Thursday, August 18, 2005

Money, Money, Money

I have been watching and listening to the tragic goings on (for everyone on either side of the issue) with respect to the evacuation of the settlement at Gaza Strip – I have friends and acquaintances who are Israeli and who are Palestinian – so I refuse to take sides on this most heated of events. What I do instead is wonder at the history of our people, namely the American people, when it comes to telling folks to get out of the way because they would like their land – which could be argued as one small influence in the occupation of Gaza many moons ago, since it was a preponderance of Americans deciding to move to the homeland who settled there in the first place. Years later, that no longer matters because those born there are citizens through and through – it’s their home and it’s all they know. Who is right and who is wrong is a non-issue – but instead a tragedy for everyone that no one seems able to fix to the advantage of everyone or anyone involved. And of course there is the way in which we are receiving news about this event. I wonder at the way in which our American news media reports heavily on that which effects the economically advantaged – and yes, Gaza is a mighty Tony area of prime beachfront real estate for all who live there – and there is a huge population there – my point is that stories about what happen to low income residents anywhere in the world that happen to get displaced via governmental negotiation or flat-out takeover – get little attention.

For example, Chavez Ravine got airplay on PBS decades after the fact.

Now THERE is a bit of L.A. History with respect to the displacement of citizens that has bugged me for years –

Chavez Ravine was a tight knit community of Mexican Americans, named after Julian Chavez – one of the first L.A. County Supervisors in the 1800’s. There were three neighborhoods – Palo Verde, La Loma and Bishop. They had their own schools and churches and maintained a small-town life within the larger urban metropolis that is Los Angeles proper. It was known as “the poor man’s Shangri La.” That should tell you right there that they were doomed. Poor and Happy are not states of being that should be encouraged to co-exist. In 1949, outsiders who viewed the area as an eyesore, earmarked Chavez Ravine as the location for the Los Angeles City Housing Authority to build a multi-thousand unit public housing project. Residents of Chavez Ravine were told that they would have first choice for these new homes which would include newly rebuilt playgrounds and schools. Under the power of eminent domain, they were paid little, if anything for their properties and were told to evacuate or be forcibly removed by marshals.

Enter McCarthyism or the “Red Scare” of the 50’s. Supporters of the public housing plan viewed it as a good opportunity to provide improved housing for poor L.A. residents. Corporate businesses that wanted the land for their purposes used the Red Scare tactics widely used at the time to characterize the project as a socialist plot. Frank Wilkinson, assistant director of the L.A. City Housing Authority and the man who personally promised the evacuated residents of Chavez Ravine that he would do right by them and that they would have first pick of the new homes, was brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee, lost his job and was sentenced to one year in jail.

The housing project never happened. The land was eventually sold on the cheap to the Brooklyn Dodgers, who built Dodger Stadium, removing the last of the families that had refused to leave. Anyone protesting the removal of the remaining residents for the building of the stadium was accused by public figures (like Ronald Reagan) of being "baseball haters." April 10, 1962, Dodger Stadium officially opened.

NOW – years later, rumors abound that at least one wealthy developer has designs to raze Dodger Stadium in order to move the baseball stadium to downtown nearer to Staples Center and the new hub of activity that is building up and around downtown. The proposal for the land where the Stadium sits? Yup. High-end housing to match all the other aesthetically-challenged high-end apartment buildings going up all over town in place of what stood there before. Anybody seen those Canary yellow aparments over at Hollywood and Western, or those baby-shit yellow “Palazzo” apartments over by Park La Brea? Ew. (Incidentally, Park La Brea was originally government subsidized low income housing for returning WWII vets – now privatized, repainted and high-priced “luxury apartments and townhouses.” Where’d the vets go?)

Apparently there is a tragic shortage of luxury housing in Los Angeles. Little, if anything, is said in any of the papers however about the former low-income residents from any of these places that meet the wrecking ball who are being displaced to benefit the Hollywood Re-Beautification Project.

Ah, Capitalism.


Blogger Seamus said...

More cases of them that gets gets more. The disparity between the have and the have-nots is just becoming more and more apparent.

18 August, 2005 13:12  
Blogger Catharine said...

Amazing post, Mil. I reserve the right to come back to you for references for the Environmental Landscapes class I'm taking in my Fall (and final!) undergrad quarter. (Can I get an 'amen, sistuh!')

I was just thinking about this quality in LA. My daughter has an audition tomorrow morning, and when I saw the address of the casting agent, I almost died. It's about five houses down from where I lived as a second-grader. I attended Carthay Circle elementary, and had my first boyfriend (the lanky, dashing -- for a second grader -- Richard Finn), and took piano lessons. I also saw some of the most pivotal movies of my childhood at the gorgeous, palacious Carthay Circle Theatre(, which was torn down in
72 and replaced with a glass-and-steel office building.

It breaks my heart. The Carthay was one of Disney's favorite theatres. He premiered "Snow White" there in 1927. So much a part of the Disney legacy was the Carthay, that the Disney Corp. collected parts of the torn-down Carthay and installed them as an attraction in Walt Disney World ( Now, if we want to get a taste of early California architecture and interior design, we have to go to Florida.

I love this town. I hate this town. I love this town.


18 August, 2005 16:49  
Anonymous pia said...

Thanks. For several things: for being a great writer; for telling great stories and for knowing that McCarthy wasn't only about the Hollywoood 10--and you live in LA a place you know I love for reasons even I can't really comprehend

Last year (before blogging) I found out how many people I knew who are highly educated and articulate thought that McCarthy only went after people in film.

About the housing costs: LA's the only place in America that's close to New York-and that's saying a lot. When I was in Santa Monica in March there were empty lots that are now almost completed apartment buildings and houses.

It was past scary, it was so frenzied and expensive; though you get more space and land or a deck in LA which is a big thing to me.

I'm trying to wake up and babbling!

19 August, 2005 07:12  
Blogger Laura said...

Awesome post...we had something similar here in the Twin Cities (well before we moved here, 20 years ago). Low income housing was razed in order to built a gorgeous new convention center. It was supposed to be so much better for the economy. People were moved to "temporary shelters" which, 20 years later, have proven to be not temporary at all.

As for Gaza...I can see why you wouldn't want to take sides. It's always harder when you actually know people involved (which I don't). From my admittedly ignorant point of view, I can see how if back in the 60s, if I were a Palentinian whose family had lived in the Gaza strip for 10 generations, and then my family got evicted so that Jews from Chicago and New York and so forth could "settle" there, I might hold a grudge for the next 40 years and then pass that grudge along to my children. It's that cycle of victimhood, opression, revenge, and violence that goes on and on and on...who is the victim and who is the oppressor in the end? It's really hard to say.

19 August, 2005 08:23  
Blogger R said...

Tonight on the news there was a story of a very old georgian house in Ft. Collins Colorado that was being moved so that the county could build an old folks home on the land. It was private property but if they decide that your property could best be used by the entire community in another way they can take it. Historical register be damned.
I feel sorry for the children of both countries. This is not going to resolve anything. The holes are being dug too deep on both sides.
Great blog. Again.

19 August, 2005 21:54  
Blogger Pat Kirby said...

Great posting. We've gone through the same thing here in Albuquerque, with the "if we build it, a baseball team will come" mentality. The first team did the blackmail thing, demanding a new stadium. In the end, they left, lured by another (unfortunate) city who gave what they wanted. Then Alb still ended up dropping tons of money into a stadium for the Isotopes.

Meanwhile westside sprawl runs unchecked, lots of houses, no infrastructure.

24 August, 2005 10:00  

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