Gentrification in Boyle Heights?

One of the most historical places in Boyle Heights is the Mariachi Plaza which is a wonderful place for most of the people living here.

As a journalist I have my ears and eyes open to any new idea in order to write it as an article. Through these observations I learned that a lot of people are moving to Boyle Heights but not working individuals that have rich culture but hipsters. I have no problem with anyone coming to Boyle Heights because Boyle Heights has a history of many different races living here. What I have a problem is people kicking families out in order to build “hip” stores, restaurants,  etc.

Throughout the years I’ve seen people moving in to Boyle Heights trying to enrich themselves with the history and culture of BH. But some people have decided to open “hip” stores around to make it seem a look better than what it already is. It really gets me mad since I’ve watched many “hipsters” take over places that already have tenants living there.

The sad thing about this whole situation is the fact that mostly all the families that they decide to kick out are low-income families who have an immigrant background. Not only that, but cultures die in the process. History dies when the people leave the place, no longer will it be a special place where people can take refuge. It becomes a “hip” place where mindless people go to become not mainstream.

This is really sad since the people will have to leave their communities and go somewhere else. They will have to adjust to a new environment where all the history and memories they have will vanish. It’s really ironic how many people want immigrants out of their communities but yet happen to kick them out of their own homes. Maybe I’m judging the people too fast and I apologize for that. But how would you feel if you see your community turning into “hip” coffee shops, thrift stores, etc?

If this continues to happen and if it happens too quickly the people of BH will not tolerate this and neither will I. BH has been a ground for many immigrants families who were rejected from other places. Hipster nation will not become the next Boyle Heights. If it does then what happens to all the things teachers, students, parents, etc worked hard for to make an improvement of this community? So please before you start to point out that Boyle Heights is a “ghetto place” make sure to know your history and know that gentrification is going on in your community.


19 thoughts on “Gentrification in Boyle Heights?”

  1. Can we get over the hating “hipsters” thing? Every generation has a group of people who spend too much time trying to look cool, but it doesn’t mean that they have the power to “kick out low-income families” or “make a place look better than it is.” A living city is a changing city, whatever transitions happen add to the history. Better to have hipsters inject some economy into this historical but poor neighborhood rather than developers looking to level cultural sites in favor of cheap gentrified condo complexes.

  2. Great post! If this is what I saw you and Karissa researching on Saturday, I can’t wait for the final article.

    I feel like Boyle Heights won’t become the next Echo Park, but in some ways I guess it’s already happening. I know something’s wrong when our enrollment is supposed to drop by over five percent next year. Where are all the families going?

  3. So here’s what I know, and Cinthia can confirm this: her home, where her and many of my students live, is undergoing a change, where the owners are trying to raise rent to have the low-income families move out. The goal: to tear down the Wyvernwood apartments, to put up condos and other such things.

    So you could argue that cities change, but the change that is happening contains a bit of social injustice in it.

    I suggest Cinthia, for your next blog, you focus on that.

  4. Please redirect your anger re. Wyvernwood at the politicians who are supporting the development due to labor backing, ie. campaign contributions. They are your elected officials and advocates, and it’s to them that you should look – not someone who happens to like different things than you, but is ultimately probably a decent person who just wants a place to live like anyone else. This phantom ‘outsider’ that you see kicking residents out of their homes doesn’t exist – it’s developers who are displacing people for their own financial gain.

    “Through these observations I learned that a lot of people are moving to Boyle Heights but not working individuals that have rich culture but hipsters.”
    I’m still not sure what a ‘hipster’ is, but it is more than a little judgmental at the least to say that someone else doesn’t have ‘rich culture’. Every human being has a culture, and whether or not it’s ‘rich’ is purely subjective. It wouldn’t be okay to make such a statement about immigrant culture, so I don’t know why it’s okay to say it in this context. If these people you speak of do in fact seek a place to ‘become not mainstream’, how do you know that’s a ‘mindless’ pursuit?

    Try to be a little more understanding of someone else’s lifestyle, lest you end up sounding just like the conservative good ‘ol boys you probably despise.

  5. can’t help but comment on some glaring errors with this article. Hipsters are not the ones kicking families out, BANKS are. I’m not a huge fan of the PBR guzzling, fixie riding, handlebar mustache drones either. However to call them out as the ones kicking families on the street is kind of a twitsted logic to me. Even more true if the ‘hipsters’ that you’re citing are RENTING in Boyle Heights. In the case of rentals the owners are responsible for kicking out these families and replacing them. And again in the case of foreclosures the banks are responsible.

    You want to know what’s really going on here? A 2 class war – the elite vs. everyone else. The new new is the rich elite back-dooring the ailing housing market, buying up these sub $200k homes and owning blocks now, not just one home. As someone that’s been outbid time and time again by ‘investors’ that throw down 100% cash on homes like many you will find in Boyle Heights, i can honestly say the scruffy kids with the tight jeans aren’t the enemy, unless your point is that daddy is buying the home FOR them?

    As an aside, are you reeally seeing that many ‘hipsters’ taking over Boyle Heights these days? I was searching for a home heavily in that area as recent as November, and the vibe I caught was still of well rooted families that i’d often get hard looks from when touring a home in their neighborhood. It was kind of clear that I was un-welcome in their neighborhood. Rightfully so though i suppose, since I fit the stereotype of ‘an investor’ a.k.a. white dude checking out a home that their best friend/neighbor/relative just got kicked out of.

    It’s a shitty process i admit. But call it like it is and blame the rich elite and banks, neither of which you will find at american aparrel.

  6. So if it was an influx of Asians or Jews into the neighborhood causing the rents to go up, would this article be about them? A landlord will typically raise rent when they can and will do what they can to get tenants they find more attractive into their properties.

    While I really do not like hipsters, it sounds really dumb to say, “I’ve watched many “hipsters” take over places that already have tenants living there.” Really? They come in with the hipster police and kick these people out? Young people with little money move into areas that have low rent, it becomes a “Hip” place because of all the youth coming in and then the rent goes up. You want to keep hipsters out? Raise the rent ahead of time and see if they still show up. So blame landlords…and yuppies.

  7. What’s with all the Boyle heights hipster drama about? For all the years I’ve lived here I haven’t seen what Mr. Gonzales describes. I happen to live across from an apartment complex where I see what might be described as hipsters living and moving in. From what I can tell they tend to keep to themselves, I see them shopping at the small markets, buying tacos and cemitas from street venders, the families that lived there still do I haven’t seen them kicked out. These hipsters don’t seem to have some secret agenda to take advantage of their poor neighbors. However, I do see people taking advantage of my poorer neighbors and they’re not hipsters they’re other Latinos. Yes, I have this other neighbor about 50 yards from the hipster apartments who builds these horrible shacks on his property and he rents them to poor immigrant families. There’s a commercial building around the corner where people pay cheap rent to live in the parking lot in motor homes and sleep 6 to a tiny 1 bedroom apartment. I mean I see the hipster across the street but they’re not the ones committing the social injustices to poorer residents. I know right now the hot topic is gentrification and hipsters but why are we focusing on this when real injustices are still happening all around up. Are the hipsters shooting and selling our community drugs? Are the hipsters building shacks for people to live in? Are the hipsters tagging and vandalizing our streets?

  8. BH has bigger problems than hipsters but talking about hipsters and gentrification is the hip topic of the hour so that’s what we’re focused on instead of talking about the real problems we all face right now. Seems kinda hipster if you ask me.

  9. People often feel territorial about their neighborhoods. When I grew up in the 70s in the embers of the civil rights movement, the urge for exclusion was rightly called intolerance. Today, I regularly hear such discrimination, and in many communities the viewpoint is widely accepted. 

    True journalism is objective, and this is clearly an opinion piece. I hear a lot of cries of victimization in this essay in the form of words like “kicked out,” “rejected,” “social injustice,” and the implication that new people are there to take something from the community to “enrich themselves.”  

    The demographics of change are nothing new. Cesar E. Chavez Avenue was Brooklyn Avenue until as recently as 1994. Much of the early storefront architecture along that street mimics the Lower East Side in NYC, and a great many ELA, BH, and Hollenbeck area streets and parks still have French, Irish, and Jewish names. One major difference between then and now, is that when the immigrant population expanded rapidly during the early mid century, they were upwardly mobile, moving into new and established neighborhoods. 

    Now many of those same areas are run down and in need of repair, and the new people moving into them are downwardly mobile. That is how gentrification really works. The reason an individual moves into a “ghetto” neighborhood from somewhere presumably nicer, is because they’ve been priced out of a formerly affordable neighborhood themselves.

    It takes a special individual to invest their own time, resources, and money into a new place that is not their home. These people take on risk, and bear the brunt of any hostile and unwelcoming reactions. “Hipster” is a derogatory term for someone who is often young, college educated, from a middle class background, and usually working in some sort of creative or lifestyle industry. It is a faulty assumption that they aren’t working people with culture. These people can be entrepreneurs, musicians, copywriters, comedians, actors, grad students, painters, stylists, editors, photographers, production designers, home renovators, small business owners, fashion designers, magazine publishers, novelists, curators, producers, – the list goes on and on. They bring new opportunities and experiences to the community.
    It’s unfortunately easy to get caught up in negative assumptions, and ignore the real positives that do come from change. Here is an example from first hand experience.

    I rented in Echo Park for many years, and the elderly Filipino woman across the street from me sold her home in 2007 for 700% of it’s purchase cost, for a breakdown of a 25% increase for every year she owned it. Ask any real estate agent, this level of profit is staggering. For this lovely woman, the changing neighborhood demographic was like winning the lottery. She shared some of the money with her 4 children and 18 grandchildren, and retired back to her two houses in Manilla to live her remaining years in comfort. 

    The house was bought by a white “hipster” in his late 30s, hardly young or privileged to be purchasing his first home. He paid an enormous cost per square foot, and the house was in such poor shape it needed $150K worth of repair before he could move in, since the prior owner had done nothing to fix it up for the market. He was willing to make an investment in the community – and in fact moved out of a ‘nicer’ neighborhood. Less than two years later, he lost nearly half his investment with the economic crash. Even if he keeps the house for twice as long as the prior owner, he probably won’t even see a 5% per year return. Is the immigrant woman who re-located a victim here, or the person who paid inflated costs on a dilapidated home?

    This is one example but for others who are not as fortunate (such as renters), LA has some of the most generous tenant protections in the country through rent stabilization laws and hefty relocation fees. For both renters and owners in neighborhoods with rapidly rising costs, Prop 13 protects them from rising property taxes. As home prices rise in a neighborhood, the new members of the community bear the brunt of tax costs for improved roads, schools, and safety. Existing families are allowed to share in the bounty without paying the same share. There are few places in America that are more fair-minded to live with an eye toward social justice.

    I just hope people will learn to open their minds and try to see things from others point of view. That is the definition of tolerance. The statement “If this continues to happen and if it happens too quickly the people of BH will not tolerate this and neither will I” implies a threat. It makes me sad and not hopeful about today’s youth. The youth population is the future and should not be wasting energy on intolerance, false assumptions and a victim mentality. They should be positioning themselves as leaders, and developing all-inclusive skills – most notably tolerance, thoughtfulness, and compassion for self and others.

  10. I moved to Boyle Heights just about three years ago, so I guess I’m one of those evil hipsters. Here’s my story:

    We bought our house from an elderly Japanese lady, and to tell the truth, some people tripped out, and most people were fine with it. Long-time Chicano residents of our street have told me that they are glad we are keeping a little of the diversity the street once proudly had alive, they were not happy to lose one of the last Japanese neighbors, and the last few Russians have passed away as well.

    The only thing that I’ve seen here that smacks of “gentrification” might be the ad campaign for Guisados where they proclaim “Come into historic Boyle Heights for something different!” as if nobody here already would want their food. Frankly, the attitude of that ad IS gentrification. A Latino business, I believe.

    If “gentrification” is defined by seeing any white individual somewhere in Boyle Heights, then I guess I’m stinking up the place daily. On the other hand, if there are a bunch of noticeable, noxious Silver Lake type hipsters ruining the place, why don’t I see white people in the neighborhood? Sure, there’s a few, like maybe I see someone white somewhere every three or four days or something. But they are usually old people at the Food for Less!

    But seriously, el batmanuel has the story straight. That’s what I see here, sadly, is Latino exploitation of desperately poor immigrant people.

    And as far as what Veronica is saying, that’s pretty much true. It takes a lot of energy to move to a new place, and it is my choice to live in Boyle Heights, because I think its a pretty cool place, just like it is. Yes, I am an outsider, but so what? I like the people here, the art made here, the music made here. I’m in a band with neighbors on my street. The people who live here are a mostly great bunch of people. This is a great neighborhood already. What is needed is improvements for the people who live here already. This is what the author of the article should be working on. Anything that creates real bonds in the community. The strength of any community is its communication and dedication to keeping things right for the kids that are coming up and will be here in the future.

    The neighborhood is full of vegan kids, as but one example. Why don’t the people with this kind of diet get together and form a co-op? Just one example, but a neighborhood business can donate to the needy instead of profit. People can put their money literally where someone in need’s mouth is, so to speak.

    But even if this kind of community organization is begun, there is still a lot more to do. It is not a question exactly of who moves into a place, that’s not the whole story. The money tells the story. What is most profitable for those who own land is always gonna be the bottom line. I grew up in Seattle and lived in Portland, both of which have been gentrified into a pulp. Ultimately, if wealthy people decide “this place is it,” that’s pretty much what happens, and it sucks. Witness Echo Park beginning the slide.

    But I gotta say, Portland and Seattle were strong, organized communities willing to fight to the bitter end. There is evidence of very strong community in Boyle Heights in the past, witness the history from “Community Under Siege,” as an example. Inner City Struggle shows itself as a present-day example. But where is the community outrage over the city planner’s concepts for totally replacing 1st and 4th street with condos and shop space that they unveiled a couple years back? Is anybody paying attention? Boyle Heights is in the developers’ cross hairs, and it has been for a very long time. Why do you think the city zoned the whole of B.H. multifamily in the 50’s? It worked, chased out people worried about their home values and reduced the effective economic power of the neighborhood. This is how places are kept down in America, and its done by tightening a vice very slowly over the generations until there’s nothing left. But if there is no voice NOW to demand that any changes that are made to the environs improve things first and foremost for those who live here now, then there will be very little hope, because while you’re worrying about “hipsters” the real game has been underway for at least half a century.

    What screwed the people up where I come from in the Northwest is the lack of a Prop 13. People were very well organized, fought each and every b.s. proposal all the way, etc. But that’s not really gonna do much if you just can’t afford to live there anymore. Your property taxes just keep going up every year until you sell. In my case, I’ve been forced into selling TWICE. Taxes went from $2,700 a year to over $10,000 in one jump in Sea-town, and from $960 to $5,700 in two years in P-town. Who can afford to live there?

    So home town or no, I decided on moving to California. For lots of reasons, like the fact that Los Angeles is mind-blowingly diverse. But they can’t force you out of your home with property taxes here, and that’s a big factor.

    So why live in Boyle Heights? Take a walk or a drive down Cesar Chavez. A beautiful, thriving street. Why do I want to live here? Places like that, people like that. So if that makes me a gentrifier or a hipster, then so be it. But the future of Boyle Heights is being written by big money interests while you waste your time grumbling about nothing. Me, I’ll worry about hipsters from outside Boyle Heights when I actually see some.

  11. Very Happy to be part of the change. Change its good and having new people its great. Boyle Heigths its the place to be. Now we have more places to eat, drink and buy good products. For many years I invite friends for lunch in my community and now we have visit more places, and we have notice new people. Many of them would like to buy a place. Whats wrong with that. You live where you want to live. This its the freedom we have in this country.

  12. i just wanted to thank everyone for posting a comment in this blog, i know it’s very controversial and people have different opinions. but do understand that i am a high school student going through the rage process that bell hooks points out in her book Killing Rage. as a young activist/organizer i have a lot of information that is being thrown at me and i will make sure to think before i act next time. your comments have made me more wise as towards who i have to redirect my rage, and to take care of my language since i don’t want to offend anyone. like my journalism/english teacher pointed out “you don’t want to become the monster you are trying to fight” so i’ll make sure to not offend anyone in the near future and sorry if i did. keep reading our blogs because high school students have a lot to say and have opinions and it will be nice to hear the adults have a discussion with the youth . so once again thanks for my 15 minutes of fame and i’m glad i’m not the only who notices these issues around Boyle Heights.

  13. Bad thing about hipsters gentrifying Boyle Heights: They’ll take over the neighborhood, destroy its culture and turn it into another Echo Park.

    Good thing about hipsters gentrifying Boyle Heights: If they refer to their newly-adopted neighborhood as “The Eastside,” then no one will argue with that.

  14. I’m 4th generation Japanese American (just like the Issei and Nisei that lived here before WWII) and my husband is 4th generation Mexican American. We moved into Boyle Heights a year ago for numerous positive reasons, and we are both very aware of the diverse history, have visited Wyvernwood to meet activists, have attended readings/meetings of the Boyle Heights Historical Society at Keiro (the Japanese American retirement home), use the Metro gold line daily, and visit Evergreen to pay our respects. Since I work at a museum, I imagine that I do fit the definition of a middle-class, creatively employed, youngish person. I have patronized one coffee shop in Boyle Heights, the same which regularly tables at the Friday Mariachi Plaza farmers market and helps sponsor other events. Thift stores? Aside from church affiliated spots catering to families, I haven’t seen a single one of those here yet. And if I did, I might spend money there instead of taking the train to Pasadena to get to a Goodwill or Crossroads to buy used clothing, furniture, and household goods.

    What I think we all have in common is that we are searching for a genuine community and hope that the next door neighbor is contributing to the quality of life…for everyone. Since I walk mostly and use the train or bike, I can see on a daily basis the minute details of life in Boyle Heights, and to be honest, I think its a vibrant, soulful place that is worthy of both defending of our collective past and nurturing for our very future.

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