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The Gentrification of Ocean Beach: Is OB becoming more pretentious?

Updated: Dec 12, 2019

by Diego Escobar

If one were to Google Ocean Beach, they would find that atop the search list it reads: “Ocean Beach is a vibrant, bohemian neighborhood, with a classic SoCal beach vibe.” Ocean beach is a bohemian neighborhood. A statement that every year begins to pertain less and less to the identity of this zone on the west end of the hill. Bohemianism, by definition, is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties. It involves musical, artistic, literary or spiritual pursuits that wanderers, vagabonds, and adventurers consider part of their identity . It is precisely the touch of cultural identity that is being lost by the gentrification of historic streets like Newport Ave., where name brand stores like Target and Starbucks taint the artisanal, hippie aesthetic characteristic of the neighborhood. Love it or hate it, you may soon be seeing people posting on Instagram about the latest Shake Shack on Santa Monica rather than experiencing the loose, live-music environment of the OB Farmers Market.

There is no denying it, Ocean beach is changing, particularly with the current state of real estate development in the area. Look no further than 5162 and 5162 ½ Cape May Ave, where two characteristic beach front cottages were sold in 2017 for the development of high priced, 2-3 storied vacation condos. Soon we could see OB shift from the aspiring San Diegan artisans and musicians, to the Mission Beach out-of-state vacationers that flock our beaches and waterways. Forget the eccentric thrill of waking up at midnight to go see the annual, moonlit grunion run with your buddies, as you may soon be charged $25 by touring companies to just be able to observe the natural phenomenon.

On the other hand, as developers and government officials may say, this gentrifying development is economically good for the neighborhood. By increasing economic incentive, the government is willing to dump more resources into the area to help ‘tidy up’ the community. Thus, we could see a thaw of the homeless crisis in the area with more money being put up towards affordable housing and homeless shelters in the area. Furthermore, name brand businesses are bound to bring job opportunities in the area.

I guess the overarching question remains: while every place is entitled to development within limits, when is it too much? At what point will all the Nico’s Mexican Food be replaced by the vegan/vegetarian Little Lions that cater to a higher socio-economic clientele? At what point will the community that Slightly Stoopid romanticized in “Officer” become unrecognizable?


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