University Times

Los Angeles Community Profiles

Residents and business owners in East Los Angeles, El Sereno, Alhambra, Eagle Rock, Lincoln Heights, La Puente, South Gate, Central Alameda and Inglewood recently raised a number of public issues they would like to see improved in their communities, including education, the economy and housing.

The city and neighborhood profiles were produced by the latest group of UT Community News reporters. The Community News section has been producing stories about under-covered areas on the Eastside and South Los Angeles since late 2018.

View of downtown LA taken during sunset from the Eastside. Photo by Josh Rose via Unsplash.

South Gate community wants changes

Housing, parking and schools concern residents

By Tahiti Salinas

In the small Los Angeles city of South Gate, homes sold for an average of $515,000 last month, up 15% since last year, according to Redfin’s neighborhood market report.

That’s why it is no surprise that some South Gate residents complain about overpriced housing, among other issues.

Residents interviewed also brought up crowded street parking and the lack of educational equity. Meanwhile, city leaders say they are working on a host of issues, especially affordable housing, but the pandemic has thrown a wrench in some of their plans.

Headshot of Pryscilla Adame wearing a light blue shirt. Courtesy of Pryscilla Adame.

“The taxes are high, so I would want to see at least some tax money to go to fixing small aspects of the city [such as the appearance]…The rent is…completely overpriced. And sometimes the square footage of the rooms or houses, the place that you’re living in [is] very small, and then you’re paying almost $1,500 just for a studio.”

– Pryscilla Adame, South Gate resident since 2003

Headshot of Gil Hurtado, wearing a black turtleneck with his arms folded. Courtesy of Gil Hurtado.

“If it wasn’t for this COVID [pandemic], I would think that some of the major things to deal with are our housing issues, things that lead to homelessness…Housing is way out of control so that’s something that, here in South Gate, we’ve taken steps to bring in affordable housing…What I don’t want to do, and I hope it’s not the negative effect, is that instead of helping tenants that are already here, that [new housing] would bring additional population to the community because that’s not good. It hurts our infrastructure, the additional parking issue, it adds to the already overcrowded schools, so we have to be careful about how we approach this.”

Gil Hurtado, a neighborhood council member in South Gate

Headshot of Isela Rodriguez, who has glasses and is wearing a blue and red jacket. Courtesy of Isela Rodriguez.

“It’d probably be more parking spaces because my neighbors are always fighting over the parking…That kind of negatively affects my life because of the fact that we live right across them. So sometimes when we’re outside and they’re outside, they’re like making faces or something but we try to avoid any confrontation.”

– Isela Rodriguez, a South Gate resident for 21 years

Headshot of Denise Diaz, donning a white shirt and bright red lipstick. Courtesy of Denise Diaz.

“I would like more educational equity…The majority of our…schools are, unfortunately, not high-performance schools. That really affects me as a public official when you have economists and people that want to invest in the community and they see the education level. They don’t bring the best of the best to the community.”

– Denise Diaz, a local neighborhood council member

Arturo Nunez, a small business owner, stands behind the counter at his shop while wearing a mask.

“If I could change things from my city, it would be to just have a little more surveillance in terms of providing more security for the citizens of South Gate…Things used to be calmer, you would see people walking around at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., ladies walking from California to Atlantic [avenues] to get the bus to get to work but now people can’t walk around too much because there are assaults that happen at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., so it would be nice if they could patrol the neighborhood more. To us, it affects us negatively because with our business, we have to pay bills, and well, the business has gone down let’s say like, 30%.”

– Arturo Nuñez, whose family owns Panaderia Penjamo/Penjamo Bakery in South Gate

Amid upcoming city council election, La Puente residents voice concerns

Issues include air quality, dearth of businesses and homelessness

By Briana Munoz

Residents and business owners in La Puente, who will be voting for three new council members in November, shared several priorities they hope to see the candidates address.

Those priorities include bringing more businesses to the city to generate jobs and boost tax revenue; making it easier for small businesses, including street vendors, to operate in the city; findings ways to help residents during the economic downturn, including homeless folks; and addressing air quality issues due to factories in neighboring areas such as the city of Industry.

As of July 2019, about 39,614 people live In La Puente, only 11 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and almost 18 percent of residents are at or below the poverty line, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Photo courtesy of Jesus Jauregui.

“The street zoning sanctions [under] the ‘food peddlers’ law passed about a year and a half ago have been very difficult under these times. You have small businesses that apply for permits and are put on waiting lists.”

– Jesus Jauregui, owner of Chuyitos Pizza and resident of La Puente

Photo courtesy of Angela Ayala.

“Living in the city of La Puente over a decade, I have seen an increase in homelessness on the main streets of the city such as Amar … I wonder if these types of activities have discouraged … shops to open up in La Puente, as many times, I find myself shopping in neighboring cities.”

– Angela Ayala, owner of Gratitude Joy Candles and resident of La Puente

Photo courtesy of Eileen Gonzalez.

“The middle school that I attended was located right next to a factory and there were days where students were not allowed to do any physical activities due to the air quality caused by the factories.”

– Eileen Gonzalez, owner of E Vanity Lashes and resident of La Puente

Photo courtesy of Dan Holloway.

“All the things that go with having a city that is completely built up versus having a city like the City of Industry that is open: They have very few residents, mostly businesses and they have a lot of land, they have a lot of tax revenue. We have very little tax revenue. We have a few businesses but we have no major malls, we have no big box stores in our city, just mostly mom-and-pop. So, all of that affects our residents and our ability to provide them services and to do all the things that we would like to do…But we don’t have the money.”

– Dan Holloway, La Puente City Council Member who is up for re-election in November

Housing crisis hurts Alhambra residents

By Jericho Caleb Dancel

Alhambra residents, who will be voting for two council positions in the November election, voiced concerns about conflicting priorities related to new housing.

Some said there is a dire need for affordable housing in the city while others said they oppose new developments due to concerns about traffic, noise and pollution.

Alhambra had a total of 32,791 housing units in 2018 with only 2,235 of them being vacant, according to the U.S Census Bureau. Also, the median household rent was $1,520, a nearly 15 percent increase from $1,350 the year before.

Alhambra is one of the cities in California that doesn’t have it own local rent control law.

While Alhambra’s Housing Rights Center can help residents with issues such as rent increases, some residents interviewed recently said the city could do more.

Correction: Updated Oct. 7 to clarify that Alhambra doesn’t have a city-specific rent control law and that it’s one of the cities, not one of a few, without a city ordinance.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Mackinnon.

“I would change the over-development of luxury living communities. Over the past 5+ years the city council has approved WAY too many luxury condos and ‘villages’ that are being crammed into already high-traffic areas and will be left with high vacancy since they are unaffordable. This affects the areas they are in by increasing an already huge traffic problem and also driving up rents so that they are unaffordable to anyone not making six-figures-plus. The claims that there is a lack of housing is deceiving. It’s lack of affordable housing that is the issue at hand.”

– Melissa Mackinnon, a resident of Alhambra

“Those buildings they are trying to build on Fremont…That will ruin our city, bring the rent prices up and, traffic will be insane.”

– Josephine Zazueta, a resident of Alhambra

“I think we need to make sure that we are doing our best to provide options for affordable housing and revenue. And I’m working on that, too: Right now, an inclusionary housing ordinance which would require new developments to provide a certain number of affordable units to people who can’t afford market rates … in this housing market.”

– Jeff Maloney, a city council member who is up for re-election in November

Gentrification, car-prioritized landscapes worry some in the East LA community

By Jathniel Coronado

Better rent control laws to curb gentrification. More businesses to generate jobs and tax funding for neighborhood services. And more parks and wider sidewalks to allow residents to get fresh air and exercise.

These are some of the things residents in the unincorporated area of East L.A. would like to see in their neighborhood.

The need for more parks is something public officials are aware of and have been wanting to address. Less than half of Los Angeles County residents live within a half mile of a park, according to a 2016 County of Los Angeles report.

Photo courtesy of Tamar Galindo.

“If I could change one thing in East L.A., it would be changing various streets’ landscapes to be safer for pedestrians. By prioritizing pedestrian safety, it [encourages] physical activity like walks and running in our neighborhood…In a time of COVID-19, having narrow sidewalks and car-prioritized landscapes limits the possibility of physically distanced walks that we can potentially have in our neighborhood…Our Latinx dominant population of East LA is over-represented in various characteristics that put us at risk for complications and exposure in this pandemic: Diabetes, essential work, and living in crowded multi-generational households all contribute to our vulnerability as a population.”

– Tamar Galindo, East LA resident and UCLA Public Health program alumna

Photo courtesy of Ashley Valdez.

“If I could change one thing about East Los Angeles, it would be the gentrification that’s happening in the community. I’m not sure what would need to happen for this issue to be resolved, whether it be a policy change or legislation protecting longtime residents of the area or both, but to my understanding it’s an issue that is negatively affecting many people’s lives. 

Gentrification causes longtime residents of an area such as East Los Angeles to become displaced as more affluent businesses and individuals come into the area. Instead of improving living conditions for folks in the area, gentrification raises rent, which leads to residents and existing small businesses who cannot afford the increased prices being forced to relocate.”

– Ashley Valdez, resident of Monterey Park and member of La Luz del Mundo in East Los Angeles

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Quinn.

“There’s a lot of tagging in East L.A. That’s one thing I’ve noticed on a lot of walls…and it looks junky. If you go downtown, there’s tagging but it looks like someone got paid for it…You know what it feels like? Have you ever seen a cat mark its territory? It smells so bad; that’s exactly what I feel.”

– Benjamin Quinn, owner of Ben’s Auto Magic East Los Angeles Resident

Photo courtesy of Tony Gomez.

If East L.A. “was its own city, you can make different laws that can help more businesses and bring more businesses out here. It’s like Monterey Park. We don’t have movie theaters or shopping centers in East L.A…There’s not one major department store in East L.A. I would [create] some kind of policy to help bring tax revenue to the community…I think that would help alleviate a lot of stress but the problem is that East L.A. is unincorporated and there’s a lot of red tape.”

– Tony Gomez, owner of So-Cal Burgers in East Los Angeles

Household income a concern in El Sereno

By Juan R. Gomez

It has been an issue long overdue: Residents interviewed recently from the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles feel they need better and higher paying jobs nearby to help offset the lack of affordable housing that comes with gentrification.

One person said the neighborhood could also be safer, as it was when she grew up there, and more unified, with fewer divisions between different groups of people.

About 20 percent of El Sereno’s roughly 45,500 residents are at or below the poverty line, according to Point2PointHomes.com, which summarizes the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data. The median income for households in the neighborhood is $50,989 and the median value of homes with mortgages is about $482,600.

What is really needed in the area is to “double the median household incomes of 90032 residents — from $48K per year to $96K with double the homeownership, educational and employment levels [and] more local participation in community/neighborhood groups and activities.”

– Tom Williams, a North Region director and council member for the LA-32 neighborhood council

Photo courtesy of Esther Esparza.

 “El Sereno was a fun, safe place. We were able to hang out without anyone causing problems. The group kinda stuck together…No lights, no fighting, no drama, no violence, no pressure, no prejudice.”

– Esther Esparza, who grew up in El Sereno

Photo courtesy of Raymundo Gutierrez.

 “Being a primarily working class community, the median income in the community is low compared to the rest of the city. I’m not sure how we give the community a raise but the economic increase may directly affect the community in many ways. However, most importantly, I feel the community has been neglected by the local city government in terms of infrastructural improvement and commercial development for decades.”

– Raymond Gutierrez, an architect and third-generation resident of El Sereno

Homelessness, shortages of civic engagement and school funding concern Lincoln Heights residents

By Kenya Romero

Residents of Lincoln Heights interviewed recently stressed their concerns about community members who aren’t as involved or engaged in local issues; a lack of school funding, which is affecting students; and an increase in folks experiencing homelessness that’s creating a stressful environment for kids walking to school.

A possible sign of residents being less involved is there seems to be a lack of recent data about the area. For instance, Gilberto Arevalo, a member of the neighborhood council who was speaking for himself, not the council, said some residents, even those who seem active or involved, do not participate in the U.S. Census. They’re often focused on becoming financially stable that they don’t have time to participate in policies that affect their lives.

As of 2008, the median household income in the neighborhood was about $30,579, which is low for the city of Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times’ “Mapping L.A.” project.

Arevalo said that the average household income is now closer to about $40,000.

Crime is another issue that was raised and the rates of crimes in the neighborhood in the past six months was higher than the rate in areas such as Boyle Heights, Montecito Heights, Highland Park, according to the Times. In the past six months, there were 307 property crimes and 63 violent crimes reported in Lincoln Heights.

Photo of Gilbert Arevalo wearing a blue t-shirt and it is courtesy of Gilbert Arevalo.

“I would like to see more civic engagement by the community. Lincoln Heights is known as an area that is underreported in the Census. The same with voter registration and vote casting. Very, very low. There is a saying: ‘If you don’t vote, don’t complain.’” 

– Gilberto Arevalo, a member of the Lincoln Heights neighborhood council who spoke as an individual

Photo of Solmayra Jacobo wearing a hat and silver jewelry. Photo is courtesy of Solmayra Jacobo.

“If Lincoln Heights school systems were adequately funded, these schools would be able to provide much more support in the community.”

– Solmayra Jacobo, small business owner and Lincoln Heights resident

Photo of Elvia Zepeda wearing large earrings and sunglasses. The photo is courtesy of Elvia Zepeda.

“If I could change one thing in Lincoln Heights, it would be to decrease the homeless population. I know that a lot of these homeless people suffer from mental health issues. Maybe that is something that should also be addressed. I believe this would decrease crimes, including car jackings, home invasions, as well as the cleanliness of our streets and drug exposure for our children.”

– Elvia Zepeda, a Lincoln Heights neighborhood resident

Inglewood residents hope to slow gentrification and create youth programs

By Brandon Rodriguez

Residents in Inglewood have undergone a major shift in their community.

With the renovation of the Forum in 2014 and the new Los Angeles Rams stadium set to be open this year, prices to buy and rent homes have begun to skyrocket.

However, this is not the only shift that comes with the new additions. The demographics of the neighborhood have changed in recent years: For instance, the percentage of White folks living in Inglewood increased more than 5-fold — from 4.2 percent in 2018 to 26.9 percent in 2019, according to Census Reporter and U.S. Census Bureau data, respectively.

The demographic changes and gentrification are some of the biggest public issues on the minds of residents interviewed, with some saying they want the city to develop more programs intended to improve outcomes for youth in the city.

Despite calls and emails, City Manager Artie Fields could not be reached for comment and before that, he suggested interviewing a resident instead.

Photo of David Casillas posing on a white outdoor couch with arms on cushions that are on either side and one foot up on an ottoman.

“If I could change one thing about Inglewood it would be to have outreach programs for the youth. It would be nice if more assistance was given to the children to give them the exposure and knowledge and assist in their educational development….More sports programs, after school tutoring, mental health, and free or reduced lunch would help the community come together and really provide adequate support for these young teens to help them conquer any real life issues that they might be going through.”

– David Casillas, Inglewood resident

A headshot of Femi Boirard wearing a pink hoodie and posing with his left arm up near his head.

“If I can change anything about Inglewood, it would definitely have to be all the White people moving in. Why? Because they have begun to gentrify my neighborhood drastically. They make everything expensive and it has become costly to live in Inglewood nowadays.”

– Femi Boirard, Inglewood resident

Racism and homelessness concern East Los Angeles and Central Alameda residents

By Natalie Alcala

Residents of East Los Angeles and Central Alameda report that some of the biggest issues affecting their neighborhood include the number of people experiencing homelessness, the graffiti and vandalism in some parts and divisions in the community that have been created due to institutional racism.

Headshot of Elias Garcia in the car wearing a plaid shirt.

“The biggest problem with homelessness in my community is that we believe no one should live on the streets. It affects our community because we would have to come together and put the city’s resources towards the homeless and place them in shelters, affordable housing units, give them counseling, and provide them with medical attention.”

– Elias Garcia, treasurer for the Central Alameda Neighborhood Council

Headshot of Sandy Solavei taking a selfie with her phone and wearing a tie-in-front top.

“By having all this graffiti in the streets, we spend our city money on things we can prevent. For instance, if we can report to the police we see someone doing graffiti [and that then has to be painted over], our city money could [instead] be used for educational benefits to make our schools better for our youth community.”

-Sandy Solavei, a front desk attendant who lives in East Los Angeles

“There is one root that leads to all of the problems we face…White Supremacy. There are many ways it shows up as when internalized racism divides the Black and brown people. It shows up in the way police disproportionately target Black and brown men. They are incarcerated at higher rates than their white counterparts for the same offenses.”

-Jessica De Luna, a vice chairperson for the Central Alameda Neighborhood Council

Property values soar in Eagle Rock, running out some residents

By Krysta Pae

It’s the worst economy since the Great Depression and yet housing prices continue to soar in Eagle Rock. 

Housing prices are a key concern based on interviews recently with residents.

The average sale price of a home in Eagle Rock was $1.06M last month, up 20.3% since last year,” according to a Redfin housing market report in September.

Headshot of Gabriel Partida outdoors with sunlight hitting his face.

“In recent years, rent, property values, and the overall cost of living in Eagle Rock has become a burden. This comes as a result of the community being a part of the gentrification that’s been sweeping parts of the city. I have family and friends struggling to continue to stay in their homes because of increasing prices, my household included. New properties are charging prices higher than before due to a new clientele surging into our community who are paying almost twice, or three times as much as most of the community either used to pay, or paid for their house in the past. Should this trend continue, Eagle Rock will become another community that loses its roots and stays as another trendy spot in LA.”

– Gabriel Partida

A selfie in a mirror of Marcos Licon wearing a black tie and white shirt.

“If I could change one thing from or about…Eagle Rock, I would change the ongoing displacements of the original businesses and families that helped make the community so wonderful in the first place. The ongoing issue that I have with the displacements is that most of the newer transplants that come and try to enjoy what the community has to offer, fail to realize or understand that once they show an interest in a particular community it puts those who were already there at risk of displacement. This is due to the ‘property values’ increasing, which attracts more like-minded transplants who are anxious to relocate somewhere away from their original homelands. Unfortunately, there are a lot of underlying issues that accompany this process. The displacement of families and smaller-owned businesses create a drift between the original community members and transplants due to uncommon interests and upbringings.”

– Marcus Licon

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