Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Inevitble Downtown Backlash Has Begun

If there is one absolute truth on the internet, it's this: haters gonna hate. Thus, it's no surprise that the low rumble of backlash has already begun to surface in response to Tony Hsieh's ambitious plans for the future of Downtown Las Vegas.

In a recent column in Vegas Seven Magazine, writer Heidi Kyser criticized Hsieh's efforts to revamp the entire Downtown area using only private money. Kyser was responding to reports of a proposed dog park in Downtown that would be exclusively available to fee paying members. Now, I'm not going to argue the idea of a private dog park designed by a person whose job it is to design dog parks from San Francisco in which you must pay membership dues isn't a little silly, or even a lot silly to the point of absurd satire, but I also wouldn't be so quick to single it out as the reason why Hsieh's plans are doomed to only benefit the super elite rich cool yuppie hipster class. While the fees seem a bit silly, the fact is there is no dog park in Downtown yet even though residents of the neighborhood are hungry for one, and the fees will help pay for the building and maintenance of said park. If the place proves to be popular enough, I don't think that will detract city government from building a public dog park, I think it will only encourage it. Hsieh's vision is to turn a formerly uninhabitable swath of abandoned lots and crumbling buildings into a truly vibrant and livable neighborhood with a young and creative community. Perhaps a private dog park with a membership fee is not ideal, but it's better than no dog park.

Beyond Kyser's mild and not entirely unjustified criticism, I've noticed a bit more hatorade being poured on the Downtown Project in comment threads than I used to. Certainly, comment boards are the most vile corner of the interwebs, where the cockroaches skitter under the floorboards and make racist, sexist, and homophobic comments anonymously and without repercussion. But it's still disheartening to see people write things like the below comment, posted in response to Kyser's piece:

All hail King Tony and his downtown hipster land.   Stay tuned for the Fixies only bike shop, the super tight jeans store,  the pub that only serves PBR, the eye glass shop with the super thick black frames, a store that sells retro stereo equipment like Boom boxes and cassette players.  Stay tuned for the enormous cloud of irony and cynasism that will form as this new Downtown hipster land takes shape.  If you don't think your cool enough to be a part of it you probably aren't.   Cop an attitude and find it all a bit passe and you'll fit right in.  While we are at it lets import some trustafarians.

I don't even know where to start in responding to this post, between the fact that they haven't updated their list of hipster cliches since Bush left office (a "supertight jeans store," really?) or the fact that he doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're" (and thus would never get a date on OKCupid), but it's still an attitude that depresses me. A dude is investing a large chunk of his personal fortune into turning a dead area into a cool neighborhood with a personality different from the tourist mecca of The Strip just down the street and this guy is accusing the imagined future citizens of Downtown of cynicism?

Or how about this gem from the comment section under The Las Vegas Review Journal story announcing plans for the dog park, in which the very idea that the designer came from San Francisco is proof positive that it's a bad idea:

A transplant fron San Francisco. Need I say more? She and those like her ruined California and now are planning to destroy Nevada. This why Obama and Reid are elected. A dog park, with security? Can't your dogs run in the yard? You don't have a yard, take the stupid thing to the park. I don't want to pay for it with my tax money. She is after all from San Francisco and they are very good at spending other people's money.

The funniest part of this comment is that it's a fundamental opposite of the Vegas Seven article criticizing the fact that the Dog Park is publicly funded... this person is angry that a liberal Obama and Pelosi lovin' San Franciscan tax and spend welfare baby vegan type will spend all their hard-earned tax money on a park for dogs, while failing to take in the part that the project is privately funded, but he can still enjoy his anger at the idea that he'd have to pay for it with his tax money (while a privately funded dog park would probably end up costing him a few dollars at most in taxes, but that's neither her nor there)... why be informed on the internet when you can be OUTAGED?

I'll say that there is one common complaint I've seen amongst the comment boarders discussing Downtown that I totally agree with... the lack of a grocery store currently in the vicinity. If they really want people to move there, open up a Trader Joe's in the middle of the action, stat. That way there is high quality food available in walking distance from where people live, which means less driving and pollution and more reasons for San Francisco-hating commentators to become angry for no good reason.

Listen, I know I'm cherry picking a few choice comments and one editorial here, but this is the first time I've started to see any volume of criticism for the Downtown Project's epically ambitious neighborhood revitalization and rejuvenation plans. While criticism is good and will keep Hsieh and his merry band of Downtown dreamers honest and on the right path to truth and freedom, some of these complaints are pretty ludicrous to me. I agree that the idea of member-driven dog park with security guards and background checks for the pets sounds a bit like a Portlandia sketch, but it's at least a well-intentioned service being brought to a part of town devoid of said service up until now. And that's the point... for all of the hatin' them haters be hatin' on the Downtown Project, thus far everything they are getting steamed about has all been well intentioned, if not completely perfect in execution. The Downtown Project people are trying something experimental and ambitious and exciting, and they're sure to stumble more than a few times along the way. Who would ever get outraged at people like that?

Oh right, comment board lurkers posting under the cover of anonymity. They call 'em Trolls for a reason.

No comments:

Post a Comment