such manufactured trends: the developers. Portland is a poster child for the gibberish of crying "We're going to have millions of new creatives coming here! We'd better get the space ready NOW!" and then handing checks with lots of zeroes to the left of the decimal point to any developer who claims they can fill the niche. And hey, if the new venue screws up the ambiance of what used to be a thriving neighborhood or was built from substandard materials, the developer already has his, and it's the city's responsibility to clean up.

City governments loved Florida because he told them that rather than doing stodgy things like providing core city services at low costs, they should be spending enormous amounts of money attracting "young creatives", since the jobs would obviously follow.

Face it, it's a lot more fun planning out and spending lots of money on an "arts district" and "visioning", rather than worry about boring mundane things like street paving and sewers. You get a much bigger city budget (and a lot more city bureaucrats) that way too.

Young creatives


People that have no idea how to survive in the natural world, so are completely captive to the urban environment. They make excellent open-air prisoners and although they often need cleaning and a fair amount of grooming, are easy to train for compliancy and low expectations.

Good wording. . . compliancy and low expectations.
Complacency might fit too.
I am concerned that our education system has been years ahead here
with that training.

Maybe I would have a better chance at prosperity through "book deals, articles, lectures and university positions" if I had a hipper name like Richard Florida has.

You could try "Dick Florida".

Mr. Grumpy and others,

Here is more. This is the site to look at to get an idea of how LARGE this is.
Look at Florida's team.
Look at their clients.
Look at who they support.

The photograph wouldn't copy here, but a Greenlight Portland Prosperity has a logo/shown as one of many that is supported by Florida's creative class.

Not a fan of the CC concept, but I follow stuff like this and Kotkin isn't terribly reliable.

Florida's response to this, for what it's worth:

Snards: Nevada is currently doing a bang up job attracting new businesses to the Las Vegas and Reno areas. Thanks to the California Legislature and Governor "Moonbeam" Brown who raised taxes on almost anyone making over $75K, several new businesses are moving into Nevada virtually every week from California. The Reno area is averaging at least one new business a week, as reported in the local Reno Gazette-Journal newspaper. It also helps that we have an Economic Development Department that actually gets out of state to make their case; rather than the chair warmers you folks are stuck with in Salem.


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Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Kirkland, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016
Cantele, Salice Salentino Reserva 2013
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Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Rosé 2016
Stoller, Pinot Noir Rosé 2016
Chehalem, Inox Chardonnay 2015
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L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
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Willamette Valley, Dijon Clone Chardonnay 2013
Wraith, Cabernet, Eidolon Estate 2012
Januik, Red 2015
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Helix, Pomatia Red Blend 2013
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Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16 Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2014
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Januik, Merlot 2013
Napa Cellars, Cabernet 2013
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Hedges, Red Mountain 2012
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Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
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Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2012
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Willamette Valley, Rose of Pinot Noir, Whole Clusters 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Ca' del Baio Barbaresco Valgrande 2012
Goodfellow, Reserve Pinot Gris, Clover 2014
Lugana, San Benedetto 2014
Wente, Cabernet, Charles Wetmore 2011
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James Joyce - Dubliners
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Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
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Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
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Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
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Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
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Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
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Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
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Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
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Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
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