Monday, March 1, 2010

"Hard" and "soft" aspects of neighborhood confronted in Northeast L.A.

An L.A. City Council decision to stop the creation of any new auto-related businesses (and force existing businesses to comply with a more strict code) has invigorated discussion of neighborhood identity in Cypress Park and Glassell Park, two neighborhoods just northeast of downtown. The issues highlighted in this L.A. Times article closely mirror those discussed by Carlo Rotella in his chapter The Old Neighborhood:
What creates the identity of a neighborhood? Is it business ("capital")? Class? Culture?
Are there certain goals to which all neighborhoods should strive?
Does gentrification hurt the identity of a neighborhood?

These neighborhoods are historically industrial and working-class, and some feel that they have come to be defined by their auto-culture. The new legislation on this has introduced two differing viewpoints. Some residents think that this is a chance to shake off some (what-they-feel-to-be) negative aspects of their community, and improve. This view is laid out by Councilman Ed Reyes:
" "By phasing out these auto-related uses that are outdated, we bring forward new opportunities to change the landscape, build up trees, shrubs, landscaping," he said. "And it helps neutralize the thousands of cars that travel through that neighborhood every day." "
Others feel that this is a case of politicians and residents striving to fit a mold for their neighborhood that flies in the face of its heritage. Ed Ramirez, who manages a used car lot, argues that his community is represented and buoyed by the auto-culture:
" "Those tire businesses and smog checks -- they lend a lot of jobs to people in the community," he said. "What are you going to do? Take all the auto businesses and put them out in the country? Everybody wants to be Beverly Hills. This has been a working-class area for years, and I don't see it changing." "

This is an intricate issue that is complicated by the one thing that is always present in a neighborhood: change. What develops here is a discussion over the ways a community will change next.

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