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D.C. Lawyer Sues the Nation's Capital for Gentrification

While gentrification continues to grow throughout cities in the U.S., a D.C. lawyer has decided to take action by filing a discrimination lawsuit on behalf of at least 23 people.

According to the DCist, Aristotle Theresa is requesting that up to $1 billion in damages be paid to local residents who “over the past 12 years and, and still continuing today” are being driven out of their own neighborhood due to urban renewal policies.

“These policies discriminate explicitly by age and source of income,” it says in the suit.

The lawsuit represents three local Washingtonians and a community group called CARE, with over 20 members who are a mixture of low and middle-income African American families — something that Theresa says is “overwhelmingly” not factored into the city’s restoration plans.

“The city is intentionally trying to lighten black neighborhoods, and the way they have primarily been doing it is through construction of high density, luxury buildings, that primarily only offer studios and one bedrooms,” the suit continues to read.

Morgan McKenzie was born in D.C. and moved around before moving back permanently to the capital in 2011. She agrees that D.C. has lost its ethnic charm.

“Gentrification is ruining the culture of D.C.,” says McKenzie, who is a freelance videographer and editor.

She adds, “It should be called generic-fixation because that’s what D.C. is now — just another generic town filled with hipsters in pseudo-quaint, white owned, bars and restaurants.”

Overall, since 2000 at least 54 neighborhoods out of 179 census tracts in D.C. have gentrified.

According to Governing, a neighborhood is considered gentrify-eligible when the median household income and median home value are both in the bottom 40th percentile of all census tracts within a metro area at the start of a decade.

Additionally, with new age renovation policies comes modern landscapes such as updated buildings, pristine grocery stores and freshly painted bike lanes — not to mention a reduction in crime, though it’s typically at a cost.

Traditionally, these luxuries cater to what Theresa notes as the “Creative Class” — or to young white renters, to be blunt — and omit generational Black residents from experiencing the upgrade.

“Technically, I’m a Black gentrifier and it’s a very conflicting position to be in,” says Carlyn Crawley, founder of the D.C.-based company Carlie San Diego.

Crawley admits that she gets to enjoy the city’s bustling enhancements as a homeowner in the Brookland area, but she does so with awareness since she grew up mostly living in Maryland as an Army brat.

“While I enjoy the new amenities, there is this overwhelming sense of duality knowing the things I enjoy are pushing native residents away,” she says. “It’s infuriating to witness how new residents basically ignore Washingtonians, rendering them invisible.”

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