Why L.A.'s Boyle Heights Matters to Anti-Gentrification Activists

The historically Latino working class neighborhood is a frequent touchstone in debates over gentrification in Los Angeles. That history goes back decades and colors residents' perceptions.

August 4, 2018, 1:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Boyle Heights

Kristy Plaza / Flickr

Alfredo Huante unpacks Boyle Heights' long and fraught relationship with L.A. city planning, a story that goes back to the 1960s. The memory of invasive urban renewal, he writes, lingers on despite the fact that Boyle Heights escaped the fate of neighboring "blighted" areas with largely Latino populations.

Huante discusses the rise of community planning in L.A. following the Watts Riots, an early effort to address racial disparities in land use decision making. "Although citizen participation in neighborhood planning was readily encouraged in predominantly white, non-blighted neighborhoods, community plans functioned as the first efforts to solicit and collect barrio residents' input in city planning processes."

Despite those moves, a shift of focus to downtown development under Mayor Tom Bradley again sidelined community planning in Boyle Heights, setting the stage for today's acrimonious debates over development and neighborhood heritage.

Through the late 20th century and into the 21st, Haunte writes, "overarching policies of exclusionary land uses prevailed even if political inclusion improved. With downtown redevelopment jumping the L.A. River into Boyle Heights, ongoing discussions and framing over anti-displacement movements are better understood within this history of dispossession."

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