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6 Notes From KPCC's Gentrification Talk at Aldama

Thursday's conversation was a good start, but it fell short in several ways.

In the weeks leading up to Thursday evening's gentrification discussion hosted by KPCC at Aldama Elementary School, there was a general sense among my neighborhood acquantainces that it was going to be a meaningful evening. 

I can't quite put a finger on what that means other than to say that most of the smart and engaged people that I encountered in Highland Park, either in the community or online, felt that the forum was going to be a real opportunity to address the underlying tensions that have accompanied Highland Park's gentrification.

Without speaking for anyone else, I still can't escape the feeling that Thursday's conversation fell short of those expectations. The conversation wasn't without its enlightening and potentially productive moments, but it also felt stunted and overwrought with platitudes.

Here are my six thoughts on the conversation:

The lack of Latino representation on the panel was a huge oversight, and the forum suffered a lot because of it.

The panel included Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, WORKS(Women Organizing Resources Knowledge Services) President Channa Grace and Occidental College Professor of Sociology President Jan Lin. Each were fine inclusions. Hawthorne, who spoke eloquently and specifically about tensions between historic preservation and affordable housing, as did Grace. The problem with the panel was not who it included, but who it lacked--a single Latino.

The event's moderator, CSU Long Beach Associate Professor of Sociology Oliver Wang, took the blame for the oversight after it was called out by a meeting attendee. However, it's still a big deal. Much of the tension in Highland Park right now can be attributed to Latino residents feeling overlooked and left behind as the neighborhood changes. To not include a member of the Latino community in the conversation is to hit that community where it is most vulnerable.

The panel members lacked the hyper-specific knowledge of Highland Park that the conversation required.

At one point in Thursday's forum, Lin told a Latino audience member that one of the best ways to become more engaged in the community was to get involved in the neighborhood council and attend electoral debates. He was speaking to Monica Alcaraz, president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council and organizer of two recent CD1 debates.

Perhaps a panel member with more knowledge about the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council could have spoken to the specific challenges of reaching out to this neighborhood's Latino community--who for a host of reasons that are worth discussing--feel disillusioned by the local political process. 

Not all gentrifications are created equally. 

Lin noted that gentrification in Highland Park is not like gentrification in San Francisco or Portland. The biggest difference here being: the catalyst for Highland Park's change is the desire of artists and craftsmen to come to the neighborhood, fill in empty store fronts and try to make a living off their talents. That's a far different story than that of gentrification cycles spurred by a jobs-boom that brings an influx of new money into an area. As Lin noted, many of the business owners on York Boulevard share concerns with longtime residents; they could both be forced out by increased rents. I think that's something worth keeping in mind. 

One longtime resident, Manny Rodriguez, told newcomers that they could do their part by patronizing the neighborhood's longtime businesses and moving beyond York Boulevard and Avenue 50. 

What do you think about this? Do new residents of a community have a moral obligation to shop at longtime businesses? Or should they just decide where they'd like to shop though trial and error based on personal preferences? 

There was a lack of specificity in the discussion, and that needs to change.

That's to be expected, as Thursday's forum was just a starting point. But without hard numbers, the conversation degrades into an exchange of unenlightening anecdotes. That's not the say that any given speaker's opinion is invalid, but there needs to be a statistical framework on which to base the conversation. We know gentrification is happening in Highland Park, but the fact is that we're each burdened with our own biases that skew how we describe it. It's time that conversations about displacement were put into a statistical context that could bring it to life. 

The battle between historic preservation and affordable housing will determine the future of Highland Park. 

Highland Park loves its historic homes, and the Highland Park Heritage Trust has done great work to preserve the neighborhood's architectural legacy. However, as Hawthrone notes, regulations that prioritize historic houses make for an inflexible housing stock. The answer, of course, is finding ways to strike a balance. If Highland Park wants to remain a racially and economically diverse community, it may need to be open to affordable urban infill projects. However, that doesn't mean total surrender to the whims of careless developers. An engaged community, especially one with Highland Park's growing cache, can pressure developers into building the sort of affordable housing projects that don't totally clash with their aesthetic ideals.  

la-agog March 02, 2013 at 08:42 PM
Richard - You and I appear to be in agreement on many things. Enjoy your Saturday.
Nimby pimp March 02, 2013 at 10:06 PM
@Ali. Huh?
Nimby pimp March 02, 2013 at 10:10 PM
What about the GOP?
Punk Attitude March 03, 2013 at 12:54 AM
All this yapping. I went to the forum. Grew up in a Latino neighborhood and moved back to a Latino neighborhood. I am a newcomer who moved 10 minutes away from my last place to HP. iI bought a house. I fix my yard. I go to the HHPNC meetings. Why don't I see myself as different? Because it was the way I was raised. I want more restaurants and damnit places that deliver food not just pizza. Priced out of what? Who and how? Buying a house? Well you should have done the research, made a firm plan to buy, and follow through I couldn't afford to buy a house where my family grew up and where I spent most of my life. Oh well and I moved on. It sucks but that's life. I wanted a house more than anything else.
Nimby pimp March 03, 2013 at 02:04 AM
Tea Party? John & Ken? Rush Limbaugh? Antonin Scalia? Anne Coulter? Fox News?
Richard Ewan March 03, 2013 at 03:28 AM
Amen to that
Creper Chimone March 03, 2013 at 03:49 AM
as everyone can see josef you are a bully. who would want to go to a meeting like this or a bike meeting when people like you are there harrassing and cussing people who have a different opinion. you are a very sad person.
El Cid March 03, 2013 at 04:15 AM
Estoy confundida? Who initiated this discussion? Why? Was this KPCC's idea? Out of all the venues in Highland Park, why was Aldama Elementary the selected venue? From my perspective it appears that whoever organized this event, went out of their way to further filter the participation by requesting on-line rsvp. Was the ultimate goal to cause division among HP residents by excluding a certain demographic group?
Nimby pimp March 03, 2013 at 04:24 PM
@Ewan. No one is suggesting any conspiracy. We are instead pointing to a long-standing pattern of cultural incompetence and/or bad faith here. Gentrification in this area is, in ethnic/racial terms, fundamentally about Latinos and whites. The failure of the organizers to solicit Latino voices for such an event recalls Latinos a long and bitter trend of political marginalization in matters that concern our community. To recycle a phrase once used by a politically marginalized group in the pre-Obama era: "It's a brown thing. You wouldn't understand."
Richard Ewan March 04, 2013 at 04:14 AM
Well, I can understand some of your concerns but South Central is undergoing a similar trend of Latinos moving in a once African American populated area. Do you share the same concerns or attitudes regarding that. I am only pointing out shifts which take place in this city and sometimes longtime residents feel threatened or marginalized. I can’t say what is taking place here reflects any true tension or marginalzation of the population at hand but reflects more an attitude that says how dear these folks come in and invade or hood. It’s not a brown thing as you suggest its a sense of xenophobia. But what do I know I'm only a resident who has reside her for ten years and regarded as an outsider because I don't share the same ethnic background.
Richard Ewan March 04, 2013 at 04:19 AM
@Don Quijote Really? So what or how would you have organized it? I truly don't understand these conspiracy theories. Are those involved so smart or conning to orchestrate such a hoax. I just don't buy it but maybe they could have made a greater effort to include more people on the panel not sure how they came to there decisions but I hardly think there where sinister motives,just saying.
Nimby pimp March 04, 2013 at 04:28 AM
You are not understanding my point. I am not in any way against this change, or the idea of "gentrification" for that matter. In fact, as a relatively recent resident, I'm part of the army of invaders. If you read my posts with more care, you would understand that my gripe is with the event at Aldama School.
Nimby pimp March 04, 2013 at 04:45 AM
I, like you, are an enemy of xenophobia and racism - from all comers. I'm also, as evidenced by my ire, an enemy of the self-serving "diversity" shell-game that white liberals are prone to perpetrate, eg. a "conversation" in which more than half of the population is not represented.
El Cid March 04, 2013 at 06:33 AM
Conspiracy theory? Hoax? Hmmmm! Funny that no one can answer the questions. Instead, I get questions to my questions. This event was slated as a community event; yet, its outcome appears to resonate "separatism!" Was this a conversation on "Gentrification or How to gentrify?" Now Richard, I'm just curious...How? Why? What? Caused or motivated the organizers to plan this event? And, what was the ultimate goal of the event? To involve KPCC and weeding out members of the community makes me wonder why these "Wing Nut" tactics were used?
Nimby pimp March 04, 2013 at 06:48 AM
I have spoken with a representative of one of the organizing bodies. According to my source, the individual responsible for casting the panelists, had been advised that a panel that excluded Latinos, would create a backlash among certain sectors of the community. The advice was not heeded for reasons unknown.
Richard Ewan March 05, 2013 at 03:19 AM
@Nimby pimp If you source is correct then by all means the individual responsible for creating the panel deserves criticism. All should be involved and who knows why he/she failed to include a more diverse panel. I however can't jump to conclusions because that's what causes friction and distrust in the first place. I try to give most people the benefit of the doubt before pointing fingers (not to imply that's what your doing). As to Do Quijote response to my post I am simply stating things like this sometime take on a mind of its own. I'm not sure what your concern or beef with KPCC involvement is or means perhaps you could enlighten me on that. Are you asking the question: How the panel comity took the time to contact KPCC but failed to inform more local residents?
Richard Ewan March 05, 2013 at 03:19 AM
As to the white Liberal label it's a bit over the top. As to the lack of involvement it speaks to a larger tension that stems from previous attitudes or opinion directed to each other and most directed at the newcomers/residents that have taken up stake here in the past five years. That's not to excuse ones responsibility for there actions or attitude at the community at large but I have to say I truly can't understand the beef or tension here. As I've mentioned in earlier post I have been here 10 years and am sometimes still regarded as an outsider. I understand the larger social economic picture but fail to see how that speaks to the motivation or actions of this topic. As I've mentioned also I am a minority myself and I’m even an immigrant so I think I can speak from an informed position. I’ve seen and lived most of what has been said and implied here and fail to see a direct coalition outside of pint up frustration and tensions longed held or believed. But I’m only expressing my opinion and life experience of someone who has lived in four regions in this country (The Mid Atlantic, Mid West, North West and South West).
la-agog March 05, 2013 at 04:09 AM
Nimby - It sounds like you should talk to your source about David doing some sort of followup post. I'm guessing David would love it (it's pure comment bait). FYI- Posting an "exclusive" with an anonymous confirmation of what you've been pressing all along looks a little fishy / irresponsible (my word choice is not great here, admittedly; I don't want this to come across as an accusation). Even taking it at face value, why anyone involved would be so willing to put his or her job / relationships in jeopardy is beyond me. I can't imagine it doing any good to feed speculation and hurt feelings.
la-agog March 05, 2013 at 04:17 AM
Richard - Agreed that any "white liberal" labeling is over the top, unnecessary and decidedly unhelpful to the conversation. Expect a bit of provocation in these dialogues and try to shrug it off. As a former lurker, I've found that both Nimby and Don have also made some great contributions in the past. There's something about this issue for all of us that is ripe with tension and potential misunderstandings. I think a bigger question for all of us: how to we bring to the table and hear more diverse voices in the future? Perhaps someone could take their frustrations with the panel's makeup and the perceived lack of outreach directly to KPCC.
Richard Ewan March 05, 2013 at 04:37 AM
La-agog that's a great idea provided it's presented constructively and without provocative and inflammatory rhetoric.I champion such a move and would welcome it. But hope it won't sure come to the same pitfalls as what has taking place here on Patch.
Nimby pimp March 05, 2013 at 06:07 AM
@agog - Your word choices are indeed accusatory. I have to admit that I find your bafflement and resistance to the frustrations expressed here, to be disconcerting. For all of your efforts to appear racially even-handed and ecumenical, it would appear that you do indeed have a dog in this fight. Perhaps, in your effort to better understand some of your new neighbors, you could bone-up on some Los Angeles history. As for David, he knows where to reach me and KPCC.
Nimby pimp March 05, 2013 at 06:12 AM
@Ewan. I welcome your POV on these matters and appreciate that, as a non-native and non-Latino, that you don't understand the beef expressed by some here.That's cool. But because you don't personally understand something, doesn't make it any less real.
la-agog March 05, 2013 at 07:53 AM
Nimby - You and I are clearly at "communicative odds" here. I will simply assert one point (and leave the rest): I think it is irresponsible of your "source" to undermine the event and, by extension, the organizations involved. Definitely not community-minded or inspiring on his or her part. I believe that position is fair.
Nimby pimp March 05, 2013 at 08:08 AM
@agog. You and I have been at ideological odds on this one. And with each of your insinuations about motives and methods, mine and my source's, our differences are becoming personal. Your effort to assign responsibility for the evident failure of this event to everyone except the organizer, strikes me me as dishonest and unfair.
John Carlucci March 05, 2013 at 03:30 PM
@ Richard, I think the main reason why things turn negative on this thread is because people are posting anonymously. People will say things online that they would never say in the real world because no-one really knows who they are. This is why I post using my real name.
tal allweil March 07, 2013 at 06:27 PM
Re: "The lack of Latino representation on the panel" - there were only 3 people on the panel, if we exclude the moderator. That means each person represents 33% of the community, if you want to take that particularly obtuse perspective. That means there was 0% (maybe) LGBTQ representation, 0% Australian, and 0% Russian. Women were underrepresented by some 17% (if we assume 50/50), and men were likewise overrepresented by 16%. There were only THREE PEOPLE on the panel. The three were picked with an eye towards providing the highest-quality discussion, and unfortunately didn't include a Latino. This was avoidable, and unfortunate, but hindsight is always 20/20. I feel everyone present had the best intentions at heart. All 3 panel members and the moderator live in/around Highland Park, and were educated (both on the subject and in general), kind, empathic, thoughtful, and spoke eloquently and passionately about these divisive and delicate subjects. I was very impressed with how much ground was covered, or at least introduced, and felt this was a good opening to the massive subject of gentrification, especially in these times of increasing inequality and decreasing civil protections.
tal allweil March 07, 2013 at 06:28 PM
<continuation since it's limited to 1500 characters (boo)> Re: "The panel members lacked the hyper-specific knowledge of Highland Park" - Again, totally disagree. Citing the specific example of panel member "Lin speaking to [president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council] Monica Alcaraz" about "involved in the neighborhood council" - that's a perfect example since I counted approximately two people at the meeting (which had around 100 attendees) who were at the last neighborhood council meeting. One of them was, of course, Monica Alcaraz. The other was HP council VP Hector Huezo. (I'm excluding myself and my partner). Point being: Lin was ~absolutely correct~ to identify this issue. Out of >100 people who attended, 4 were at the neighborhood council, and of those, two of them ARE the neighborhood council. So of the 100 - only two (now I am counting myself and my partner, and apologies to anyone I missed) actually went to the neighbordhood council meetings. 2%. Which makes Lin's comment absolutely justified, and attacking it because he happened to be talking to 50% of the NC representatives there is superfluous and a straw man. Re: "There was a lack of specificity in the discussion" - Yes, it was <3 hours long, and tackled a lot of huge subjects. They also didn't solve the gay marriage debate, and seperation of church and state. Otherwise, I agree with the commentary, and would like to thank the panel for their EXCELLENT discussion of the issues.
John Carlucci March 13, 2013 at 03:02 PM
@ Tal: Your post made me wonder, how many of the people that have been criticizing the panel were actually there?
tal allweil March 13, 2013 at 10:03 PM
I'm not 100% sure, but I'm fairly certain that regardless of RSVP nobody would be turned away -so think this is a bit too close to conspiracy theories for my blood.
tal allweil March 13, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Seems like several were, but many others are just talking. It's important to voice thoughts, but to be so assured about the motives for an event that was not personally witnessed seems unfair and unproductive. We can talk about gentrification and race relations all we want (and it's good to), but to attack a particular event that was NOT attended is disingenuous and doesn't contribute to the conversation.

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