From Exclusion to Expulsion: Demolition, Displacement, and Race in Atlanta’s Northern Suburbs

Scott Markley, University of Georgia

Published: October 30, 2018

In late 2013, voters in Marietta – a suburb located about fifteen miles northwest of Midtown Atlanta – approved a $68 million redevelopment bond. $64 million would go toward revitalizing Franklin Road, a one-and-a-half-mile corridor that hosts a concentration of aging apartment complexes and retail centers and is home to a large black and Hispanic population.1 Within months of the referendum, the city had purchased its first apartments. Within two years, those apartments were coming down. The mayor and city council were not yet sure how the land would be used, but they believed it was imperative to market cleared lots to potential buyers as soon as possible.2 By 2016, the city had razed three complexes containing a combined 1,134 units. Around 1,700 residents were displaced, nearly 90 percent of whom were either black or Hispanic.3

Marietta is not alone. In the years since the Great Recession, vast sections of Atlanta’s northern suburbs have been rendered virtually unrecognizable. In Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Smyrna, and Roswell, ambitious redevelopment projects have transformed aging suburban neighborhoods into magnets for high-end real-estate investment and high-income homebuyers alike. But as local officials have touted these initiatives as the one-size-fits-all solution to economic decline, budget shortfalls, and crime, construction has frequently been made possible by razing older apartment complexes and displacing residents (see Map 1).4 Displacement can be devastating. It physically uproots people from their homes and communities, removing children from their schools and adults from their jobs, and it shatters the social relationships that constitute a place.5 Moreover, as apartment demolition forces thousands of renters to search for new places to live, it removes thousands of rental units from the market. Displacement via demolition simultaneously increases the demand and reduces the supply of housing, threatening its victims with homelessness while exacerbating the region’s affordable housing crisis.6

The study area. Years in parentheses indicate the approximate year of demolition. Made by author.

Although proponents of apartment demolition have generally avoided discussions of race, displaced residents and their allies have contended that such initiatives have singled out apartments with high Hispanic populations. In Marietta, for example, one activist told reporters that he opposed the referendum because most of the affected residents were “immigrants” who “come from Mexico and South America,” and it was his opinion that demolition advocates “want to eliminate the poor people” in that area of the city and “want to get the Hispanics out of the school system.”7 Opponents of demolition in Brookhaven and Dunwoody raised similar concerns. In Brookhaven, residents and activists recognized that most tenants living in two apartments slated for demolition were Hispanic, and one resident suggested that the developers were “trying to intimidate people, especially because they know some people are undocumented.”8 And in Dunwoody, where voters rejected a redevelopment bond, many believed the city was intentionally targeting minority areas to “get rid of undesirables” and “apartment people” because they saw them as a burden and as “expendable.”9

Regardless of whether these characterizations accurately reflect the motivations of city officials and developers, an analysis of Census data confirms that apartment demolitions have indeed disproportionately displaced Hispanic renters. Out of a total of 157,938 renters living across Marietta, Smyrna, Roswell, Sandy Springs, and Brookhaven in 2010, 9,091 (5.8 percent) resided in apartments that would be demolished by the end of 2017 (see Table 1).10 Out of those displaced via demolition, Hispanics were the most overrepresented racial group. Hispanic renters comprised only about one third of the area’s total renter population (approximately 52,593 renters in total), but they comprised 59 percent of the population displaced via demolition (about 5,364 of the 9,091). All told, over 10 percent of the Hispanic renters residing in these five municipalities in 2010 lived in apartments that would be razed by 2017.

Racial composition of demolished apartments by suburban municipality, 2010–2017.

In every one of these five suburbs Hispanic renters were overrepresented among tenants who were forced to leave their homes, as the orange highlight in Table 1 indicates. For example, though only a quarter of the renting population in Sandy Springs is Hispanic, Hispanic renters account for 65 percent of those displaced. In contrast, whites make up 32 percent of Sandy Springs’ renter population, but less than 11 percent of displaced renters were white. Likewise, in Brookhaven, Hispanic renters make up half of the total renting population, but account for almost 80 percent of those displaced. Meanwhile, though 28 percent of Brookhaven’s renters are white, white renters accounted for only 5 percent of the population displaced by apartment demolition in the area. Most dramatically, only 40 percent of the renter population in Roswell is Hispanic, but more than 90 percent of the displaced renters were Hispanic.

Dunwoody has not demolished apartments since 2010, but a study published in late 2017 proposes bulldozing over 1,000 units across three complexes.11 If these plans were to go through, close to 74 percent of the affected residents would be Hispanic in a municipality where only about one-in-five total renters are Hispanic. This would displace at least 45 percent of Dunwoody’s nearly 4,000 Hispanic renters.

Although proponents of apartment demolitions have avoided explicit mentions of race, the motivations for demolishing apartments do not need to be exposed as conscious acts of racism to be troubling. Regardless of stated intent, demolitions in each of the five suburbs have disparately impacted Hispanic renters, as Table 1 shows. Revealing this disparate racial impact is significant for two primary reasons. First, as the US Supreme Court ruled in Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. in 2015, disparate-impact claims can serve as the basis of lawsuits alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act. Though demonstrating a statistical disparity by itself is not sufficient to win the lawsuit, it is a necessary first step.

Second and more central to this essay, the disparate racial impact of apartment demolitions signals an important development in this region’s history of racial politics. Since at least the mid-twentieth century, officials in Atlanta’s northern suburbs have eschewed overtly racist language while enacting projects of racial exclusion.12 Recent apartment demolitions should be viewed in light of that history. Indeed, as I will argue, they should be understood as the latest chapter in an ongoing saga wherein white suburban leaders limit non-white access to space by implementing policies that enhance white residential exclusivity. Whereas the focus has historically been on pre-emptively excluding potential black residents from certain suburban spaces, it is now to reactively expel Hispanic residents who already live there.

Colorblind Exclusion in Atlanta’s Northern Suburbs

Atlanta’s northern suburbs have gained the reputation of being white, affluent, and reactionary.13 This reputation developed with the population and construction booms that coincided with the collapse of Jim Crow during the mid-to-late twentieth century. Once de jure segregation was no longer enforced by the City of Atlanta, many working- and middle-class whites who had the means to move (but not the means to enroll their children in private school) did, establishing virtually all-white neighborhoods in already-existing places like Marietta, Smyrna, or Roswell, or in the unincorporated places that would become Brookhaven, Dunwoody, and Sandy Springs. As Kevin Kruse argues, when Atlanta’s parks and schools desegregated in the early 1960s, many whites responded by seceding from the city by moving to and governing the suburbs in accordance with the New Right principles of meritocratic individualism and local autonomy.14 If the public sphere was to be integrated, then they would reject the public sphere. And if the federal government was going to enforce racial integration, then they would (selectively) defend the power of local decision-making.

Although federal civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s prohibits overt discrimination on the basis of race, local jurisdictions still held certain powers that could maintain a high degree of racial segregation, so long as initiatives were presented in race-neutral terms. One way was to reframe what were once explicitly racial concerns – such as housing integration – as economic or quality-of-life concerns.15 For example, rather than opposing affordable housing construction because black residents would move into the neighborhood, one could oppose it on the grounds that such a project would reduce property values, increase crime, make the area too crowded, and/or harm the schools. One need not mention race outright to evoke images of race. The effect would still be to disproportionately exclude people of color because up until the 1960s, accumulation of generational wealth via property ownership was a right reserved – and publicly subsidized – nearly exclusively for whites.16 By framing exclusionary policies in nominally race-neutral terms and by invoking the free market to justify disparate outcomes, realtors and local governments could still achieve a high degree of racial exclusion without violating anti-discrimination laws.

Zoning has been one of the most effective tools to accomplish this.17 Minimum lot sizes and prohibitions or constraints on multifamily housing construction, for example, continue to be among the most common mechanisms employed in Atlanta’s northern suburbs to exclude or spatially confine renters and people of color.18 This is still evident in recent figures provided by the American Community Survey (ACS). As of 2013, all six of the northern suburban municipalities mentioned above, with the exception of Sandy Springs, had lower shares of multifamily housing units than the City of Atlanta. Roswell, Smyrna, and Marietta have lower shares than Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, and Brookhaven likely because the latter have held less direct control over zoning decisions until they were incorporated in 2005, 2008, and 2012 respectively.19

But these suburbs have never uniformly opposed all apartment construction. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was common to approve new apartments with the expectation that their residents would be young white professionals.20 However, land use rules still frequently sought to confine these structures in clusters away from single-family neighborhoods. Since many of these apartments were built using cheap building materials and since a steady demand for affordable rental housing left landlords with little incentive to renovate, the conditions of many apartments began to deteriorate at the same time a growing number of working-class Hispanic immigrants and other people of color were moving into them.21 The result was that land use segregation was transformed into racial segregation as Maps 2 and 3 suggest. All six of these suburbs, to varying degrees, have multifamily housing clustered together, often along arterial roads that Matthew Lasner calls “apartment strips.”22

Multifamily housing as a percentage of all housing units by block group. Data gathered from the 2010, 5-year ACS. “Multifamily” here includes all units in structures with five or more attached units. Made by author.
Non-white population as a percentage of the total population by block group. Data gathered from the 2010, 5-year ACS. “Non-white” includes all except those identifying as non-Hispanic white. Made by author.

As these maps show, the areas with the highest concentrations of rental apartments are also the areas where most non-white residents live. This link between tenure status and race has historically been exploited by proponents of exclusion by employing terms like “apartment people,” “renters,” “crowding,” or “transiency” to signal non-whiteness in order to assemble opposition to multifamily housing proposals.23 It is thus possible to talk about the different values held by apartment people, how transient renters do not care about the community, and how too many tenants will overcrowd schools and hurt property values while maintaining plausible deniability if confronted with charges of racism. In a similar vein, the geographic concentration of minority-occupied apartments helps to create a widely understood but typically unspoken association between those places and the racial identities of their inhabitants.24 This has had the effect of racializing these spaces so that place names such as “Roswell Road,” “Buford Highway,” and “Franklin Road” function metonymically. That is, simply referring to one of these areas by name implicitly conveys particular racial meanings, allowing one to conjure specific racialized images without ever mentioning race outright.25 Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin illustrated this point when he stated bluntly, “Franklin Road was just synonymous with ‘I don’t even want to go down that road’ and ‘I don’t want to move there.’”26

Isolating apartments along arterial roads, segregating land uses, and designating most suburban land area to single-family home subdivisions has also reinforced racial exclusion by encouraging the use of personal automobiles. As Jason Henderson argues, reliance on cars has helped uphold white exclusivity by limiting the spatial mobility of public transit riders – who are disproportionately people of color – at the same time it insulates white suburbanites as they commute through non-white areas.27 Public transportation could mitigate this, but white residents in Atlanta’s northern suburbs have vigorously fought transit expansion for decades.28 Opposition has typically relied on nominally race-neutral grievances such as concerns over higher taxes and government overreach, but racial animosity has never been far from the surface. For example, in the run up to the 1987 MARTA-expansion referendum, Cobb County residents brandished bumper stickers that read “Share Atlanta Crime – Support MARTA,” employing “Atlanta” as a spatial metonym that conflates the majority-black city with crime.29 

As the northern suburbs received growing numbers of Hispanic immigrants in recent decades (see Graph 1), municipalities have updated their strategies of exclusion accordingly. In both Cobb County and Roswell during the 2000s, local officials passed ordinances that limited the number of non-family residents that could live under one roof (with a narrow definition of “family”).30 Ostensibly, the goal was to preserve the middle-class, suburban aesthetic and to reduce “crowding.” In practice, however, Hispanic residents, who are more likely to live with extended family members than white households, became targets. Regarding this ordinance, a code enforcement officer in Cobb County told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) that “[n]inety-five percent of the complaints I get are white folks complaining about Hispanic folks.”31

Together, these strategies of exclusion demonstrate what Caroline Nagel identifies as the “ongoing power of whites to set the terms of non-white access to metropolitan space.”32 Exclusionary zoning, automobility, and anti-crowding ordinances may each be considered pre-emptive measures designed to curb the movement of black and/or Hispanic residents into select communities, even as their supporters never directly admit any racist intent. However, as these buffers erode or otherwise become less effective over time, and as historically affluent suburbs have confronted heightened competition for real-estate investment in the wake of the Great Recession, new, reactive measures have been adopted accordingly.33 Rather than preventing people of color from moving into certain communities, the wave of apartment demolitions currently sweeping through the northern suburbs are moving people of color out of communities, reflecting a shift from a politics of exclusion to a politics of expulsion.

Racial change in six of Atlanta’s northern suburbs. Data aggregated from the LTDB and the ACS (see Note 38). 5-year ACS data from 2010 and 2016 are marked 2008 and 2014 to correspond with their respective midpoint years.

The New Era of Reaction

Marietta

The language in support of apartment demolitions – like that in support of exclusionary zoning and in opposition to transit expansion – has been colorblind. Though the specificities vary between municipalities, four ostensibly race-neutral concerns stand out: crime, school quality, property values, and economic development. In Marietta, all four of these themes were deployed in support of the redevelopment bond. The website of the Vote Yes! Marietta campaign put it succinctly: “VOTE YES to reduce crime, encourage new business investment, improve schools, and increase property values!”34 Crime received the most emphasis. The website alerts readers that the one-and-a-half–mile strip is “one of the most dangerous places in the country,” comparing it to “inner-city Chicago.”35 Notably, the website blames Franklin Road’s crime on its population density, a racial dog-whistle that was commonly used during the debates about anti-crowding ordinances to refer to Hispanic residents.36 It asserts that reducing the population density via demolition would reduce the crime rate and “stabilize” the school system, questionable claims that have been repeated by the police chief and a school board member, respectively.37

After the first apartments were coming down in 2015, the response of Marietta’s then mayor and his wife were also revealing. In a manner the Marietta Daily Journal described as “giddy,” Mayor Steve Tumlin exclaimed, “It’s almost like a dream. It’s almost like it’s 1970 again.”38 Likewise, the mayor’s wife, Jean Alice Tumlin, reminisced about Franklin Road when she lived there during that era: “It was a very nice area. Lots of nice single complexes. Very safe. And it was mostly young professionals … You never thought about it not being safe because all the complexes were good.”39 Significantly, the two census tracts comprising the Franklin corridor were approximately 99.5 percent white in 1970 compared to being only 15 percent white in 2010.40 The “dream” image Marietta’s mayor has of Franklin Road is thus one where nearly 100 percent of residents are white, which is an important detail, especially when coupled with what the mayor thinks is responsible for Franklin’s “decline.” In his telling, “the apartments began to slide” following the amendment added to the Fair Housing Act in 1988, which “struck down the ability of apartments to ban children,” leading to too much “density.”41 Again, population density is said to be the culprit.

In the years since the bond referendum, Franklin Road has garnered considerable media attention. In 2015, it was reported that city officials would rename the road “Franklin Gateway” in an attempt to escape the metonym.42 Also that year, it was announced that the Atlanta’s new professional soccer team – Atlanta United FC – would build its offices and practice facilities on the site of two recently bulldozed apartment complexes, Flagstone Village and Woodlands Park (see Images 1 and 2).43 And in late 2017, Ikea expressed interest in opening a new store on the site of Marquis Place, a 400-unit apartment complex that was torn down a year earlier.44

Entrance sign to Flagstone Village during demolition. Franklin Road, Marietta. Taken by author in 2015.
Atlanta United practice fields, Franklin Gateway, Marietta. Taken by author in 2017.

Besides name changes and high-profile land purchasers, Franklin Road has also attracted attention because its disparate racial impacts are so unmistakable. Georgia Public Broadcasting, the AJC, and Mundo Hispánico – a local Spanish-language paper – have each highlighted that it is Hispanic residents who have been mostly affected by the city’s apartment clearance initiative.45 And as they report, it is not only that some people are losing their homes to demolition, but that redevelopment and the attendant loss of rental units has contributed dearly to the region’s housing affordability crisis.46 Along Franklin Road, one resident reported that her rents had gone from $500 a month to $900 a month within two years of the referendum.47 And one landlord admitted that some tenants may not get their leases renewed, remarking that landlords are “draining the pond and changing the alligators.”48

Smyrna, Roswell, Sandy Springs, and Brookhaven

Despite the attention Marietta has drawn, the displacement of Hispanic residents is not a phenomenon unique to Marietta, as Table 1 shows. Predominantly Hispanic-occupied apartments have been targeted for demolition throughout the northern suburbs, and city officials have deployed similar tropes about crime, economic development, schools, and property values. When the City of Smyrna announced its intention to purchase and raze a 726-unit complex in late 2010, for instance, a city administrator told reporters that their “primary reason” for doing so was to “control 48 acres at the gateway to the city for economic development purposes.”49 Other city leaders mentioned crime as a key reason.50 Similarly, in Roswell, support for the replacement of a 152-unit apartment with upmarket housing in 2013 was presented as a commonsense way to increase property values and to “remain competitive” with surrounding locales. When asked about the fate of residents, then-mayor Jere Wood told reporters that the “city is not in a position to help those people.”51

Apartment demolitions have been even more sweeping in Sandy Springs. A three-mile stretch of Roswell Road extending from its southern border with Atlanta to its newly built City Center have been redeveloped since the Great Recession. This has so far included the demolition of five apartment complexes (see Map 1). Although the current mayor has insisted that the city is committed to diversity, racially coded narratives about combatting “blight, crime, and aesthetic degradation,” as well as maintaining “public school quality,” have been central to the city’s redevelopment efforts.52

As in Marietta, rhetoric tying apartments to crime has been especially pronounced in Sandy Springs. Leading up to the city’s wave of apartment demolitions, then-mayor and long-time cityhood supporter Eva Galambos stated bluntly, “We know our crime is concentrated in certain areas where we have some of our worst apartments. That’s why I am so anxious to find developers to come in and raze some of these apartments.”53 Like Mayor Tumlin, Galambos drew a racially coded (and specious) connection between crime and density, stating that the higher crime rates in apartments are a “reflection of too many people living too close to each other, resulting in fights.”54 But in a different setting, Galambos contradicted this line of reasoning by voicing support for replacing the city’s aging apartment stock with “higher densities” if it meant “getting better apartments and a better clientele.”55

Since Brookhaven incorporated in 2012, five multifamily housing complexes around its stretch of Buford Highway – an area that has been home to Latinx immigrants since the 1980s – have been torn down. Notably, the rhetorical strategies adopted by city leaders have differed from other suburbs. There has been little talk about reducing crowding, and crime does not receive the same emphasis. The mayor and other elected officials have also expressed more concern about displacement and have established an affordable housing task force.56

City leaders have instead framed apartment demolition as an unfortunate byproduct of market forces. The implication is that while they may personally find demolition regrettable, it is not their position to intervene. This particular manifestation of colorblind ideology was articulated most clearly in an exchange between a crying mother afraid of losing her home and a zoning board (ZBA) member. After offering her condolences to the mother, the ZBA member implied that she was powerless in the situation because “property owners have rights and it’s not our place to judge.”57 As Atlanta’s suburban secessionists discovered fifty years ago, invoking the sanctity of private property is an effective way to defend racially disparate outcomes.58 It is not that this reflects an attempt to cloak racial prejudice. It is that private property and the free market are widely perceived to be natural, inviolable, and – crucially – colorblind. Thus, disparate racial impacts resulting from legitimate private business actions are unfortunate but unmitigable. They are understood to be a part of life.

Dunwoody

Although Dunwoody has not razed any apartments since 2010, they issued a redevelopment bond referendum in 2011. Much like Marietta, the $19 million bond was to go toward the purchase, demolition, and replacement of two predominantly Hispanic-occupied apartment complexes – Lacota and Dunwoody Glen – with a sports and recreation complex.59 Unlike Marietta, the referendum did not pass. Shortly after, the city ramped up code enforcement on Lacota and Dunwoody Glen allegedly to pressure the owners to sell their properties to the city. In 2013, the owners sued, using a disparate-impact claim alleging that Dunwoody was in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The suit accused the City of Dunwoody of waging a campaign to force out residents who “are predominantly members of minority groups including over 500 school age children.”60 City officials denied charges of racial discrimination, and the suit was eventually dropped. However, many residents did not find the city’s denials convincing. One suggested that the city targeted minority areas because they viewed them to be the “most expendable.” And another believed that displacing minority residents was always part of the plan, stating, “I know buzz words and code words when I hear them.”61

Dunwoody officials eventually dropped their initial redevelopment plan, but it was not long before another would surface. In 2017, a study commissioned by the city proposed replacing Lacota and Dunwoody Glen, along with a neighboring complex, with a large-scale mixed-use development.62 The plan has not been adopted by the city at the time of writing, and residents have been invited to participate in a community meeting where they provided feedback. Nonetheless, that the displacement of over 2,400 residents – over 95 percent of whom are racial minorities – is up for discussion at all is unsettling. When the city does decide to raze these communities, if it does, defending the stark disparate racial impact in race-neutral terms will be a hard sell. However, as Dunwoody’s neighboring municipalities demonstrate, some colorblind justification – no matter how untenable – will likely be formulated. If the past half-century of racial politics in this region has something to teach us, it is surely that the stated intent of a project is less important than its outcome.

Conclusion

In Atlanta’s northern suburbs, apartment demolitions have disproportionately displaced Hispanic residents, but all references to race surrounding these cases have been eschewed. This is familiar territory. The crusaders against affordable housing spoke of “middle-class values,” school quality, and property values but not “white values” or the social and economic privileges accumulated through generations of white exclusivity. The opposition to public transit spoke of “urban crime” but not how it came to be that whites gained disproportionate access to personal automobiles. The defenders of anti-crowding ordinances spoke of the neighborhood aesthetic but not the fact that such laws target Hispanic households. And the advocates of apartment demolition now speak of economic development, property values, crime reduction, school quality, and population density but not the power of city officials and private developers to force people of color from their homes.

In this way, apartment demolitions can be interpreted as a new means to accomplish the old goals of creating and reinforcing white residential exclusivity in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. They reflect the enduring power of whites to control who is allowed access to certain spaces. But there is a crucial difference between apartment demolition and older modes of white spatial control. Whereas opposition to affordable housing, public transit, and living arrangements that do not fit into white expectations have worked to preempt, or at least limit, many minority residents from moving into certain neighborhoods, demolition is a reaction to racial transition that has already happened. It removes residents – especially Hispanic residents – who already live in the neighborhood. In this sense, apartment demolition signifies a new era in the saga of reactionary racial politics in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. No longer do the preemptive tools for achieving white exclusivity suffice. The space left within the boundaries of these municipalities is too scarce to fill with new single-family plots protected with stringent land-use ordinances, and annexation is, in most cases, out of the question. Rather, space must be created anew.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Atlanta Studies, date of publication, and a link to this page. Note that this license applies only to the text of the article, not to media used here by permission of other parties.

About the Author

Scott Markley is a PhD student in geography at the University of Georgia. He is currently working on his dissertation, which examines the roles of redlining and yellow-lining in producing racially uneven geographies of devaluation.

Cover Image Attribution:

Demolition of Preston Chase apartment complex on Franklin Road in 2010. Photo courtesy of the city of Marietta. CC BY 2.0. 

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Notes   [ + ]

1. MDJ Staff, “$68M Redevelopment Bond Passes,” Marietta Daily Journal, November 6, 2013, http://www.mdjonline.com/news/m-redevelopment-bond-passes/article_ee8879d7-7d85-5807-bb0c-f5088be7f278.html.
2. MDJ Staff, “Mayor: We’re on Schedule for Success: Tumlin Confident in Franklin Road Redevelopment Bond,” Marietta Daily Journal, June 28, 2015, https://www.mdjonline.com/news/mayor-we-re-on-schedule-for-success-tumlin-confident-in/article_3f75b84a-50a4-5276-8eaf-96d28bb96502.html.
3. MDJ Staff, “Marietta to Buy Fourth Franklin Road Apartment Complex for $17.3 Million,” Marietta Daily Journal, June 11, 2015, https://www.mdjonline.com/news/marietta-to-buy-fourth-franklin-road-apartment-complex-for-million/article_461f9fa7-25bc-5116-9e49-c68c79e4c861.html. The racial statistics were calculated using the formula in Note 10.
4. See Elisa Lanari, “Excluded from ‘Everybody’s Neighborhood’? Constructing Sandy Springs’ New City Center,” Atlanta Studies (Atlanta, February 2017), https://www.atlantastudies.org/excluded-from-everybodys-neighborhood-constructing-sandy-springs-new-city-center/; Scott Markley, “Suburban Gentrification? Examining the Geographies of New Urbanism in Atlanta’s Inner Suburbs,” Urban Geography 39, no. 4 (2018): 606–30; On Second Thought, “A Gentrification Battle Brews in an Atlanta Suburb,” Medium, 2015, https://medium.com/on-second-thought/a-gentrification-battle-brews-in-an-atlanta-suburb-e3383a8aa028; Scott Markley, “New Urbanism and Race: An Analysis of Neighborhood Racial Change in Suburban Atlanta Change in Suburban Atlanta,” Journal of Urban Affairs 00, no. 00 (2018): 1–17, https://doi.org/10.1080/07352166.2018.1454818.
5. Loretta Lees, Tom Slater, and Elvin K. Wyly, Gentrification (London: Routledge, 2008); Rowland Atkinson, “Losing One’s Place: Narratives of Neighbourhood Change, Market Injustice and Symbolic Displacement,” Housing, Theory and Society 32, no. 4 (2015): 373–88, https://doi.org/10.1080/14036096.2015.1053980.
6. For more on Atlanta’s affordable housing crisis, see Dan Immergluck, Ann Carpenter, and Abram Lueders, “Declines in Low-Cost Rented Housing Units in Eight Large Southeastern Cities” (Atlanta, 2016), https://saportareport.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Georgia-Tech-declines-in-low-cost-housing.pdf.
7. MDJ Staff, “$68M Redevelopment Bond Passes.”
8. Dyana Bagby, “Park Villa Apartment Residents in Brookhaven Given 30 Days to Move Out,” Reporter Newspapers, July 12, 2017, http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2017/07/12/park-villa-apartment-residents-brookhaven-given-30-days-move/.
9. Bill Torpy, “Apartments Focus of Controversy in Dunwoody,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 31, 2013, https://www.ajc.com/news/apartments-focus-controversy-dunwoody/qJ1TmvHoifd6Pz7kHcqbFK/.
10. To produce estimates for the racial composition of renters in each apartment complex in question, I conducted two simple equations. The first predicts the number of renters in the apartment in question (p) by multiplying the number of units it has by its respective block’s occupancy rate and its average size of renter households. The second estimates the complex’s population of each racial group. To estimate its number of black occupants (B), for example, I used the equation:

where b is the black population of the block, a is the number of people living in renter households with a black householder, g is the total number of people living in all types of households with a black householder, and r is the total number of renters in the block.

11. Dyana Bagby, “Dunwoody Study Looks at Replacing 1,900 Apartments with Mixed Uses,” Reporter Newspapers, December 15, 2017, http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2017/12/15/dunwoody-study-looks-replacing-1900-apartments-mixed-uses/.
12. For cases specific to Atlanta’s suburbs, see Coleman Allums, “Anti-Politics and the Impossibility of Race: Reflections on Urban Secession in Atlanta,” Atlanta Studies (Atlanta, May 2017), https://www.atlantastudies.org/2017/05/16/coleman-allums-anti-politics-and-the-impossibility-of-race-reflections-on-urban-secession-in-atlanta/; Michan Andrew Connor, “Metropolitan Secession and the Space of Color-Blind Racism In Atlanta,” Journal of Urban Affairs 37, no. 4 (2015): 436–61, https://doi.org/10.1111/juaf.12101; Kevin Michael Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); Lanari, “Excluded from ‘Everybody’s Neighborhood’? Constructing Sandy Springs’ New City Center.” For a general overview of colorblind racism, see Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).
13. For a recent intervention, see: Connor, “Metropolitan Secession and the Space of Color-Blind Racism in Atlanta.” For a more historical take, see LeeAnn Lands, The Culture of Property: Race, Class, and Housing Landscapes in Atlanta, 1880–1950 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009); Matthew D. Lassiter, Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South: The Silent Majority (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006); and Kruse, White Flight.
14. Kruse, White Flight; see also Lassiter, Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South.
15. Kruse White Flight; Connor, “Metropolitan Secession and the Space of Color-Blind Racism in Atlanta.”
16. Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985); Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (New York: Liveright, 2017); Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, 2014, www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/05/the-case-for-reparations/361631/.
17. David M. P. Freund, Colored Property: State Policy and White Racial Politics in Suburban America (University of Chicago Press, 2007); Lands, The Culture of Property.
18. Lands; For specific examples of the suburbs in question, see also Matthew Gordon Lasner, “Segregation by Design: Race, Architecture, and the Enclosure of the Atlanta Apartment,” Journal of Urban History, 2017 (in press) https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144217704316.
19. Calculated from U.S. Census Bureau. “Units in structure (B25024),” 2009 – 2013 American Community Survey.
20. Lasner, “Segregation by Design: Race, Architecture, and the Enclosure of the Atlanta Apartment.”
21. Lasner.
22. Lasner, p. 6
23. Freund, Colored Property; Lands, The Culture of Property; See also Torpy, “Apartments Focus of Controversy in Dunwoody.”
24. For an informative discussion on the discourses surrounding racialized places, see Hankins, Cochran, and Derickson, “Making Space, Making Race: Reconstituting White Privilege in Buckhead, Atlanta.”
25. For a discussion on metonymy and place, see Josh Sides, “Straight into Compton: American Dreams, Urban Nightmares, and the Metamorphosis of a Black Suburb,” American Quarterly 56, no. 3 (2004): 583–605.
26. On Second Thought, “A Gentrification Battle Brews in an Atlanta Suburb,” Medium, https://medium.com/on-second-thought/a-gentrification-battle-brews-in-an-atlanta-suburb-e3383a8aa028.
27. Jason Henderson, “Secessionist Automobility: Racism, Anti-Urbanism, and the Politics of Automobility in Atlanta, Georgia,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 30, no. 2 (2006): 293–307.
28. Henderson; See also Edward A. Hatfield, “A Well-Tied Knot: Atlanta’s Mobility Crisis and the 2012 T-SPLOST Debate,” Southern Spaces (Atlanta, April 2013), https://southernspaces.org/2013/well-tied-knot-atlantas-mobility-crisis-and-2012-t-splost-debate; Jamelle Bouie, “How Racism Preordained the Atlanta Transit Mess,” The Daily Beast, January 2014, https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-racism-preordained-the-atlanta-transit-mess.
29. William E. Schmidt, “Racial Roadblocks Seen in Atlanta Transit System,” New York Times, July 22, 1987, http://www.nytimes.com/1987/07/22/us/racial-roadblock-seen-in-atlanta-transit-system.html. “MARTA” stands for Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.
30. Lands, The Culture of Property; Mary Odem, “Unsettled in the Suburbs: Latino Immigrants and Ethnic Diversity in Metro Atlanta,” in Twenty-First Century Gateways: Immigrant Incorporation in Suburban America, ed. Audrey Singer, Susan W. Hardwick, and Caroline B. Brettel (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2008), 105–36.
31. Richard Whitt, “How Many People Live Here? Full House Tests Cobb Law,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 20, 2005, A1.
32. Caroline R. Nagel, “Reconfiguring Belonging in the Suburban US South: Diversity, ‘Merit’ and the Persistence of White Privilege,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37, no. 2 (2013): 622.
33. On intra-metropolitan competition and apartment demolition, see Scott Markley and Madhuri Sharma, “Keeping Knoxville Scruffy? Urban Entrepreneurialism, Creativity, and Gentrification down the Urban Hierarchy,” Southeastern Geographer 56, no. 4 (2016): 384–408; Drew Whitelegg, “Selling Lifestyles, Not Homes: Growth and Politics in Forsyth County, Georgia,” Southeastern Geographer 45, no. 1 (2005): 104–19, https://doi.org/10.1353/sgo.2005.0019.
34. https://voteyesmarietta.wordpress.com/about/.
35. https://voteyesmarietta.wordpress.com/is-franklin-road-really-that-bad/. The statistics used to support this claim could not be independently verified.
36. Lands, The Culture of Property.
37. MDJ Staff, “Mayor: We’re on Schedule for Success: Tumlin Confident in Franklin Road Redevelopment Bond,” Marietta Daily Journal, June 28, 2015.
38. MDJ Staff, “Franklin Falls, Hopes Rise As Talks Heat Up,”Marietta Daily Journal, June 6, 2015, https://www.mdjonline.com/opinion/mdj_editorials/franklin-falls-hopes-rise-as-talks-heat-up/article_cafc61fc-bbb3-508f-a19f-8c0b8fbe3819.html.
39. MDJ Staff, “Mayor: We’re on Schedule for Success: Tumlin Confident in Franklin Road Redevelopment Bond.”
40. Historical census tract estimates were taken from the Longitudinal Tract Database (LTDB). See John R. Logan, Zengwang Xu, and Brian Stults. “Interpolating U.S. Decennial Census Tract Data from as Early as 1970 to 2010: A Longitudinal Tract Database,” The Professional Geographer 66, no. 3 (2014): 412 – 420.
41. MDJ Staff, “Mayor: We’re on Schedule for Success: Tumlin Confident in Franklin Road Redevelopment Bond.”
42. CBS46, “Marietta Hopes to Rename Franklin Road to Lure New Business,” CBS46, October 15, 2015, http://www.cbs46.com/story/30271611/marietta-hopes-to-rename-franklin-road-to-lure-new-business.
43. David Wickert, “Atlanta United Scraps DeKalb Site in Favor of Marietta,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 6, 2015, https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt–politics/atlanta-united-scraps-dekalb-site-favor-marietta/d2uOPiloMlrAeMGHzvCIiP/.
44. Myrydd Wells, “Rejoice, OTP-Ers: Marietta Is Getting an IKEA,” Atlanta Magazine, December 20, 2017, https://www.atlantamagazine.com/homeandgarden/rejoice-otp-ers-marietta-getting-ikea/.
45. Johanes Roselló, “Víctimas Del Desarrollo Urbano,” Mundo Hispánico, April 2016, https://mundohispanico.com/noticias/victimas-del-desarrollo-urbano; Meris Lutz, “For Redeveloped Street, Professional Soccer Brings More Change,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution2, April 2, 2017, https://www.myajc.com/news/local-govt–politics/for-redeveloped-street-professional-soccer-brings-more-change/AnPTTmh4LrWFAoY8MRFYjL/; On Second Thought, “A Gentrification Battle Brews in an Atlanta Suburb.”
46. See Immergluck, Carpenter, and Lueders, “Declines in Low-Cost Rented Housing Units in Eight Large Southeastern Cities.”
47. On Second Thought, “A Gentrification Battle Brews in an Atlanta Suburb.”
48. Lutz, “For Redeveloped Street, Professional Soccer Brings More Change”; It is also worth noting that there have been apartment demolitions in other parts of Marietta with higher concentrations of black residents. The city’s last two remaining non-senior public housing units were demolished in 2010 and 2013, and a privately-owned apartment on the west side was also taken down. Residents in the public housing units were disproportionately black, while those in the other apartment were disproportionately Hispanic. All have been replaced by luxury housing. See Markley, “New Urbanism and Race: An Analysis of Neighborhood Racial Change in Suburban Atlanta Change in Suburban Atlanta”; Markley, “Suburban Gentrification? Examining the Geographies of New Urbanism in Atlanta’s Inner Suburbs.”
49. Janel Davis and Andria Simmons, “Smyrna Sees Gold in Apartment Deal,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 25, 2010, https://www.ajc.com/news/local/smyrna-sees-gold-apartment-deal/0D6Mhju7s0i6WUEQWr76qN/.
50. Davis and Simmons.
51. Markley and Sharma, “Gentrification in the Revanchist Suburb: The Politics of Removal in Roswell, Georgia,” 60.
52. Lanari, “Excluded from ‘Everybody’s Neighborhood’? Constructing Sandy Springs’ New City Center.”
53. Adrianne Murchison, “Atlanta Housing Authority: Sandy Springs Apartment Problem Not Fault of Voucher Recipients,” Patch: Sandy Springs, March 6, 2012, http://news.wabe.org/post/sandy-springs-sparks-new-city-making-trend.
54. Torpy, “Apartments Focus of Controversy in Dunwoody.”
55. Emphasis added. Murchison, “Atlanta Housing Authority: Sandy Springs Apartment Problem Not Fault of Voucher Recipients.”
56. Tia Mitchell, “Brookhaven Imposes Moratorium on Development along Buford Highway,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 13, 2018, https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt–politics/brookhaven-may-impose-moratorium-development-along-buford-highway/DdBpvnDWvzELF0D7AWrJrM/?icmp=np_inform_variation-control; Dyana Bagby, “Brookhaven Task Force Presents Affordable Housing Recommendations,” Reporter Newspapers, July 25, 2017, https://www.reporternewspapers.net/2017/07/25/brookhaven-affordable-housing-task-force-presents-recommendations-city-council/.
57. Dyana Bagby, “Brookhaven ZBA OKs Plans to Tear down Park Villa Apartments for Townhomes,” Reporter Newspapers, May 18, 2017, http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2017/05/18/brookhaven-zba-oks-plans-tear-park-villa-apartments-townhomes/; Mayor John Ernst echoed this perspective in a different setting, stating, “I may dictate more affordable [housing], but that makes something else have to give…The magical wand everyone is looking for is not there.” See, Rose Scott, “Closer Look,” July 21, 2017, https://soundcloud.com/waberadio/closer-look-july-21-2017.
58. Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism; Allums, “Anti-Politics and the Impossibility of Race: Reflections on Urban Secession in Atlanta.”
59. Dick Williams, “Dunwoody Voters Clobber Parks Bond Issues, Set up Two Runoffs,” Dunwoody Crier, November 15, 2011, http://www.thecrier.net/news/article_0c29f2d2-0fa9-11e1-abe9-001cc4c002e0.html.
60. Torpy, “Apartments Focus of Controversy in Dunwoody.” Though lawsuits could have presumably been brought forth in all of these cases, they likely have not been because apartment owners have generally been willing to sell their properties either to the city government (like in Marietta) or to other private developers (like in Roswell, Brookhaven, etc.). These entities, in most cases, have a legal right to demolish their own property, provided they comply with city ordinances and receive city approval.
61. Joe Earle, “Lawsuit Accusing City of Dunwoody of Discrimination against Low-Income Apartments Is Dropped,” Reporter Newspapers2, March 3, 2014, https://www.reporternewspapers.net/2014/03/03/lawsuit-accusing-dunwoody-of-discrimination-against-low-income-apartments-is-dropped/.
62. Bagby, “Dunwoody Study Looks at Replacing 1,900 Apartments with Mixed Uses.”