Just Annex Bratenahl
If you want more lakefront, there's plenty available — without forcibly removing poor people from their "decaying" homes in some Soviet-style migration
As part of the long-standing Euclid Beach saga, an article was published in emerging newsroom Signal Cleveland that can only be described as propaganda pushing the Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s narrative about their forced relocation of Euclid Beach residents to expand the Cleveland Metroparks.
Because Northern Ohio doesn’t have enough lakefront, it’s essential that we open some up by kicking poor people out of their homes. Let’s talk about it.
So What’s Going on Here?
Way back in late 2021, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which is a nonprofit land trust active throughout Northeast Ohio, bought the Euclid Beach Mobile Home Community for a hefty $5.8 mil from absentee landlords. On its own, this isn’t uncommon. Conservationist groups do these sorts of things in order to protect vital natural spaces from exploitative developers. And it’s incredibly important that we have an active land trust community to ensure that what makes Northeast Ohio special stays that way.
But what makes the Euclid Beach location different from other spaces is that people live there. Rates for people living in the community vary but are at or below $750 a month, which is beyond reasonable and a breath of fresh air compared to the skyrocketing rents and home prices throughout Cleveland. Residents now have 12-15 months as of February to vacate the property, and the property will be turned over to the Cleveland Metroparks for conservation and integration into the broader Metroparks portfolio.
But why the controversy?
The situation is complicated.
On the one hand, you have the WRLC’s position, which is twofold. First, they claim that they saved the property from a Dallas developer who would’ve swooped in to purchase the property after the previous owner moved to sell. Second, they claim that the property is simply too costly to maintain, therefore it should be shut down and integrated into the Metroparks as a green space.
Protecting Ohio property, especially Ohio green spaces, from absentee landlords — or worse, developers — is clearly a good thing, and any efforts to do so should be applauded on their merits. However, “mass displacements” are bad. How you rectify these two positions requires a special kind of cognitive dissonance.
On the other hand, you have the people who actually live on the Euclid Beach property, many of whom have done so for decades. To buy the land out from under them and then dictate their futures to them is evil, and that’s the last thing we need more of. These residents, understandably, think that their voice has been ignored.
But, you might say, if the community is unsustainable, how could you possibly justify keeping it open? Well for one, we find money for the most inane things in this state, let alone county and city. To keep people in their homes should be at the height of our priorities. And far from being idealistic, there are programs in place to garner resources towards supporting these kinds of disenfranchised communities and protecting them from hostile redevelopment. Calls for the WRLC to consider these options have been dismissed.
Now on the other other hand — as we’d pointed out before — there is a clear need for protections for green spaces as well as their rapid expansion back into exurban, suburban, and urban developments. Disrepair and decay are real things that are soundly situated throughout Northeast Ohio and the rest of the Rust Belt. And de-industrialization and de-urbanization are real strategies to reclaim developed, decaying spaces in disrepair for the ultimate public good.
But we live in the richest country human civilization has ever beheld. To say that it’s “too costly” to keep people in their homes is callous hatred, through and through.
Okay great, but what can be done?
There are two patchwork solutions.
First, public officials should consider all funding opportunities available to them to preserve the community, in spite of the WRLC’s plans. This is out of our hands, and unless there are public calls for politicians to pursue action against the redevelopment, then this is doomed to fail. Given that many see this as a positive thing, including Collinwood’s own Mike Polensek, hope is hard to find.
We must also advocate for people-first policy to ensure this kind of thing is impossible in the future. Public-private collaboration is doomed to fail, despite calls for it. This is not a level playing field, and landowning capital have a strong upper hand against public efforts to mitigate, prevent, and reverse private use of our region’s land, to the benefit of capital owners and no one else.
Second, we must build wall-to-wall coalitions of all peoples to ensure that we protect those who need our help and defend the histories of our great homeland.
The WRLC defended us against absentee developers, and we should recognize that, but we cannot stop there and roll over backwards. Continued pressure through legitimate, authentic public advocacy against the organization is needed to bring them to abandon their plans. And when that fails, we must deploy robust mutual aid to ensure residents who were forced from their homes can rebuild elsewhere in our neighborhoods, finding community among neighbors and friends.
If you’re so concerned about luxury apartment development along our lakefront, then look no further than the little village that could — Bratenahl. That’s over 659 acres of crystalline, unadulterated lakefront. And you’d only need to displace 1400 people to do it. Surely that’s a fine price to pay for a park with a view.
(Or just replace Burke with something that doesn’t only service the needs of rich people who can’t be assed to fly into Hopkins.)