SIGHTINGS book reviews
how to stave off gentrification
continued on outside column of next sightings page Page 62 •
• November, 2018
not read these books — 25 pages into any one of them and you won't be able to throw the docklines off fast enough. All I Wish I Knew Before Setting Sail (Chris Rinke $17.95) — Chris Rinke learned to sail out of Vienna on the River Danube. But his big cruise with wife Alena departed San Francisco Bay aboard a vintage 1973 Columbia 34, Green Panther, just a few years ago. He participated in the 2013 Baja Ha-Ha and the 2014 Pacific Puddle Jump, eventually ending up in Brisbane, Australia. And he wrote a pretty neat little book.
ALL PHOTOS LATITUDE / ANDY UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED
While the slow creep of gentrification has long been a persistent ailment of waterfront communities, the process of turning once-vital maritime business areas into condos and chic coffee shops seems to have intensified over the last few decades. In the Bay Area, Alameda, San Rafael and Redwood City have been recent victims, and other communities are likely to follow. Even the historic waterfront in Port Townsend, Washington, was in the crosshairs. This summer, forces were at work determined to make PT the latest Aspen-by-the-Sea, but in just the last few months, saner heads prevailed. For now, as Bay Area expat Brookes Townes observes, things are looking up. In July, a study focusing on the economic impact of maritime trades — the results of which were presented at a flamboyant and crowded public meeting — found that the maritime sector makes up about 19% of employment in Jefferson County, where Port Townsend is located. Not long after, a new executive director for the port was hired. They expressly sympathy for marine trades, and promised to curtail tenant cost hikes. At the same time, the governor of Washington began championing the maritime sector, saying it represented a "robust and growing set of industries" that pumped $30 billion into the state's economy. PT has become a sacred rose in the bouquet. The economic impact study was done by Port Townsend Marine Trades Association, a reputable nonprofit that said they were spurred on by the national trend of gentrification of historic working waterfronts, and emphasized that everyone in the community is affected by the threat, "whether you’re connected to the marine trades or not." I wonder: If Alameda had done the same thing and made a big splash with it, would Svendsen's have had to move? In PT, by the time the economists factored in better salaries for boat workers than the county average wage, then added how much they and their families spend locally, how much support businesses take in — including grocery stores, hardware stores and Carhartt purveyors — not to mention more taxes, the maritime contribution gets pretty impressive. It's become much harder to argue that a bunch of condos or more tourists are a better longterm economic or social benefit, and now people who perhaps hadn't considered just why the town is special have a better appreciation for the waterfront's contribution. Important to many has long been Port Townsend's many appealing, interesting and innovative residents who in many ways resemble Sausalito's decades ago. Much of the place's character is inspired by those earning their livings or recreating on the waterfront. Of course it helps if the maritime community provides a strong economic contribution, but even with that, we've seen plenty of prospering waterfronts overrun by tourism and ruined for mariners by gentrification. Part of it is who works to keep their "brand" before the public. Downtown landlords and business owners take the time and energy to promote their interests while others slumber. Local papers make much of their nut off businesses profiting from tourism and folks moving in, from tourist shoppes and tourist-dependent restaurant ads, and from realtors' listings. At the same time, the marine trades association here for years did not have anyone regularly going to city council meetings, schmoozing at Rotary lunches, speaking up, and reporting back on attitudes developing in town. Many non-maritime sorts, particularly newcomers, gained no affinity for how interesting and vital the maritime world is because there was no way to learn about it without someone to introduce them. In PT, retiring professionals, the old proctologist and his wife who settle here after visiting our "quaint Victorian village," often have little affinity with the maritime world. They often know little of the highly regarded craftsmanship and creativity found on its shores. They can't tell highly paid shipwrights in ratty Carhartts from the homeless they don't want for neighbors. Again, introductions were lacking, until the economic impact study was presented and all
The November 2018 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.