By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
When Villaraigosa distributed opinion surveys to neighborhood councils last year, the panels in South Los Angeles identified the need for new amenities as their No. 1 policy priority, narrowly ahead of public safety, which tops the polls in many other neighborhoods. The Starbucks at Crenshaw and 37th Street began to satisfy that need, part of a new shopping center that houses a handful of new businesses — Washington Mutual, Big 5, Verizon. “You have all this new development happening in our community, and what that means is jobs for our young people,” Johnson said. “What that means is, now we have options to spend our disposable income. What that means is, property values go up.”
Or to put it another way, Johnson and his many political allies are looking for something akin to gentrification — an influx of investment that will transform the neighborhood. Or maybe they are already achieving it. After all, Los Angeles city councilmen Herb Wesson and Bernard Parks both want to bring higher-density, for-sale housing to Crenshaw. Parks has been particularly adamant about bringing in market-rate homes — not a spate of rent-subsidized complexes — to expand opportunities for first-time homebuyers.
Wesson and Parks plan on linking the development of new condos to the opening, possibly as soon as 2010, of a light-rail line down Exposition Boulevard. Janeiro, the real estate agent, is equally excited, saying Westside rail riders won’t be able to ignore the beautiful neighborhoods of South Los Angeles as they pass through on their way to downtown. But here comes that nagging question: If the neighborhood improves that much, will the people who live there now be able to afford to stay?
Standing on the sidelines of the Starbucks opening was Steven Anderson, a social worker employed by the nearby Goodwill store on Crenshaw. He was clearly impressed by the event, and the arrival of the new businesses. But he said his own neighborhood, at Normandie Avenue and Adams Boulevard near USC, is seeing its own positive changes.
“Middle-class people are moving in, which is a good thing,” he said. “They’re more community involved. There’s more people walking at night. And people feel more comfortable going to the parks. The parks are just overwhelmed now because more people are playing in them.”
Perhaps Anderson is experiencing the sweet spot for gentrification — when things slowly start to get better, but haven’t gotten out of control. To live in a neighborhood that is showing promise, making itself better — planting trees, fixing up houses, maybe even building a rail line — can be exciting. But in Los Angeles, at the turn of the 21st century, you can’t freeze that moment in time. Whatever appears today could soon be gone, washed away by the deluge.?
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