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Gentrification: A Way to Improve Local Communities Or the New Face of Colonization?

Cross Cultural Center hosts discussion “Decolonizing LA”

Discussing+about+Boyle+Heights
Discussing about Boyle Heights

Discussing about Boyle Heights

Thomas Rodas

Thomas Rodas

Discussing about Boyle Heights

David Czinner, Intern

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Gentrification has been a topic of debate for decades, yet discussions on the matter have been on the rise in recent years since Los Angeles has seen a huge increase in new housing and developments.

On Thursday, Feb. 16, the Cross Cultural Center held an one-hour discussion on gentrification, with a panel comprised of members of local activist groups fighting against the gentrification of minority communities such as Boyle Heights and East LA. “I think [these discussions] help [people] understand what [gentrification] is, what it looks like, and hear both sides of it, because I think a lot of people are unsure of what it is or whether it’s a good thing or bad thing,” commented Lorena Arias, a senior Child Development major earning her credential and Bachelor’s Degree. “Talking about it and knowing how it affects people that live in these communities will help in figuring out what to do.”

Many community members and activists argue that new expensive housing and businesses damage the local community as they displace low income families from their homes. “I’ve seen it happen, but I never realized how people have been kicked out of their homes for these new fancy places to be built,” remarked Rafael Gutierrez, a senior Jazz Studies major and South LA resident. “After sitting in on this discussion, I see gentrification as really bad [for the community].”

Landlords in low income neighborhoods sell their property to wealthy developers, who in turn kick out renters from the property, demolish it, and build new and expensive residences. “I feel like it’s damaging because it’s just pushing people out of their home[s],” commented Denilson Cruz, a Television, Film and Media Studies major. “It’s unjust and unfair.”

While it appears that new housing and other developments are being constructed in historically lower income and Latino areas such as Boyle Heights and East LA, Los Angeles has had quite a history of displacing minorities. The “Battle of Chavez Ravine” which lasted approximately ten years (1951-61) is a prime example of such activities. Post World War II, the city was compelled to find land for public housing projects. While some residents left voluntarily after payment, many were reluctant to leave their homes which the city combated with eminent domain.

The public housing plans were scrapped after the election of a conservative mayor who opposed public projects. And instead after years of vacancy, was controversially sold to Walter O’Malley, the then owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The land is currently home to Dodger Stadium.

This echoes the recent expansion of the Gold Line, which displaced families who were living along that route. This, coupled with new housing developments being built next to or very near public transportation, is indicative of politicians and wealthy developers working together  in the gentrification process; seeking to serve the new wealthy residents moving in.

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Gentrification: A Way to Improve Local Communities Or the New Face of Colonization?