Normal Heights & Home
For the last ten years, I’ve been living in Normal Heights in a below market 2 bedroom apartment in a sagging, decaying 8 unit building.
My lodgings are adequate, and mostly I’ve enjoyed the benign neglect of my landlords — neglect that has allowed me to try all kinds of things with the surrounding area — the strip of pavement and roundup scorched rock that rings my apartment & the empty side yard. In my time, I’ve built a slime making station for my daughter and her friends, a garden that briefly helped feed my family, an entertaining area complete with propane fire unit, and a bike repair depot.
They’ve uplifted the building, now — fresh paint & plaster, fresh concrete slab all around.
I love my neighborhood, my ‘bigger here.’ It has largely been able to mitigate the worst effects of gentrification -that monoculture overwriting of a neighborhood’s DNA that leaves it with nothing but cheese shops and pilates studios- and remain surprisingly mixed use and even working class. Houses are still a million dollars plus though. Many of the restaurants and coffee shops have been here for decades, and old tailors and mechanics contrast with hair salons, tattoo parlors, parks, churches, and more.
In defiance of southern California norms, my neighborhood is incredibly walkable. My daughter walks bikes to school, and there’s a grocery store half a block away — a dozen bars and restaurants all within a quarter mile.
For 8 of those years I lived with my spouse, until they moved out in January of 2021, and for 8 of those years, I’ve lived with my kid and that will continue for another decade. Assuming my landlords don’t kick me out -and continue to ‘merely’ charge the 10% rent increase every year (unless they find additional fees to tack on, as they did with the water that isn’t metered but can be divided by square footage)- I’ll be here probably till I can afford a house.
I dream of buying a home, but I despair ever being able to afford one in this neighborhood. But as that becomes more possible that I could buy something worthwhile, somewhere I’m left to wonder — what gain would be enough to lose this neighborhood, my bigger here?