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Controlling Gentrification in South Central/Downtown LA

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Gentrification was first coined by a sociologist named Ruth Glass in 1964. He explained it as the “migration of middle class residence into a working class neighborhood where by these newer residents then start fixing up their houses, start changing elements of the built environment and then thereafter the prices begin to rise for the home values.” This has been occurring a lot recently in the area near downtown LA (DTLA). This word has many meanings to many people but what it’s seen as to people in areas of poverty, is unjust. There has been a constant push for gentrification in downtown LA and the areas surrounding it and so far, it has been successful. With this success, they have managed to renovate much of DTLA and have made it much more appealing but what they don’t realize is that they had to evict people who have owned their shops for a really long time. This is one of many issues that comes with gentrification. Due to there being so much history in South Central/downtown LA, residents have been getting very disturbed by this. There must be a consensus or compromise to how much they can renovate in order to keep both millennials and the inhabitants who have lived in those areas for a long time satisfied.

Gentrification around DTLA has been a project that has been in works for many decades. They are trying to make downtown a livable and more vibrant part of Los Angeles. This has been a long term project and what downtown is currently on is a later phase. People who see downtown now suspect that it will get into a more advanced stage of gentrification in the next couple of years. The millennials first began to open some stores where some were closed down. After more and more of them started showing up, this project was initiated. Stores that have been there for a really long time were getting charged much more than before and many couldn’t handle it which they then left and those spaces were quickly taken by younger people. The old vendors who decided to stay and pay at times twice as much as before quickly saw how much things were changing. Even if they stayed, it didn’t feel like the downtown they once knew. Due to this many of them began to leave on their own.

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While there are certain communities that are disturbed by gentrification, critics argue that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Areas that housed the workers of local industries are a great example “ but [they] now mostly sit empty and have the strongest concentration of crime, [and] poverty…. Not surprisingly, this is where gentrification typically happens. So when people move in with the intent to turn a neighborhood around, they end up taking back part of the city…. That… helps the greater metropolitan area become safer, and will attract more people to not only the housing, but to the events and amenities that the downtown areas have to offer, thereby boosting the local economy” (Tabatha Wharton). Sure it might make it safer but at the cost of evicting minorities living in the area? Not only that, but the minorities who decided to stay and pay their rent that has since gotten raised don’t feel comfortable and welcomed by the new neighbors.

Grand Central Market is a great example of an area targeted by gentrification. This market has been a landmark for downtown LA since 1917. Since then, it’s been through many phases but the one that’s most well known is the phase where many Mexican people became vendors in it. This market thrived with different mexican cuisines and Mexican products that weren’t attainable unless you actually went to Mexico. This store named Chiles Secos is the most well known and longest running store up to this date. It was created in the 1950s by this person named Celestiano Lopez and he was well known by everyone. Every time he would attend his customers, he was able to connect with all of them and easily hold a conversation with each one of them. Politicians would even go take pictures with him to get that Latino vote. That’s how well known he was and when he passed away in 2008, it seemed that things began to change. In the following years the Grand Central Market began to get renovated. Once those renovations began, new vendors started coming in. These vendors were young people who had previously owned food trucks or it was their first time opening up.

Due to these new vendors, Chiles Secos started getting new consumers who didn’t know what they sold. They would just get people staring at the Mole they would sell and then they would walk away. This became a big issue to them because they started selling less and less. What also began to happen was that many meat markets that were open there started to close because of how high the rent started to get. After this, the Grand Central Market changed into this market that in no way reflects in what it once was. In Dylan Valley’s documentary, LA Grand Central: The Gentrification of The People’s Market, Jennifer Candipan, a student in sociology at the University of Southern California, stated that “ gentrification … entails [the] process of displacement but sometimes that displacement means symbolic displacement which [is] displacement of the images and the symbols and the signs that were familiar to you and you end up with a place that doesn’t look like what was once felt very open and inclusionary to you … and now you feel like you don’t belong in the space.” With Grand Central Market, many of the old vendors and consumers didn’t like what it was becoming and they felt like they didn’t belong in that phase.

All these signifiers means that there is a change coming and it may mean to them that they are being displaced from a space that was once their home. In order for displacements like these to stop from occurring, businesses who open up in replacement to the old business must realize that those owners made history in their store. Sure they may see that there will be casualties and businesses that won’t survive; in fact, they see this and still decide not to do anything nor think of the symbolism they are ruining. In the article named “LA’s Grand Central : The Gentrification of the People’s Market”, Isabelle Castro spoke to the people who work at Chiles Secos and the new vendors who started appearing. By the end of her documentation she hoped “that the old vendors would stay because it’s a link to the past, it’s kind of the old world ways of how things were done, it just has the nostalgia of its own.” If those vendors were to leave, all it will be is a memory. The middle class and migrators gentrifying neighborhoods need to use their leverage to change some of these policies to keep people in place and to make sure that some of this displacement does not occur.

Areas all over LA are targeted by gentrification. This is so that people from a higher class can move back to these areas so that they won’t commute as much. They have had this issue and this is one of many reasons why freeways were built so that they wouldn’t have to live in areas where there is a lot of smog just like Los Angeles. This entire gentrification project that the mayor has greenlit has been affecting certain neighborhoods like the areas near USC, Echo Park, Boyle Heights and Koreatown. Since these places are so close to downtown LA, they must get renovated to fit with the gentrification going on in the heart of downtown LA. Older sections of Echo Park like Temple and Pico Union have been targeted by financial interests because of the parks nearby.

Back in the 1950’s, the areas around downtown LA were much cleaner and much more wealthier because there were mostly only Caucasian and Italian people living there. Now that the potential has been seen by financial industries, they won’t stop until everything is close to how it was back then. They have been evicting people from their homes without telling them the reason for doing so. For instance, in Stephanie Cisneros’ documentary, Echo Park: A Different View, Nora Sanchez who is for justice in low income neighborhoods argues that “ they are evicting us with unjust reasons. They are evicting us with lies, they are not fixing the apartments and people don’t complain because they are afraid.” The fact that the people living in these areas are afraid to speak up about their evictions shows how many of these families don’t know what their laws are. Landlords would pay the littlest amount or at times nothing at all so that their tenants could leave. In doing this, they can remodel the house and sell it for three times as much as it was worth. The people trying to move in believe that removing most of the inhabitants of Echo Park would do the neighborhood good. This is wrong on so many levels since those people have made their history there. They have made Echo Park a landmark and due to this millennials can’t just move in and try to change the whole neighborhood.

For instance, an outspoken individual by the name of Spike Lee, is famous for his view on gentrification and he has been asked several times why he views it as unjust and not as this good change that occurs. He was giving a lecture in the Pratt Institute located in Brooklyn, New York, and there was a Q&A at the end. He was asked, “you tend to see gentrification with a negative connotation and I wonder if you could look at it from the other side”(audience member)? Spike Lee then proceeds to tell him so many reasons why gentrification is wrong in neighborhoods like Brooklyn which correlates back to Echo Park and many other places that are experiencing gentrification. He doesn’t believe there is anything good about gentrification. He uses Fort Greene, NY. He then states that “It’s changed….

Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better?” He then mentions the Christopher Columbus Syndrome which he says: “ You can’t discover this! We been here.” He may be saying all of these things in a crude way but his emotions proves how bad it has been affecting people who have lived in neighborhoods like that before. They go back to these neighborhoods and see change. People don’t like change in their neighborhoods because it’s where their whole childhood was held. The younger generation can’t just barge in and demand change. There have been codes placed all around South Central. These codes are not to be broken because this is when the old residents who live there get furious. In order for both the millennials and the old inhabitants to co-exist, there must be respect. Millennials can respect the old residents by not altering anything and joining their community or greeting some of the people to let them know that they are harmless and don’t intend to change anything without their consent.

Having respect is a personal matter but having policies and laws to follow is another thing. For areas that are getting gentrified, there should be some that are considered as landmarks. If they were to be considered as a landmark, they would be preserved. Places like the Placita Olvera have gotten this treatment which now many tourist visit it because of its history. Just like this landmark, the city should not allow huge developments in neighborhoods that are at risk. If they intend to change a neighborhood, then there must be a town hall meeting where they involve residents who live in those areas to get their consent on what they can and can’t renovate. This could help both the millennials moving in and the old residents to co-exist. Instead, when they gentrify neighborhoods with minorities, it causes the cost of houses and rents to rise dramatically. In a blog named 7 Policies That Could Prevent Gentrification, one of the policies stated that, “Banks should reduce or freeze property taxes to protect long-time homeowners in at-risk neighborhoods. In Boston, the city council recently passed a bill allowing homeowners whose taxes have grown by 10 percent or more to defer property tax payments until they sell” (David Price). There is no reason for California not to pass a bill like that. This could help many minorities stay in their neighborhoods and enjoy the improvements.

Gentrification has split many communities in half not allowing diversity to flourish. Minorities have embedded a notion that when their area is targeted by gentrification it’s bound to ruin what they call their home. In order for this not to occur, there has to be a relationship built between the gentrifiers, the middle class newcomers and the old residents. The newcomers need to show the old residents that they aren’t there to conquer their community but to be apart of it. With the help of passing policies and laws that controls how much of an area can get gentrified there will be a much diverse community with both parties satisfied with the amount of area being rejuvenated. Both the newcomers and the old residents would be in control of South Central/DTLA which will lead to a relationship and a future where both can live harmony with one another.

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