Gentrification has been a very popular topic, and the main discussion seems to center on the benefits versus the drawbacks. Thousands of articles about gentrification will rant about how terrible it is, and the other half will tell you the benefits. Therefore, it’s challenging to take a stand. Although there are numerous examples of gentrification affecting a community positively, it can also affect that same community negatively.
I live in East L.A. which is fairly close to Downtown Los Angeles. Many, including me, are grateful to live so close to Downtown L.A. because it’s a hot spot for job opportunity and employment. Downtown LA is home to the Arts District, Chinatown, Fashion District, Flower District, and more. It is a beautiful metropolitan area but it does have a variety of poverty-stricken areas like Skid Row. Skid Row is an impoverished area inhabited by homeless people and people who have been forgotten by society. It is comprised of 50 city blocks and it borders popular stores like The Last Bookstore. It’s simply so strange that all three social classes, lower, middle, and upper, can coexist in the same area. Residents living in a ridiculously expensive apartment building can look out their window and will most likely see homeless people outside.
So what is the solution?
City planners in Downtown L.A. recently began remodeling Skid Row, building upscale apartments that push the homeless people to surrounding cities. An L.A. Times journalist, Anh Do, reported a homeless man that stated, “We have no one to turn to. This happens to us over and over. I go from one city to this city and now I’ll have to find another city.” Ever since the remodeling began, a great amount of homeless people flooded into the small surrounding neighborhoods, like East L.A., due to the Metro lines being nearby and easily accessible. Just a few years ago I was able to run at my neighborhood park after dark without feeling uneasy. Now I don’t feel as safe. A lot of things have changed since then. I’ve witnessed drug addicts having breakdowns, violent fights, and people getting arrested.
Even so, throughout the years, the streets around here have vastly changed for the better. I live just a few blocks away from the Commerce center, which in its own way has been gentrified before. There used to be a Mexican restaurant there named “Juan Pollo”. It was very small and it wasn’t very popular. It always looked empty and not many people would actually eat there. That restaurant got closed down and eventually became a Starbucks. Now there’s almost never space to park there and the line for the drive-thru is always full. Even so, this isn’t a bad thing. Closing down a business that doesn’t gather much revenue for the community and turning that into a business that economically uplifts the community is a positive thing.
Whittier Boulevard, the long and iconic street full of small businesses, has improved throughout the years too. They added a NIKE store which is pretty great because it represents our community with shirts that say “East L.A”. Yet, there’s always a body guard stationed around it 24 hours a day. This shows how the state of a community can be changed but the people around won’t always change.Needless to say, gentrification affects places differently, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
Gentrification hit Mexico City for the worse. As a child visiting Mexico D.F., I often loved to visit a beautiful forest located there. It was truly heartbreaking when I went back recently to discover that they’re cutting it down and turning it into a golf course. Sometimes gentrification is great, it can help certain places gain income. It could turn impoverished places into something better. Just as well, however, gentrification could lead to the loss of culture and the displacement of people and nature. The reason gentrification is such a controversial topic is because it could mean extreme or little change. There’s no way you could take a stance without knowing exactly how it will affect a community.