Highland Park, Despite Changes, Is Not the New Echo Park

Why Highland Park isn't now and never will be Echo Park. And, why that's a good thing.

Is Highland Park the new Echo Park? L.A. Weekly music writer Kai Flanders seems to think so, .

No offense to our neighbors to the west, home to some of the finest folks I've met in Los Angeles, but I'm not buying it either.

In a piece published on Friday, Feb. 3, Flanders--armed with evidence culled from overhead barroom chatter--proclaimed that, with its low rents and flourishing arts scene, Highland Park is Los Angeles' latest "up and coming" neighborhood.

In the piece, Flanders quotes a friend--"writer/street artist/zine-founder" Renko Mac--who notes that Highland Park is an especially welcoming area to young musicians and artists given that her "neighbors don't give a sh*t about noise."

I imagine Ms. Mac doesn't live near .

It's easy for anyone with an intimate knowledge of Highland Park to feel some provincial outrage about Flanders' piece. To suggest that a neighborhood which served as the setting for both the Arts and Crafts and Chicano Arts movements could be "up and coming" as an artistic mecca suggests, at the very least, a vague understanding of history.

There's also the worrisome suggestion that--given Echo Park's gentrification--Highland Park now provides a gritty urban playground for twenty-somethings who miss the days when living East of the Los Angeles River was a war story you could write home about.

As my own bio-page on this site makes clear, I'm new to Highland Park myself. I also like to brag to my friends from other parts of the city about how great my adoptive home is. There's much to recommend Highland Park. A thriving gallery scene, wonderful restaurants, easy access to nature and a wealth of homeowners and renters who seem to genuinely care about their neighborhood. 

When my fiance and I first moved to Los Angeles, we were intimidated by the scope of the place. Having grown up in small, tight-knit towns we feared we'd have to trade in that sense of community we were raised with for lives or urban anonymity. That hasn't happened to us in Highland Park, though. We feel welcomed here by neighbors who know that we value our neighborhood as much as they do.

At the risk of sounding like a sentimental bore, the most upsetting thing about Flanders piece is that--while it seems to be praising Highland Park's coolness--it overlooks what is actually cool about the neighborhood--the people.

Flanders', though, isn't working with a faulty premise. As Echo Park's rents go up, Highland Park has undoubtedly become an attractive landing spot for the hip and young. They'll have their impact on the neighborhood, I'm sure. Some will stick around and make their own contributions to the neighborhood. Others will move to move on to the next "up and coming neighborhood" after they get "over" Highland Park.

I'm happy to welcome them. My neighbors have done the same for me, after all. And those newcomers that do stick around? I'm sure they'll find that Highland Park isn't becoming the new Echo Park--it's had its own thing well before they arrived.

Rebecca Prine February 07, 2012 at 08:02 PM
I love this neighborhood and having heard this new term, well new to me, "Silverlake East" last month I was offended. I lived in Silverlake for 15 years prior to moving to Highland Park three years ago and find this neighborhood to be what I loved about Silverlake in the early 90's. I've said my piece in the previous article about gentrification so I won't say it again. I just wanted to say this neighborhood has more charm, character, and creativity than Echo Park/ Silverlake with warm hospitable families and family owned businesses and I hope it stays this way.
Guero57 February 07, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Nimby - You forgot to preface that comment by asserting that you're in a multicultural relationship and that you celebrate the diversity of the neighborhood.
Joe Walker February 07, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Katy...the hipsters are good for the area! Your old Livermore Terrace area had a walking tour a few weeks ago and they had a lot of people there. Can you imagine crowds doing stairway tours int he 1970's and 80's? No way!
Nimby pimp February 07, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Guero - I'm all about diversity. Did I mention how much I love Latino culture? I'm 100% opposed to bullfighting however.
kevin February 07, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Christian G February 07, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Yes finally people are getting it right HLP is correct..I hear El Sereno is also seeing some changes for the better also.
kevin February 07, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Highland park and echo park are similar . Both neighborhoods are rich in Latino culture. Both areas have had a strong gang history and are "hilly" communities close to downtown. Professionals, yuppies, artists, musicians are moving in and new businesses are opening up to cater to the new residents. Both communities are improving and if it takes a few cholos to be displaced in the grand scheme of things why not?
Marino February 07, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Please enough with "the gentrification will push away families that have been here for generations". Here are some numbers for Echo Park - Highland Park: 45-50% of the residents are foreign born. 66-72% are Latino. 11-13% White. (Source: LA Times http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/ ) Obviously it's the foreign born doing the "pushing" and I'm not wagging any fingers, I'm a foreign born myself. As for Echo Park vs Highland Park... I think Echo Park has both higher points and lower points. I'd give higher points for stronger cultural "institutions". Machine Project, Echo Park Film Center, Echo & Echoplex, Pehrspace, a wider variety of cuisine at the local restaurants, a wider variety of retail. Highland Park on the other hand is less congested, more family friendly, more neighborhood like without being suburban and has lower rents.
Joe Walker February 07, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Marino, I think they are just trying to put a controversial spin to a story-to generate discussion. Replacing substandard gang-infested high crime areas with law abiding working class people is always, always a good thing. It also creates conditions where young people may not see the criminal gang life as their only option.
Marino February 07, 2012 at 10:22 PM
I agree with you Joe. I'm reading about the Miramonte Elementary School in South Central where the recent child molestations took place. 98% of the kids Latino, 2% black. Nearly all eligible for free school lunches. 21 yr old "parents" of kids in kindergarten, 41 yr old grandmothers. I think the kids, the school, the area could benefit from some "gentrification". There is more to quality of life than the cheapest rent possible.
David Fonseca (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Controversial spin?
Rob Schraff February 07, 2012 at 11:25 PM
The only flies in the gentrification ointment are the section 8 kids who get pushed out into cheaper, soul-sucking places like Lancaster and Fontana. Even in the mid 80s HP, (or HLP as the correctness police have recently declared!) was a lot more interesting, and more culturally and historically diverse. Albeit with raging gang wars and crack dealers on nearly every corner! And who hasn't run into some self-satisfied hipster/investor proud to have personally discovered Highland Park/Northeast LA and who goes on about how the neighborhood is "improving"? I have no problems with gentrifiers, am one in many ways myself, but I find the "flavor of the year" LA real-estate gossip annoying and pretentious. And to the degree it leads to efforts to homogenize our funky local culture - see art walks with real art and artists, bike rides, music festivals, food trucks, and the morality police that seem to be running amok in Eagle Rock - unfortunate
Marino February 08, 2012 at 12:12 AM
The LA Weekly "article" is idiotic as usual. They just discovered Mr T's? 20 years after Jac Zinder and Fuzzyland? Man I'm old. Read some history kids. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6bLUqNY_-A http://articles.latimes.com/2005/jan/24/local/me-mrts24 http://articles.latimes.com/1995-03-05/magazine/tm-39503_1_love-and-happiness-santa-monica-polyester
Joe Walker February 08, 2012 at 12:25 AM
They discovered Mr T's,,40 years after it was the best and only place to bowl in Highland Park? Tsk tsk.
Joe Walker February 08, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Rob,,Shame on you for deliberately omitting Palmdale and Rialto from the cheaper soul-sucking list. : )
Marino February 08, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Yeah David, you should run an article; "Is Eagle Rock the New Simi Valley?".
Rob Schraff February 08, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Isn't Eagle Rock the new South Pasadena?
Nimby pimp February 08, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Rob - I'd be interested (genuinely) to know more about the glory days to which you refer. How were the mid-eighties "more interesting, and more culturally and historically diverse") around these parts?
katy cummings February 08, 2012 at 02:50 AM
The Highland Park of the 70's was a very diverse area, it was a great place to grow up. The stairways up on Mt. Angelus were my playground, Figueroa had a real small town feel to it. I ran with kids of many cultural backgrounds, and am so grateful for the life I was given.
katy cummings February 08, 2012 at 02:50 AM
The Highland Park of the 70's was a very diverse area, it was a great place to grow up. The stairways up on Mt. Angelus were my playground, Figueroa had a real small town feel to it. I ran with kids of many cultural backgrounds, and am so grateful for the life I was given.
Rob Schraff February 08, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Nimby - Meant strictly in comparison to the outermost burbs. Nonetheless, in the 80's there were lots of HP experimental art/bands - see Marino's post - all against a longtime background of arts and artists. Mr. T's was a focal point, but there was lots of other stuff going on - 'cause it was, admittedly cheap, with a lot of cool, old fixable houses. Also close to downtown, great views - all the stuff people still move here for, like I did. But hardly a paradise, lots more gunfire, more or less open street drug dealing, some of which still exists. And even more littering, if you can believe it.
Joe Walker February 08, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Well, Katy, it was not really that diverse. It was mostly white, which is not a bad thing at all. Remember that all those stairways had to be closed to due to vandalism, homeless people, and gang members congregating there. I would say it is probably as safe now as it was then, with a bad dip in the 80's and 90's. And you and I had a good friend on Livermore Terrace who was murdered after riding the bus home from the ER Plaza, so, there were definitely moments of horror mixed in with the somewhat safe life we had in Highland Park.
Joe Walker February 08, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Rob,,,,If Eagle Rock is the new Simi Valley, does that make Simi Valley the new Carpenteria? Is El Sereno the new Alhambra, and Cypress Park is the new Montecito Heights? When will the madness end? Joe W. Adjacent Garvanza Neighborhood Council and Chairman and sole committee member
ChickenBoyFan February 08, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Darling..., we've always had "Hipsters". They're called "Oxy students". Then came the assault on Highland Park's historical elements and architecture, by the Stucco and Iron Bar Brigade. Now we are in restoration/ preservation mode, with the blessings of both council districts, as long as we show up and do the work ourselves,Cluck ,cluck.
ChickenBoyFan February 08, 2012 at 06:22 PM
PS: So, suit up.... and show up... or shut up. There are many efforts inviting everyone to clean up, and restore. Volunteer, and see your neighbors, and meet new friends in the hood. Just ask folks on Monte Vista, or York, or Fig. I dare you to show up at a Neighborhood Council meeting, with your intentions and ideas. They are very friendly and gung- ho. 2nd and 4th Thursdays-Senior Center-7-9PM.
Marino February 08, 2012 at 07:25 PM
I moved to Highland Park in 1988 so I can't speak about earlier years. For me it has changed very little except for the one block near York and Ave 50. According to Wikipedia HLP has been predominantly Latino since the 70s. Gentrification started in the mid-80s with the historic overlay zone. Also in the previous real estate boom and bust in the early 90s, people esp couples without children many of them gays sold their houses in Silverlake and Los Feliz and moved to Northeast LA. I'd like to remind everyone that gentrification and hipsters has less to do with race and more to do with education and income levels. I know plenty of hipsters who are Asian, Latino and African American. Occidental College never had any impact in Highland Park. I remember they had vans (don't know if they still do) to take them to Pasadena for entertainment on weekend nights. I see more kids and graduates from Cal Arts and Art Center than from Oxy.
MeliZapata February 08, 2012 at 09:37 PM
in response to nimby pimp's response; this is an issue of race and class, is it a coincidence that now that white middle class folks are making their way into Highland Park there is better safety, services, and civic engagement?
Marino February 08, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Crime has gone down dramatically throughout the city and the white population is shrinking not increasing. There's been no influx of whites in Highland Park the last 20 years. What has happened is the older, more sedate whites have been replaced by younger more active whites who together with younger more educated people of all races gave the current Highland Park a somewhat "hipper" facelift.
Nicole Witty February 10, 2012 at 06:15 AM
Thanks for the history lesson!
Dale February 25, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Why do we have to compare comunities every neighborhood has it good and not so good points. But I would like to say that I ama bit tired of Highland Park being thought of as the poor stepsisiter when it comes to the comparison. I have lived in the Highland Park area for overr 20 years now and I would rather be known as something better than the new Echo Park. I have friends that live in Echo Park and visit them all the time and let me tell you I get a bit scared visitng there inthe evening. Just Saying.


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