They say that Los Angeles is a collection of suburbs in search of a city. That may be true, but these days one thing unites nearly all of them: an overwhelming fear of change.
It used to be that NIMBYs fought against things that brought down property values. Now, with home prices soaring ever higher, activists can be seen fighting anything and everything that threatens to alter the culture of their neighborhood or their way of life – whether that be longer commute times or taller buildings or even hipster coffee shops.
Here are four scourges ravaging L.A. neighborhoods these days:
4. Bike Lanes
Ruining: The Westside
Residents in City Councilman Mike Bonin's district are sharpening their pitchforks over a bunch of new bike lanes. Last week, at a raucous Mar Vista Community Council meeting discussing new bike lanes on Venice Boulevard, bike lane opponents were shouting things like “Change it back!” and “Restore Venice!” and “Recall!” according to StreetsblogLA. Others said: “We want our lane back now,” “L.A. runs on four tires and an internal combustion engine” and “This is not Amsterdam, this is Mar Vista.”
Indeed, we hear the weed isn't half as good in Amsterdam.
That same day, a lawsuit was filed by a condo homeowners association against the city over Playa del Rey's “road diets,” which consist of new bike lanes and additional parking spots — at the expense of fewer lanes for cars. The complaint alleges that the implementation of the road diets has created “traffic congestion of epic proportions throughout Playa del Rey, to the general detriment of the residents.” The diets, says the suit, have caused commuters to cut through residential streets, “thereby posing an increased danger level to children and animals.” The suit also frets that the slimmer streets will lengthen police and fire department response times and prevent people from visiting “convenient restaurants, coffee shops, convenience stores and the like.”
Won't someone think of the convenience stores?! For shame, Mike Bonin.
3. Coffee Shops
Ruining: Boyle Heights, maybe the Arts District too
It's been nearly a year since activists in Boyle Heights demanded that all art galleries pull up stakes and leave their neighborhood, on the logic that art galleries cause gentrification. Since then, the movement has been met with mixed success. One nonprofit gallery, PSSST, did close. But others remain, despite being heckled and vandalized. And property values in the neighborhood continue to rise.
Recently, protesters turned their attention to a new and more menacing threat: coffee shops. Specifically, a new hole-in-the-wall hipster coffee shop called Weird Wave Coffee, owned by two white dudes and an immigrant from El Salvador. Yes, the protestors ignored a payday lender next door, a McDonald's around the corner and a nearby Starbucks, which is apparently “post-gentrification,” as Leonardo Vilchis, director of Union de Vecinos, told the Los Angeles Times.
This week, someone smashed Weird Wave's front-door window. And just across the river, someone vandalized an under-construction Philz Coffee in the Arts District, spraypainting its white brick walls and smashing some of its windows. Coincidence?
No one would accuse Venice Beach of gentrifying. That ship sailed a long time ago. But Venice residents are just as anxious as those across the city in Boyle Heights. They feel besieged on multiple fronts: by Airbnb, by Snapchat, by mega-mansions, by affordable housing. You name it, Venice is pissed off about it
Last weekend, the Wall Street Journal published a story calling Venice the hardest neighborhood in America to build housing. Developers say that neighborhood opposition to development constricts the housing supply, which inflates the price of housing, which is what turned Venice into Beverly Hills, basically.
A couple days later, L.A. Times columnist Robin Abcarian took the time to highlight a different concern: that one time when she drove from her house near the Venice Pier to Blue Bottle Coffee on Abbott Kinney and found a great parking spot after circling the block “a few times” but she was yelled at for blocking traffic. Twice.
What may sound like a pretty good morning to you and me was the jumping-off point for a curious little rant: “How 'progress' is wrecking Los Angeles neighborhoods.” By scare-quotes progress, she seems to mean evil developers: “Developers seem characterologically unable to conceive projects that are sensitive from the get-go. It’s always: Burst through the door with a ridiculously overambitious plan, then scale back when the inevitable NIMBY explosion occurs.”
Never mind the fact that NIMBYs in Venice are fighting an affordable housing project to be built on a parking lot; never mind that ugly, industrial, modernist box houses are precisely what you get when you raise property values by constricting supply. And never mind the fact that Abcarian complains about “gridlock” while driving her car and circling the block twice instead of walking or paying for parking.
There is one inescapable conclusion from this story: Blue Bottle Coffee is ruining Venice.
Who is making Venice a “gridlock-plagued tourist destination” when residents are driving one mile to get coffee and circling for parking? pic.twitter.com/zrW28WtHbQ
— Alissa Walker (@awalkerinLA) July 19 1. Social Media “Star” Jake Paul
Ruining: Beverly Grove
And then along comes Jake Paul to put everything in perspective.
Kudos to KTLA Channel 5 for producing one of the most remarkable TV news segments I've ever seen, about Paul — “a social media star with over 8.5 million followers on platforms like Instagram and YouTube” — and his “wild stunts and antics” disturbing neighbors and drawing hordes of swooning teenage girls.
“We used to be a really nice quiet street and now we're just this, like, war zone,” Paul's neighbor Maytal Dahan told Channel 5. “We're families here. And we're more than happy to have them live here if they're respectful of their neighbors, but they're not.”
The neighbors, according to Channel 5, are considering filing a lawsuit.
Paul's response: “Honestly, yeah, it’s terrible. … It’s a bad situation. No, I feel bad for them, for sure. There’s nothing we can do, though. The Jake Paulers [Paul’s fans] are the strongest army out there. Dab.”
He later tweeted another thought:
A modest proposal: that every neighborhood in Los Angeles be forced to live with Jake Paul for two weeks, so that they may know what it's really like to be ruined.