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Downtown Gentrification Gets Website

by johnk Thursday, Jun. 21, 2001 at 10:20 AM
johnk@woodstock.com

NewDowntown.com is going to launch, marking another phase in the gentrification of downtown LA. Watch the marginalization of the poor and nonwhite, as it happens!

City planners and liberals love it when the urban core becomes "gentrified," or populated by the middle class, but for radical leftists (and even some right wingers) it's a dirty word. The gentry's new money is usually accompanied by a revision of the city's history which carefully neglects the poor people who are moved out of the city to make room for the gentry.

Until recently, the two main boosters for Downtown LA's gentrification were the LA Downtown News, a free weekly that reads like New Times for city planning nerds, and Joel Kotkin of the LA Times, a pro-small-business multiculturalist who practically orgasms verbally when writing about immigrant entrepreneurs. The newdowntown.com site seems to be a progression toward something less celebratory. I suspect we're going to start seeing a lot more about creating a "new" downtown instead of documenting what's already there. Their revisionist history will cover for the demographic damage they're going to assist.

What's already there aren't just the cool old buildings and high ceilinged lofts that yuppies can't seem to get enough of. What's there is a preexisting culture and economy that's going to be pushed out of town, and into the suburbs.

Generally, moving from the city to the suburb is considered a "step up", but with the new downtown gentrification, it's a big step down. Downgraded social services, downgraded public transpo options, downgraded community, downgraded employment options. Suburban cities, unlike LA, don't have a social infrastructure that can handle low income people. Despite this, the number of poor in the 'burbs continues to grow.

Every time I go to the hardware store, I get "spare changed" by a homeless person. When I visit friends, I'm confronted with drug dealing and street prostitution. People have bars on their windows. School performance is declining. I'm not talking about downtown LA. I'm talking about Pico Rivera, Panorama City, Alhambra, and Montebello. Poverty in the 'burbs is already a real problem.

Gentrifying downtown is not eliminating poverty. It only moves it out of town, into the 'burbs, and into the poorest parts of the close ones first, where the rents are low. These are the cities like Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, Compton, Palms, Pacoima, East LA, NW Pasadena, and Eagle Rock.

The role of newdowntown.com appears to be filtering out this reality, to create a new downtown free of homeless, the poor, old people, and low end businesses. They're creating a new history that'll give new residents the intellectual armor to deflect the arrows criticism shot at them.

Already, their lone page shows off a limited view of downtown: old architecture, a young white woman, loft spaces, a party, and language about "revitalizing downtown" and an "urban lifestyle".

They say they want to make it a better place for "everyone". The question is, does "everyone" include the transient residents, the homeless, the taxi dancers and prostitutes, the CD bootleggers? Does it include people who don't communicate in English? Does it include older people? Does it include the people who are going to be displaced by the yuppies?

I'm not bashing newdowntown.com, yet. I'm just telling you all: get your bashing bats out.


[Disclaimer: the author is a suburbanite.]

PS . The LA Downtown News reports that a new development is being constructed that will resemble an old building, and will sell out loft-style condos. That's right, they're making a new structure which simulates an old warehouse converted into loft residences. Warehouse conversions, in turn, originally simulated warehouse spaces that artists were modifying so they could live in them. The artists, in turn, were simulating, in part, the production of industrial goods in areas zoned for commercial use.
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More News on Downtown gentrification

by marc Thursday, Jun. 21, 2001 at 1:38 PM

The following is an article from the CalArts Student Newspaper on the CalArts Contribution to DownTown Gentrification


REDCAT Theatre will be opening soon!! Imagine packing a lunch,
spinning off campus, dropping on to the 5, driving in the spring
breeze for a good clip, then arriving at this newest of CalArts
outposts. Getting through the crowds should be tough. I guess they'll
need tight security so that the sort of soccer hooliganism that occurs
at other sporting events doesn't occur at this bastion of culture. God
knows what would stop those UCLA or Art Center urchins from a
pre-game assault on the CalArts Supporters unwittingly supping at the
pre-show tailgate parties. The successful MFA Art Department
grad-show in Santa Monica shows the need for a place for the school
to show off its first round draft picks, and what a better place to do it
then a stadium named for our proudest benefactor, Disney. And as
ArtForum critic Jan Tumlir said at the Santa Monica Gallery, "the
artwork is not legitimized in the gallery, what is legitimized is the gallery
and CalArts."
The stadium, built by Frank Gehry, has been selected by the press
to become the new symbol of Los Angeles. Along with the nearby
Catholic Cathedral, it will become part of a new, "regenerated"
downtown, with pedestrian walks and democratically open access to
strolling gardens. Its not that their aren't anecdotal ties between the
Disney Hall, Eli Broad and the recent mayoral race that are interesting
topics of discussion in this essay. Why, its amazing that CalArts has
skillfully navigated itself into the symbolic crystallization of the much
hailed progressive revival in LA politics.
Nor is it boring to question whether the design of either the Church
or the Hall suit the existing downtown community, whether it would be
better suited to put the monies towards better schools (how about
dealing with the New Belmont School debacle that is just down the
road). Or to discuss why a grand temple to the arts with its
monumental ambitions is better then several cultural sites that mimic
or ingratiate themselves to the nearby homeless, Korean, Chinese, or
Hispanic communities. None of these questions are dull, its just that I
want to provocatively imagine the soon to be completed REDCAT
theatre as akin to CalArts having its own Division 1 Football team.
Why? Because they may function similarly; the school has been
pumping in hours of administrational time and money towards a
project that aims more than anything else to increase the schools
name recognition. In all the conversations I have had with people
about the project, no one was exactly sure how students would have
access to the space. There have been discussions of how the space
might be used as a theatre to premiere some of the "better" student
performances, or as a space to display graduate works, but 2 years
out from the projects completion, no one knows how the space will
function for CalArts students. Interestingly though, what people tell
me what they do know concretely is that the space will have a
manager who will have large blocks of time to bring in non-CalArts
acts that supposedly represent the CalArts ideal. So, what's wrong
with an all singing, dancing, architecturally grand, painting, sculpting,
netting, advertising REDCAT Hall? Maybe nothing. But maybe we
should wonder what could have been accomplished in the time that
Steven Lavine spent fundraising for this project. What sort of
problems Dean Houchin may have caused if he wasn't helping put
together the new office space for the 33 new employees dealing with
the REDCAT? Would our library be a little better? Would we have
responded more quickly to those power outages? And from another
angle, should a building from the school only represent a select few
ideas of what is the "best work" from CalArts.
These questions are being asked at half-time. I'm not sure which
team I'm routing for.
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Links

by JK Thursday, Jun. 21, 2001 at 2:15 PM

I noticed that on that newdowntown.com website, if you visit the calendar page, you can submit your own items for inclusion on the calendar by emailing ian@supplycurve.com . If you visit supplycurve.com, you find that it's an uber-yuppie online boutique, where you can buy all sorts of crazy, expensive, unnecessary shite (my favorite, the "Grammy Winner Gift Pack," for the internationally famous multi-million dollar rock star in YOUR life).

In my mind, this means two things: 1) The fact that an employee of supplycurve.com runs their calendar shows that they are supporters of the gentrified downtown. 2) Any protest event against the "revitalization" should be emailed to ian@supplycurve.com , either to try to legitimately get it on the calendar (make it sound like a hip social event, and LA hipsters might mistakenly attend), or to show the planners that you ain't pleased.
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