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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Gentrification on the urban fringe: Prosperity and displacement in West Marin, California

  • Author(s): Lage, Jessica
  • Advisor(s): Sayre, Nathan
  • et al.

The global housing crisis, the epidemic of foreclosures, and rising global inequality have put the spotlight on gentrification in cities around the world. In the gentrifying San Francisco Bay Area, Marin County (and West Marin in particular) has escaped attention by gentrification scholars, but it is an essential part of the larger story of gentrification in the Bay Area. This dissertation examines the history of gentrification in West Marin, its relationship to regional socioeconomic transformations, and its local articulations.

Gentrification in West Marin has similar characteristics to that in San Francisco and Oakland, though the continuity in West Marin’s physical landscape conceals the extent of the socioeconomic transformations gentrification has caused. West Marin communities feel the effects of the Bay Area’s tech economy in high home prices, increased short-term rentals and second-home owners, and long commutes for workers. Many of the people most affected are also not readily visible—often undocumented immigrants who work in agriculture and are isolated by living conditions and by language and culture. The local agricultural economy, rather than disappear in the face of rising land prices, has been mandated to remain, and has had to transform itself to stay viable. In doing so, agriculture has created a culture of food that contributes to the gentrification of West Marin, as it draws an elite customer base and contributes to the shrinking housing available for the workers that keep the agricultural and service sectors going. This dissertation engages with the literature on urban, rural, and agricultural gentrification in order to understand local articulations of gentrification processes, and what they can tell us about the consequences of gentrification in general.

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