Map: Are Coffee Shops Really Markers of Gentrification?

Which came first: the coffee shop or the hip, young white people inside of it?

[jump] The alleged correlation between gentrification and coffee shop density isn’t just an urban myth. As the Guardian pointed out in February, houses and apartments near a Starbucks appreciate in value. Whether there’s a direct causal connection is debatable, but there is compelling statistical evidence to suggest that when Starbucks enters a neighborhood, higher real estate prices (and those who can afford them) quickly follow.

Moreover, a 2011 study from Yale University examined gentrifying neighborhoods in Chicago and concluded that “an increasing number of coffee shops in a neighborhood is associated with declining homicide rates for White, Hispanic, and Black neighborhoods; however, an increasing number of coffee shops is associated with increasing street robberies in Black gentrifying neighborhoods.”

What does all this mean for San Francisco?

A data visualization inspired by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project traces the relationship between higher rents and the prevalence of neighborhood coffee shops. And it's pretty clear how the mapmakers feel about the relationship:

If you really want an idea of how high the rent in a given area is, count the yoga studios. Count the vintage clothing shops, the art galleries, the restaurants that use mason jars in place of glasses, the man-bun-sporting white millenials, the Trader Joes and Whole Foods. And, of course, the coffee shops, replete with cheeky names on chalkboard menus and $5 mint-infused mochas. It's a curious correlation: why is cold brew such an overt symbol of second-wave gentrification? And what, exactly, powers the phenomenon — do the yuppies drive rent up, or is it the swathes of trendy coffee shops that follow? Or maybe precede? Where does the displacement begin? 

Using housing data from Zumper, Zillow, Priceonomics, and Padmapper, the map (current through August 2015) offers a striking demonstration of runaway rents, but not necessarily evidence that coffee shops came first.

In fact, a number of shops were already here pre-2010 when rents were comparatively more affordable. As the years go on and rents climb, a smattering of new shops appears (mostly in the Mission, SoMa, and downtown), but judging by the map, artisanal java serves a new influx of consumers — it doesn’t necessarily create them.

Nonetheless, if $9 drip coffee is nearby, you can bet that $2,000 studios are, too.

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