Whole Foods is now selling groceries to the people of Jamaica Plain, howls of protest notwithstanding. The grocer’s arrival aroused fanatical opposition because it stepped into brutal neighborhood identity politics, and this toxic stew didn’t evaporate when Whole Foods cut the ribbon on its Centre Street storefront. Folks unlucky enough to step into it are still in line for bruising treatment.
A handful of housing developers are getting worked over right now. They’re getting the Whole Foods treatment, not because their projects are inherently bad, but because they won’t live up to a false, idealized notion of class and ethnic identity in Jamaica Plain. The cultural clash underpinning the Whole Foods saga, and the current housing skirmishes, isn’t about whether or not gentrification will come to Jamaica Plain; it’s about one group of residents trying to slow the pace of change in an ever-evolving neighborhood.