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The life and times of an empire
Los Angeles’ constant struggle for or against urban development
December 13, 2016
Los Angeles is a city with grit and character. It’s definitely had its warts over the years, but it has remained the same thing it always has been: a harbor for all that is trendy, fresh and borderline superficial.
There is also, however, a darker side to the hip, lively scene in the city of angels. The side of the street with cracks in the concrete, the run-down family businesses, the excessive pawn shops, and the always-open taco trucks.
Often overlooked are the districts of Los Angeles which do not house or entertain hipsters or a hip crowd at large. Neighborhoods adjacent to Glendale such as Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Silver Lake and Echo Park are among many of the cities which have recently experienced a rise in the numbers of hip, young people as a result of gentrification.
According to a map by Urban Displacement Los Angeles, Echo Park and parts of Silver Lake have been gentrifying steadily since 2000, and there is no sign of stopping, as a new project on the intersection of Mohawk and Sunset promises a restaurant and retail compound with robust seating and dining. Although this seems like a positive addition, it resulted in the shutting down of many longstanding local businesses such as Wells Tile and Eric’s Architectural Salvage, which are being laid to rest after 25 years of business.
Lifelong resident of Highland Park and Glendale High sophomore Kenneth Corté has mixed feelings about the gentrification in his neighborhood: “It’s strange to walk down the streets I walked down as a child and for almost everything to be completely unrecognizable now,” said Corté about the drastic differences in the businesses and restaurants that occupy the most gentrified parts of Highland Park — York Blvd. between Ave. 50 and Ave. 53 and Figueroa Street between Ave. 55 and Ave. 60. “However, I’d be lying if I said the streets aren’t more welcoming now. It’s definitely a more pleasant environment. It’s just unfortunate that many people who were originally here are no longer able to enjoy it.”
Previously a resident of Highland Park, Arthur Zargarian says he was actually gentrified out of this community. “It all started with the trendy cafes. And then the boutique store people came and the price of everything started to go up.” Zargarian now lives in Altadena. “I stay out of those parts now,” said Zargarian in reference to York Blvd.
The process of gentrification is confusing and harmful to many, but it has undoubtedly done a very good deed in reducing gang-related violence in Los Angeles. An article by the L.A. Weekly jokingly states, “Gang members on a street corner throwing gang signs are now equivalent to members of the Tea Party hanging out in West Hollywood.” The argument then goes on to directly cite the gang violence of Northeast Los Angeles in cities such as Highland Park and Echo Park. Such gang violence barely exists anymore. An article in the L.A Times states that “[a]s the new millennium settled in and boutiques and coffee shops with catchy one-word names crept farther and farther down Sunset and up Echo Park Avenue, gang members started to move away. They couldn’t keep up with rent costs. The [Echo Park] Locos lost numbers and strength. The gang is smaller, but its weight is still felt.” Only 20 years ago, Echo Park or Highland Park were unwalkable as soon as the sun went down and risky during the day. Now, Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park is the Melrose of the East Side.
On the other hand, you have cities like these two which have become too gentrified. Not only do these areas push out those who once lived there, they make it almost impossible to get in. As the neighborhoods become “friendlier,” the cost of living doesn’t.
According to Apartment List, the median rent of apartments in Los Angeles has risen by 12 percent between 200-2010, while the median household income has dropped by 7 percent. The fancy coffee shops and hip restaurants drive up rent prices so drastically that, unless the place you live in has rent control, it’s almost impossible to get into a new place as an adult living alone.
Although gentrification is helping Los Angeles — and many other cities — prosper and compete with some of the greatest cities in the world, it leaves out many people. Yes, it’s classist, it’s unfair, and it’s mildly racist, but gentrification makes city life just a little smoother and more appealing, regardless of the fact that it makes it harder to live in the city.
“L.A. is a really pretty city from the outside, and it’s true it’s getting better,” Corté said. “But when you look at the facts, it’s a pretty bleak place for many people living here.”
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