Tag Archive for: Gentrification

The LA Times published an article last Friday about how Echo Park is now a “hipster destination,” and it seems to have caused a bit of a knee-jerk reaction amongst Echo Parkians and Angelinos. It must be a case of hipsteria?

For one thing, the article, titled “Echo Park evolves into hipster destination,” implies this is a new thing and that we’ve lost its Latino roots to this mainstream subculture. “Once a largely working-class Latino neighborhood,” the author writes, “Echo Park is now home to one of L.A.’s most densely packed night-life corridors, with more than 15 popular bars, clubs and restaurants drawing crowds each weekend and often on weeknights too.”

Instead of being a new thing, this actually has been happening for quite some time now, and is also really just another cycle in Echo Park’s evolution (okay, I’m actually starting to hate that word). Call it gentrification – another scary word – but this is a discussion that has been going on in Echo Park and other older Los Angeles communities for a long, long time.

Twitter mentions exploded after the article was published, this is just a sampling

One commenter on the LA Times article writes: “Actually, the headline should read, ‘Echo Park DEVOLVES into hipster destination’. I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about hipsters OR racists. Isn’t there a way to spiff up a neighborhood without invoking either one?”

The word “hipster” causes a knee-jerk reaction in itself, especially for long-time residents who have seen Echo Park “evolve.” The skinny jeans, worn out vintage boots, rollie fingers, American Apparel sweater, iPod-wearing, super trendy, possibly with a trust fund kind of hipster. The subculture has definitely been attracted to Echo Park, where artists and activists have for a long time been a part of the community. But are is the hipster presence really that bad?

And on another note, why give the so-called hipsters all the credit for improving the community? One commenter on the LA Times article writes (sarcastically, we hope), “So next time you see me walking down echo park ave… you remember that it was us hipsters that made this neighborhood decent enough to walk with your children at night.”

Well, considering I don’t see “you” at the community meetings with the neighborhood council, Echo Park Improvement Association discussions, Echo Park trash cleanups, CCAC graffiti removals, working with the LAPD, or actively involved in the community in general, I won’t give all the hipsters all the credit for making Echo Park safer for businesses. But I also won’t necessarily shame the hipster style or lifestyle for that matter, I just think that credit should be given where’s it’s due, and not to a temporary subculture that happens to be “in” right now.

We received a great email from a fellow Echo Parkian and songwriter who put together a reaction (in her words, “hastily”) to an LA Times “hipster” article, which we also wrote about yesterday and about the gentrification of Echo Park in general. We were absolutely tickled by her song and thought we’d share the fun with you all:

Dial Torgerson, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 19, 1971

Both Kelly and I (on separate occasions) dug up a rather interesting article from the L.A. Times circa 1971. The article, entitled “Which Way for Echo Park – Inner City Oasis or Slum?”, describes Echo Park at the dawn of the ’70s as:

…the hilly, multiracial, multiethnic home of both the poor and better off. Echo Park is becoming a near slum and a much-in-demand middle-class community at the same time. It is going up and down simultaneously. Newcomers from from poorer areas are crowding into substandard housing and youth gangs have become active. At the same time, there is a different influx: that of the middle class. Older couples who sold homes in distant suburbs and young marrieds with college degrees are seeking homes and rentals in the hills.

From what I’ve learned about Echo Park, it seems that it’s always been home to a mixture of different cultures and incomes. It’s interesting to see proof of this and to see an argument similar to the one happening today, taking place almost forty years ago. The same racial tensions that bubble beneath the surface of today’s arguments were there in the ’70s as well and, presumably, the ’60s. For example:

‘The rapidly changing ethnic composition of the Silver Lake-Echo Park communities will soon transform Echo Park into a Mexican-American barrio,’ said a UCLA study for the city’s new general plan. ‘We strongly urge that, via the process of community organizations and related efforts, steps be taken to avoid further ghettoization.’ Many long-time residents of Echo Park, members of its Latin community, object to experts’ blaming Latins as the bringers of the slum.

Eek! Yeah, I think an objection to that study is justified. The article also brings up some interesting bits about the cultural differences between certain residents of Echo Park. Some of these descriptions sound vaguely familiar…

The Hip community calls it “The Other End,” the other end of Sunset Blvd. from the Strip. Barefoot hippies buy food with food stamps in the same supermarket lines with young deputy public defenders with mod clothes and lavish mustaches. Chicano street types dress in a uniform of neat jeans (or overalls) and clean white T-shirts; they haven’t learned, as have their Anglo contemporaries in the suburbs, to believe that dirt is somehow revolutionary.

Read the full article here (PDF download).

Here’s a short student documentary about the gentrification of Echo Park, “with a focus on local businesses, real estate, racial tension, and class struggle.” They interview Echo Park residents, including Rickey Kim of Evil Monito in Echo Park.

Though I’m not sure when this video was made exactly (it was uploaded to YouTube recently), it does mention the Echo Park swap meet (at around 8:26), saying: “Every Sunday, Latino families and vendors from other parts of Los Angeles come to the park to sell used clothing, appliances, and other items as part of the Sunday Swap Meet… Due to residents’ complaints, strict ordinances have been placed on the vendors regarding what can be sold. Vendor numbers have diminished while tension persists.”

Just to clear things up, at this time there are currently no ordinances in place for the Sunday swap meets at the lake (let alone restrictions on what items can be sold), and the numbers have actually increased in the past year.

The above video is written and directed by Sinziana Velicescu with the help of Marvin Arias and Chelsea Zeffiro.