the irony and the ecstasy

by urquiza!

gentrification avenue

  • york and avenue 50. the first visible epicenter of gentrification in highland park. sin turista photographer documenting the boulevard's changing landscape.
  • york and avenue 50. café de leche is the first visible epicenter of gentrification in highland park. the textural elements of the neighbourhood change from spanish to english.
  • york and avenue 50. during the predominantly latino era, foot traffic was about (15-20) people per hour. currently, it can easily reach (50-60) people per hour in this new consumer driven economy.
  • york and avenue 50. a visible and audible change occurs on york around this time. spanish is no longer heard and english becomes the predominant street sounds.
  • york and avenue 50. the first visible epicenter of gentrification in highland park. the wealth of real estate agents and their pugs becomes quite prevalent.
  • york and avenue 50. the signs show a clash of aesthetics, SUVs and luxury cars in the background to a pug with its own hand woven sarape surround the local elderly man.
  • york and avenue 50. the once chinese kareoke restaurant, then "the wild hare" which shunned the street and locals with its exclusivity, the space eventually became "the york" which seems to appropriate the street scene.
  • york and avenue 50. the first visible epicenter of gentrification in highland park. a survivor of this wave of gentrification is zeppelin music which pays homage to and services the latino metal and rock n' roll tribes of highland park.
  • york and avenue 50. you can buy a piñata online for $30-$60. here it is $12-$15 and still over priced if you consider its origins further east in the city.
  • york and avenue 50. the first visible epicenter of gentrification in highland park. every family has one aunt that wants to be a kardassian... even latino families.
  • york and avenue 50. the first visible epicenter of gentrification in highland park. less than a block away change begins to show itself within a years time.
  • york and avenue 50. the store front and glass shop operated by artist cathy mulligan, a gentrifying force with her imposition of a parklet on local business, gets displaced for a more affluent artists and contemporary gallery space.
  • york and avenue 50. the first visible epicenter of gentrification in highland park. the less timid local residents walk the boulevard looking for inclusion in the new economy.
  • york and avenue 50. the less timid local residents walk the boulevard looking for inclusion in the new economy. and a few others still find it the fastest way home or to the bus stop.
  • york and avenue 50. the expressionist montage "revitalisation, gentrification, displacement" illustrates the murky and confusing process of gentrification through the aesthetics of the street.
  • figueroa street. the greyhound becomes the epicenter of the figueroa gentrification wave. it displaces one of the few remaining pupuserias along figueroa.
  • figueroa street. just a couple doors next to the greyhound is one of two county facilities where hundreds of local low income residents access health and mental health services.
  • figueroa street. highland park was a sub-economy of the surrounding wealthy enclaves. the gardeners and street vendors are a highly visible workforce on the streets and panederias of highland park.
  • figueroa street. highland park was a sub-economy of the surrounding wealthy enclaves of pasadena and glendale. the latino urbanism developed as a result of the local workforce importing its native value system to meet its own needs.
  • figueroa street. twenty-something latinos who have grown up in a spanish language barrio and undergone partial assimilation have come back to their ancestral homes after college to find they are not welcomed in their own communities.
  • figueroa street. pioneers from the creative class developed an underground scene long before the whispers of gentrification began. it is exemplified by mr t's bowl a popular music venue held over from the 1990s.
  • figueroa street. latino urbanism developed as a result of the local workforce importing its native value system to meet its own needs. avenue 56 and figueroa is revealing itself to be at social center for a variety of segments in the community.
  • figueroa street. “latino urbanism” or the vibrant street culture developed as a result of the local workforce importing its native value system to meet its own needs.
  • figueroa street. gentrification affects the elderly living on fixed incomes with rising rents. we are finding many becoming homeless because they are unwilling and unable to leave someplace they called home for so many years.
  • figueroa street. most mexicans agree the government is corrupt, so the mexican flag is considered a cultural symbol that is part mythology to a post colonial people.
  • figueroa street. the length of figueroa supports a wide variety of subcultures. on the southern portion of figueroa, cypress park begins to see the first wave of gentrification as well as in nearby lincoln heights.
  • figueroa street. this strip of businesses are closed sunday afternoons as a traditional day for church and family with the exception of the fruit and helado stand. new businesses tend to sell more alcohol and keep later hours.
  • figueroa street. "experienced cook needed..." one of the rationalisations for gentrification is at it brings jobs and economic revitalisation. however, the new economy devours the old one in a quest for profits and does nothing to include or integrate the existing.
  • figueroa street. an encounter between new and old residents. the latina women is inquiring about pop physique services who's ads feature provocative close ups of women's thin bikini clad butts.
  • figueroa street. highland park has a 38% poverty rate. no new development or city plan includes addressing their presence in the community.

images are from approximately four months, starting in the spring of 2015 as highland park sleeps through the impending upheaval. its business as usual. analysing the situation in retrospect, it appears the collective consciousness of a group of land owners can see the changes and are starting to visualise the profit potentials in their minds. by early the following year many properties are up for sale. and, by the end of 2015 the landscape will be extraordinarily different.

we start on york boulevard across the street from cafe de leche where the first visible sign of gentrification arrived around 2009. its opening is a major event and can be qualified as revitalisation for sometime. it is the first new retail to open with a complete makeover, cafe de leche’s owners envisioned it as a multi-cultural and multi-racial hub. the aesthetic was decidedly contemporary and had more in common with an industrial upscale swork in eagle rock than a cafe antigua on figueroa. today it is fairly multi-cultural in some respects showing art from avenue 50 studio’s chicano artists, while the racial diversity of its customers is limited to their economic diversity, that is wealthy white and assimilated people of colour.

other businesses such as the restaurant “the wild hare” that displaced the chinese karaoke bar and restaurant may have opened and closed its doors before cafe de leche opened or, clare graham and the mor/york gallery that has been there since the 90s. neither operated traditional hours, so their presence went largely unnoticed. however, in around 2006, mor/york painted their name on the building exterior in a modern sans serif typeface and it was quickly tagged the next day. that low level resistance did not last long when johnny’s bar and the investor driven york opened up. the artist brian malman also contributed fuel to the change by staking claim for the art and creative class by appropriating the empty gas station lot signage. malman, an eagle rock resident replaced the old mobile station’s with his art statement, “form, line, here, art gallery,” in what appeared to be a support of the kristi engle gallery that relocated from downtown. in a coffee driven exercise i performed traffic counts from the corner of cafe de leche. in 2009 it was fair to say you could see an obvious 15-20 people of colour per hour coming and going from the bus stops to retail and the residential. today in 2016 it has become a destination street for consumers from around the city. its traffic is easily 50-60 people per hour mostly from their own vehicles or walking from residential.

figueroa street runs north and south. it is seemingly similar to an outsider’s eye. however, it has a stronger economic base that many of the businesses on york. the architectural scale is grander, the boulevard wider, lot sizes have more square footage and has institutional businesses. york developed as a tributary of figueroa. at one time figueroa had a rail line shuffling materials from eagle rock to los angeles. it is the elder of the two streets with the first church being built here in 1900 and with several other destinations such as the highland theatre, the ebell club, the mason’s lodge and many more local restaurants. york’s historic destination hubs share a similarity with the current spaces. mor/york gallery was formerly an open air style safeway store, while café de leche was a mid-century diner.

the greyhound becomes the epicenter of the figueroa gentrification wave. it displaces a sleepy, but cavernous pupuseria that served 99 cent pupusas and aguas frescas. a self-employed gardener could feed his family for twenty to thirty dollars. in contrast the new greyhound serves $11 draft beers and primarily serves a local and exclusive audience of assimilated latinos and wealthy whites from the hills. its presence was preceded by future studio by many years. however, the home of chicken boy as it is also known had deep community roots and accessible art despite being associated with the creative class that dominated york boulevard. the fitness gym pop physique opens shortly after the greyhound and foreshadows the future of figueroa with a clash of aesthetics and lifestyles.

because the previously mentioned scale and proliferation of figueroa’s “latino urbanism” it has not folded as quickly. highland park developed as a sub-economy of the surrounding wealthy enclaves of pasadena and glendale providing them with a domestic labour force. the gardeners and street vendors are highly visible on the streets and at the panederias and mercados of highland park, but we speculate they are undercounted in statistical data because of their cash economy. the population imported their native value system which is what we are now calling “latino urbanism” as a means to meet its own community needs. food service and entertainment make up 10%, manufacturing another 10%, but the largest workforce in highland park is clearly the health, education and social workers at twenty one percent. all these working class segments are being destabilised by the shifting wealth in the economy. unfortunately, unless they are land owners, they will be locked out of any benefits that will result from this economic shift. the same scenario awaits the core businesses of inexpensive restaurants, clothing stores, pharmacies, hair salons and dollar stores that anchor the vibrant street life. they will come under threat in the following year when values increase even further.

(see image captions for more info)

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