A Love Letter to the Community I’m Gentrifying

A Commute

I sleepily stumble on cracked pavement to the metro stop each morning. Rubbing my eyes, I make sure to step over the broken glass, abandoned furniture, and on certain occasions, a pile of human shit. I wait and board the Gold Line at the Lincoln/Cypress station and ride to the next stop. During that ride, the sunrise is painting Los Angeles in streaks of amber tones. The sunlight reflects off enormous office buildings and blinds my vision for a brief moment. All traces of my neighborhood, Lincoln Heights, have vanished.

Working in Santa Monica has its perks: close proximity to the beach, the swarming shops of the Third Street Promenade, and bars filled with social climbers. Some moments are authentic and some moments feel fabricated in Santa Monica. Fabricated because these locations were placed for our enjoyment and have no deeper meaning beyond that. But at the end of the work day, I have to say goodbye and return home.

The moment the Gold Line jolts to a stop back at the Lincoln/Cypress station, I’m greeted by the sunset. I hustle back to my home, switching to Spanish along the way, and pass by taco stands, graffitied buildings, and a garage sale of 90s clothing. I clutch the inside of my hoodie as if I’m holding something heavy to scare off anyone who gets too close. Nothing usually happens, but it’s always best to be on-guard.

I moved here from Texas in the fall of 2017. At first, I noticed subtle changes in the culture and demographics. A large Democrat base and the Spanish words are slightly different. My local friend called me out for calling the state “Cali” which is an irredeemable offense in certain circles.

An Article

Eventually, I began to see the tones of the cities in Los Angeles. Santa Monica is different from downtown which is different from the Valley — etc. I could experience a demographic shift in less than an hour and a half. This effect still stays with me each time I make my daily commute. A thought lingers. I am an invading outsider. A pathogen in the bloodstream.

This morning I read the following article from the LA Times:

A Dream Displaced: Part 2

Part 1 of this series follows Jose, a boy diagnosed with autism, and his parents’ fear of being deported. Taking place in Lincoln Heights, I was excited to read more about the community I live in. The article ended on a bittersweet note but I felt better of a person for gaining some insight for my neighbors around me.

Part 2 shoveled a hole in my heart. Focusing explicitly on gentrification in Lincoln Heights, this article focuses on those less fortune who have moved due to rising rent prices by viscous landlords. One 89-year-old woman was pushed out after living there for 55 years. I was overcome with dread after reading this. And a part of me knows that I am contributing to her misfortunes.

Broadway is one of the oldest streets in Los Angles, dating back to 1849. It’s also the nearest community hub near my home in Lincoln Heights. You don’t have to drive far to see the impact of gentrification. Hipster coffee shops with plants and unique architecture fill Broadway. You can see gentrification spilling into new areas of the community.

Lincoln Heights is the epitome of the American Dream — where immigrants come to stay and establish a foundation for a better life. Today, as the above article reports, 74% of residents in Lincoln Heights live in fear of being evicted. Another statistical fact to include is that 70% of the residents are Latino. In terms of income, this area has a median household income of $30,379 and the majority of residents have never completed high school. With the exception of being Latino, I am in the minority for most of these statistics.

A Solution

I’m trying to save up to eventually move closer to work. I may be a visitor for now, but eventually, people with higher paying jobs will swoop in like predators for the cheapest housing. I plan to continue supporting local businesses and saying “Buenos días” each morning to those around me. My commute is nearly 20 miles and I will want to eliminate most of that milage in the future. But for now, I’m in Lincoln Heights.

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