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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.

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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