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Herman-Wurmfeld sits in a circle with other assembly members at the Polka Dot Plaza, a few yards away from the Mornings Nights Café, a kind of headquarters for skaters, bicyclists and artists. On the table is a discussion to carry out a rolling hunger strike in solidarity with California prison inmates, as well as the fact that El Conquistador, the beloved Mexican restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, is closing, and a posh eatery may replace it.
"Really, what we're talking about is gentrification," Matthew Mooney says. "I'm not against change, and you can't really stop gentrification, but you can mitigate it."
Frances Tran, 30, a community activist who's getting her doctorate in molecular biology at USC, starts worrying about one of her favorite local shops, United Bread & Pastry. "I have a feeling that if it ever leaves," she says, "I will leave."
Herman-Wurmfeld, wearing his trademark faded purple fedora and "toe" shoes, chimes in, positing that change doesn't necessarily mean another sparkling new restaurant or lounge that offers an $18 martini. "Real change is improving a park," he says, adding that gentrification is "imperialism."
That last remark would make many of Herman-Wurmfeld's older colleagues on the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council cringe. But his younger comrades on the Silver Lake Assembly give him "jazz hands."
** Correction: The group known for popularizing jazz hands is actually the Zapatistas of Mexico, and the practice is often traced to the Quakers.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.