Waiter, there’s an adult day care in my gentrified soup: class, the suburbs, and Bay View
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There’s a potentially ugly situation going on in Bay View, and, if you’re like me, you’ve heard curiously little about it. According to a story published yesterday by the Bay View Compass, a proposed “adult day care” at 206 E. Lincoln Ave. is facing opposition from nearby residents and businesses. The day care’s business plan says it would serve adults in five state-recognized categories: “advanced aged, developmentally disabled, emotionally disturbed/illness, physically disabled, and irreversible dementia/Alzheimer’s.” But folks near the proposed site aren’t having it. A petition to block the day care quickly garnered a host of signatures, including ones from the owners of nearby Café Lulu, Tonic Tavern, and Baby Boomers Bar & Grill.
According to the Compass, Lulu co-owner Cameryne Roberts had this to say in a letter to the Board Of Zoning Appeals:
“We feel this type of business adds nothing positive to our community and, in fact, has the potential to create more of the problems we already face,” Roberts wrote. “We already have more than our share of mentally ill and drug abusing residents a half block away from our building, not to mention as close as next door to Lulu. While many of these residents are stable members of our community, there are many who still are not. We have regular issues with public drunkenness and urination in our parking lot, malt liquor litter in front and behind the building, and the panhandling of our customers.”
Even more telling were the remarks made by the couple who created the petition, Kyle and Melain Talbott. According to the Compass piece, while Kyle Talbott may not have dropped a sneaky “malt liquor” reference in his letter to the BOZA, his feelings were just as plain:
“These kinds of facilities are often placed in neighborhoods that are considered marginal neighborhoods and I don’t think the KK-and-Lincoln neighborhood deserves to be a marginal neighborhood,” he said. “I think we’ve worked really hard on that.”
Then there was this:
“With the constant potential of strangers congregating 20 feet away, some of whom might be reasonably expected to occasionally exhibit unstable social behavior, [Melain Talbott] has expressed regret that if [Hines’] appeal is granted, her work in the yard will be tinged by wariness,” the Talbotts wrote to BOZA.
And, finally, this:
“The whole reason we were attracted to Bay View to live in—it seemed like a neighborhood that was coming back,” Talbott said. “It’s not a marginal neighborhood anymore.”
Yikes. Residents and businesses certainly have a right to voice their opinions about what goes on in their neighborhoods, but Roberts and the Talbotts are almost comical in their reliance on coded language. (Mommy, what’s a “marginal neighborhood”?) So why aren’t more people calling them out on that? Outside of a few comments on the Compass site and some others on Facebook, this situation seems to have made little impact outside of a very specific section of Bay View.
Let me be clear: Despite some icky comments, I don’t believe this issue is about race. Like most dustups related to gentrification, it’s all about class. But the class that interests me here isn’t the one occupied by the day care’s hypothetical patients, but rather the one occupied by the day care’s vocal detractors. I’m no defender of the suburbs, but if this were happening in, oh, I don’t know, New Berlin, and people made comments about their yard work being “tinged by wariness” due to some unhip neighbors, they would be (rightly) tarred and feathered. So why isn’t that happening here? Is it me, or are we letting Bay View off the hook?
On the surface, this all reminds me of a similar stink last year over an East Side Goodwill location. In that case, some business owners had some qualms about the proposed store’s design and signage. The store eventually opened to little fanfare, and, as of this writing, Oakland Avenue is still standing. The naysayers in that case were made out to be villains, because, like suburbanites, supposedly snooty East Siders are easy targets. Here, the Bay View folks seem to be getting a pass solely because Bay View is perceived to be a whole hell of a lot cooler than, say, Oak Creek.
What it all comes down to, I suppose, is a question of what belongs, and what no longer belongs, in a neighborhood that is “coming back.” This is a thorny issue, and one much too big to get into here. I can’t pretend that I don’t understand some of the detractors’ concerns, but they still seem awfully mean-spirited and shortsighted. Got a problem with pesky panhandlers and public drunkenness? Welcome to the city.
An informational meeting will be held at the proposed site Wednesday, Aug. 3, at 6 p.m.