For more than 100 years, South Los Angeles has been home to a predominantly black and brown population, rooted in a history of exclusion and segregation that kept non-white residents below Washington Boulevard. Los Angeles is “terribly bifurcated by race,” says South Los Angeles businessman Prophet Walker. “And that’s all a holdover from the red line.”
However, these days the area looks a bit different. As native Tiffany Haddish says, “It has gone very white.”
With a 2017 city report that found a white population of 25.4 percent, compared to 27.9 percent of the black population (in stark contrast to the 80 percent of the black population of the 1970s, who also has been affected by a large influx of Latinos, representing 61 percent of South Los Angeles in 2017). population), you are right. The area is changing in other complicated ways too. While home sales and development are booming, led by the construction of the SoFi Stadium in nearby Inglewood, several grocery stores closed during the pandemic, creating food deserts for the growing population. A $ 2.14 billion Metro line, running from Crenshaw to LAX, is expected to open in 2022, making the area accessible to a whole new group of commuters; More than 16 housing and commercial projects are already planned along its route. And a long-standing battle over the Crenshaw Mall has apparently just come to an end, with the South Los Angeles community group Downtown Crenshaw Rising bidding to buy the mall and rebuild it (incorporating housing, office space, and retail stores). designed to serve black residents of the area) rejected. by the seller, who has ties to Donald Trump. Instead, it was sold to David Schwartzman’s Harridge Development Group, whose financial partner Leonard Blavatnik owns Warner Music Group, with plans for a modern, billion-dollar complex.
“South Los Angeles is in development,” says Corey Matthews, chief operating officer for the local activist group Community Coalition, adding, “We’re not really going to see the payoff from all these investments until probably a few years from now.”
Some condemn gentrification; others celebrate investment and progress; and others, like Haddish, are torn by victories and defeats.
The comedian, who still lives in South Los Angeles and also owns several properties there (including ones she rents for movie shoots), says that after seeing three grocery stores close in her area in the past six months, she has plans. to open your house. own market in the neighborhood. And while, on the one hand, he’s heard rumors that there will be a five-star hotel soon and has seen his property values skyrocket, “It’s kind of complicated,” says Haddish. “I hate to see all these businesses close. I do not know what is going to happen “.
Inglewood native Issa Rae also regards the rapidly changing landscape as “a blessing and a curse,” especially since many in the area point south to Los Angeles. Unsafe and to her personally for changing the public perception of the community, something for which she admits feeling “extremely guilty”, “because I also see gentrification as a result of it.
“I’m like, ‘Oh what have I done!'” Says Rae, who adds, “but I’m also proud of the black businesses we’ve announced and the areas we’ve championed.”
In the midst of all the change, one thing is clear. South LA, known as South Central until 2003, when the LA City Council voted to formally replace the name to help erase a crime-ridden stigma, and its neighborhoods, including Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, View Park, West Adams and Watts, they are hot real estate.
Redfin reports that in July 2021, home prices in West Adams increased 30.3 percent compared to last year, selling for a median price of $ 968,000, while prices in Baldwin Hills Estates and View Park they were up 57.4 percent and 76.7 percent, respectively.
“It’s no secret that South Los Angeles has historically been undervalued, and because of that, there is a higher return on investment. And it has not gone unnoticed by many speculative realtors who are changing houses, along with people who have been excluded from the Westside, ”says Stacy Lewis of the Leimert Park Neighbors Association. “People say, ‘Oh, Eureka!’ Ten miles from the beach, central location, spacious homes. There is a first-rate property. “
Of course, rising real estate prices are now putting South Los Angeles’ ability to stay there at risk. Walker cites the example of a home in Leimert Park that sold for $ 400,000 in 2012 and is listed for $ 1.8 million today. Stratospheric jumps in house prices like this one influenced his creation of Treehouse, a Hollywood hangout space (with another coming soon in Leimert Park) that he started after realizing that most twentysomethings can’t afford to live in. Los Angeles without the help of her parents. , rent controlled apartments or roommates. Shared housing development, Walker says, is “an alternative way to rent at a cheaper price and not drive people out of your neighborhood.”
Walker is quick to note that there is a difference between gentrification and evolution. He echoes concerns about the former, noting that some newcomers have “a total disregard for the existing culture that has been there, that has sustained life” in the area, with its rich history as an art center. black music and entertainment.
He hopes the current wave of investment “will be done carefully to maintain most of the existing community that is there, as well as the cultural fabric that allowed South Los Angeles to go through the history that it has.”
All of this investment comes at a time when the pandemic has been particularly tough on black-owned businesses; GoFundMes have been needed to bring back commodities like The Serving Spoon. The imminent reopening of Leimert Park’s Vision Theater, which has been renovated into a state-of-the-art venue with 800 seats, is a bright cultural spot.
The Matthews Community Coalition is a group that makes sure investment is done the right way, pushing for community members to collaborate with developers to promote local hiring and engage black and brown-owned businesses.
“Changes in communities happen; we are not oblivious to that reality, but the fact that only certain communities seem to be able to resist better than others, I think that is the real heart of the question, ”says Matthews of the group’s desire to ensure that residents of POC are not damaged in the process. “Why does it seem like it only happens to certain types of groups over and over again? You have to think of a larger system. “
He adds: “People want the comforts; they just don’t want all the consequences that come when new things come along and no one has said anything. “
Another recent change in South Los Angeles has been Hollywood’s commitment to him, both on and off screen. In addition to highlighting the area in Unsafe For five seasons, Rae is now an executive producer of the new HBO reality show Sweet Life: Los Angeles, which follows a group of black twentysomethings from Ladera Heights, Inglewood and Watts.
“They gave me a mandate that said: ‘When you finish, I want the people of Lithuania to be in [local eatery] Dulan’s and I can’t get a table because they have fallen in love with it, ‘”he jokes. Sweet Life showrunner Leola Westbrook. “Let’s look at a situation where I think, ‘Why can’t I get a permit to shoot on this or that day?’ Well, because there are four other projects rolling. ”Haddish says he has also seen a huge increase in film production from the area; he is also part of a new wave of Hollywood stars who stayed in South Los Angeles once they reached a huge success. “Just because you’ve been successful doesn’t mean you’re escaping to the wealthy area where no one probably wants you,” says Haddish. “I’d rather stay where I come from and get rich.”
Rae and Unsafe Showrunner Prentice Penny has followed suit, putting down roots in the area. Compass real estate agent Pam Lumpkin, who grew up in View Park, says her client list is filled with writers, producers and showrunners looking to relocate. Last year, one of his listings, a mid-century ranch in Baldwin Hills, was bought by One night in Miami the writer Kemp Powers. He says THR which is a “great driver” of the neighborhood. “Usually to replicate this, you have to go to Laurel Canyon or some place like that that is much more expensive. It’s a charming neighborhood filled with beautiful homes that for generations have been largely black-owned. “And with the Crenshaw Line set to link South Los Angeles with LAX next year, its appeal is likely to continue to grow. luckily, “says Walker,” we will see investments in this area from people who are thoughtful, who not only see this area as a new frontier for capital markets, but a place where both can make money and [keep] the fabric of the community together “.
This story first appeared in the August 25 issue of Newzpanda magazine. Click here for subscribe.