New Oregon Law professor Angela Addae connects environmental law, race and gentrification

Angela Addae

Angela Addae comes to Oregon Law from Schwabe, Williamson and Wyatt in Portland, Oregon. As a litigation attorney, she argued in Oregon state courts, the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  

As an assistant professor with the ENR Center, Addae brings a wealth of scholarship and research on how redevelopment policies affect urban neighborhoods. This year she will teach in the areas of Civil Rights Law, Social Enterprise Law, and Race and the Law.  

Addae sees the unique intersection that can take place between community members and environmentalists. She says that oftentimes, community members and environmentalists tend to vilify developers, but the better approach is to work together to develop neighborhoods using an equitable, community-facing model.  

“Because urban development can significantly benefit divested communities, community members should be meaningfully engaged at every stage of development,” said Addae. “For community members and environmentalists, that means using their voices and expertise to participate in the process and to promote sustainable development outcomes.”   

Addae also looks at the impact of new treatments in urban mobility such as pathways, walkability, and transit on urban neighborhoods. She says that alone, enhanced mobility is great and improves access to and within neighborhoods. However, some residents view treatments like bike lanes as signifiers of gentrification and subsequent displacement.  

Ultimately, Addae notes that the issues are not with the new treatments, but rather that the longtime residents often do not remain long enough to enjoy them.  One of the reasons that people ultimately leave a neighborhood is that they are often criminalized. Addae’s primary qualitative data reveals that longtime residents of gentrifying neighborhoods often feel targeted by newcomers.  

“Many point to being followed around in the new neighborhood establishments, and others discussed being feared by neighbors or having the police called while conducting routine activities,” said Addae.

“Ultimately, I think all neighborhood residents want a sense of community and safe places to raise their families,” said Addae. 

Addae hopes that as students take a closer look at environmental law, and as they study urban development that they will understand the complex intersections that take place at the local, state and federal level. She says that having this knowledge will better equip Oregon Law students – who will be at the forefront of many of these issues.  

“As Oregon’s future decision makers,” said Addae. “Oregon Law students will be leading the way for sustainable growth and development statewide. And I am happy to be a part of their journey.”  

Understanding the legal implications of gentrification

Angela Addae became interested in the legal implications of gentrification as she witnessed many urban neighborhoods undergo redevelopment. 

“Gentrification is a phenomenon that is pervasive throughout the United States, and—to some extent—the world,” said Addae. “However, while we can appreciate economic development, we oftentimes miss the externalities associated with urban renewal.”

This is an issue that doesn’t just impact one region. Addae notes that neighborhoods in Southern cities such as Atlanta and Nashville, to those further West in cities such as Seattle and Oakland, all seemed to be experiencing similar transitions – including some in Portland.

Addae points out it is important to understand that state-led gentrification comes about through federal, state, and local initiatives. In response to the federal Housing Act of 1949, Addae notes that the City of Portland established the Portland Development Commission (renamed Prosper Portland) to administer urban renewal efforts.  

“The Portland Development Commission produced several neighborhood development plans (e.g., the Albina Community Plan) which lay out much of the development implemented today,” said Addae.  “Other federal programs such as the War on Poverty had similar effects.”

Addae notes that various initiatives seek to preserve affordable housing options.  For example, in February, Governor Kate Brown signed a statewide rent control law that caps rent increases and bans most no-cause evictions.  

“This measure is one among many that targets affordable housing for residents,” said Addae.  “In addition to rent control, we see residential housing preference policies such as Portland’s “Right to Return” initiative.  Essentially, the policy provides a way for displaced residents to return to the neighborhoods in which they may have historically resided.”  

Addae’s future research will explore which causes of action are available to displaced residents, and against whom.  For example, though gentrification is largely viewed as a market-based phenomenon, in some instances, state actors play a large role in initiating, implementing, and incentivizing activity that negatively effects the city’s most vulnerable residents. 

“In essence, I’d like to explore who can be held responsible, what actions might warrant legal remedy, and which remedies are available,” said Addae.

Addae earned her JD from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and her doctorate from the University of Arizona School of Sociology. She is also an alumna of Fisk University, where she received her BA in Sociology. Prior to practicing law, Addae was the recipient of a number of research grants and selected for several fellowships.  She also taught courses in sociology at the University of Arizona.

By Rayna Jackson, School of Law Communications