East Hollywood Remembers 1992: How Santa Monica boulevard especially holds memories of the unrest

The original version of this article was published on April 28th, 2022 for our new Making a Neighborhood Newsletter. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber today to get more stories like it, plus work from our colleagues Samanta Helou Hernandez (@Samanta_Helou) and Ali Rachel Pearl (@alirachelpearl).

Sunset boulevard looking west from Normandie, 2021; Google Maps

In 1922, historian Carey McWilliams arrived to Los Angeles from Colorado via the Southern Pacific railroad. His first home in the city was in the area that, in the year 2000, was designated as the Little Armenia section of East Hollywood. As McWilliams tells it in his Southern California: An Island on the Land (1946), “My dear uncle–the kindest man I have ever known–met me at the old Southern Pacific station…and drove me out Sunset Boulevard to the white-stucco six-unit flat he owned near the corner of Normandie and Sunset.”

“Sunset boulevard looking west from Normandie,” 1930; Courtesy of the L.A. Public Library’s Tessa Collection

Today, Southern California remains relevant for its candid look at the racial relations underlying L.A.’s history since the city’s founding. Note the book’s following excerpt on L.A. County and the state’s record-breaking deadliness just three years after their induction into the U.S. (1850) for example, “In 1853, California had more murders than the rest of the United States, and Los Angeles had more than the rest of California. In a five-year period, 1849-1854, Californians invested $6,000,000 in bowie knives and pistols, and during this period the state reported 2,400 murders, 1,400 suicides, [and] ‘10,000 other miserable deaths.’”

When one considers that the same year California entered “the union,” its first legislators passed the 1850 California Act for the Government and Protection of Indians, which outlawed Native Californians from testifying in court against whites while also legalizing their indentured servitude and forced removal from ancestral homelands, it’s clear just how such an “arms race” led only to more fatalities; it’s also telling of how L.A. and the Golden State’s racial hierarchies were literally embedded into law at the outset of their tenure for U.S. markets and government, only for still too many residents here to have little to no familiarity with.

Williams’ arrival to Los Angeles in the early 1920s was also in line with one of several migrations over the years in which Mid-Westerners and Black people from the South came to California. By 1930, both groups and more would help to double L.A. County’s population to some 2.2 million residents, making it the fifth largest city in the nation.

From 1930 – 1940, of the Great Depression, Hoovervilles, and World War II abroad, L.A. County would grow further, although this time—due in no small part to racial covenants, deed restrictions, and other racist tools—towards unsustainable proportions for Black residents in particular. According to the L.A. Times:

“Between 1940 and 1965, the black [sic] population in Los Angeles County jumped from 75,000 to 650,000, with two-thirds in the South Los Angeles area.”

Untold numbers of these Black residents came to the aid of the United States, then, at a time of war manufacturing for the state, only to find themselves in de facto rather than de jure segregation in South L.A. afterwards. Following Mayor Yorty and LAPD Chief Parker’s militant and deadly response to protest against these conditions in 1965, McWilliams also wrote about Watts and its ties to the rest of the city that, “The new middle class living in jerry-built ‘lily white’ subdivisions, each with its own shopping-center, can honestly claim to be no more aware of Watts than the nice Germans were of Belsen. For the highly paid technicians at the Jet Propulsion Lab, Watts might well be an unnamed crater on the moon.”

McWilliams died in 1980, but were he alive to see the glass shards and flames emerging across the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenue on April 29th, 1992, which marked the outrage of yet another generation—this time Black as well as Brown—he’d quickly recognize how so much unrest could spread through Los Angeles again.

Thirty years since L.A. residents rebelled against the racial rule and order of another government on this westernmost part of the United States, there is still not yet a unified, comprehensive, and citywide commemoration of the unrest of 1965 and 1992. Just this past 2021, both the city and county began proceedings to officially apologize to Native Southern California tribes here for official county and state crimes against them, but no such proceedings have been motioned for with respect to the city and state’s bombardment of Black and Brown communities in the 20th century.

Yet if the renewed momentum for civil rights in the U.S. over the past few years indicates anything, it’s that opportunities to connect these histories for public commemoration are rare, and should thus be pursued with haste, especially for generations of Black, Brown, Asian-American and other communities in the city; honoring memories of these legacies should also be for more than planners, journalists, and even educators’ programs, but for the general public’s engagement.

In this vein, the August 1965 rain of fire from the Los Angeles Police Department and California’s National Guard in Watts led to the immediate deaths of 34 people–overwhelmingly African-American–the injury of 864 others, and material damage of $200 million, according to sources, including Gerald Horne’s Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising and the 1960s (1995).

In 1992, the Los Angeles Police Department and National Guard’s response to a second mass rebellion across L.A. led to the deaths of 64 people, the injury of nearly 2,400 others, and damage to storefronts and thoroughfares of $800 million to $1 billion, setting a national record.

A 2012 spreadsheet by the L.A. Times also shows that at least seven of the people killed during the horrific five days of unrest following LAPD’s acquittal in the Rodney King verdict were located in East Hollywood, Silver Lake, and Hollywood. A brief commemoration for them follows, along with some notes on where the sites of their deaths “stand” for residents today. Also note that the first four deaths listed are those of civilians at the hands of other civilians, while the final three listed are those of civilians in encounters with LAPD.

Sunset boulevard and Kingsley drive, 2021; Google Maps

James L. Taylor, a 26 year old Black man, was shot and killed near a looted video store and laundromat close to Sunset boulevard and Kingsley drive, or the Little Armenia area. Today, evictions and the demolition of housing in the neighborhood increasingly push residents out. Council District 13, of which the area is a part, ranks 3rd on the list of 15 districts for the highest number of unhoused residents in L.A. from 2010 – 2020.

Vermont avenue and Santa Monica boulevard, 2021; Google Maps

Jose Solorzano, a 25 year old Latino, was shot and killed by a security guard within range of Vermont avenue and Santa Monica boulevard; today, the intersection serves as a prime location for several unhoused people’s tents along its sidewalks. Within a couple of years, it will also be home to the area’s first mixed-use development of seven stories on top of where a local swap meet once resided; however, it will also soon oversee affordable and transitional housing atop Metro’s Vermont/Santa Monica station, East Hollywood’s first such gain in its short, though versatile history.

Sunset boulevard and Gateway ave, 2021; Google Maps

Jose Pineda, a 20 year old Latino, was shot and killed in a gun-fight at the junction between Santa Monica and Sunset boulevard by a shop owner defending his business there. Today, across the street, luxury apartments of no more than 428 square feet rent for $2,300 a month, while Erewhon’s customers and littered memorabilia dominate the vicinity.

Plaza on Sunset boulevard and Western ave, 2008; Google Maps

Wallace Tope, a white man of 54 years, died seven months after sustaining injuries at the same lot which now situates the three-story Target store at Western avenue and Sunset boulevard. In Hollywood, near the intersection of Santa Monica boulevard and Seward street, three Black residents—Darnell R. Mallory, 18 years old; Jerel L. Channell, 26 years old; and Juanita Pettaway, 37 years old—were also killed in a car crash while attempting to escape pursuant LAPD squad cars.

Today, as one walks from Santa Monica boulevard along the edge of Silver Lake and onto Sunset boulevard and Western avenue, one can see another steadily developing unsustainability along racial lines, in which more luxury lofts, $17 bagels and other new capital proliferate at the same time that more people have nowhere to live, exposing them to no less than premature death. Were the ghost of McWilliams to return to where his uncle first introduced him to the town today, he might point it out as another neglected “squalor” the city would be wise to stop ignoring.

Our neighborhood’s losses and the connections they continue to bear with marginalized and silenced vicinities across L.A. County thus also need to take more space in public dialogue and memory. As another historian, Sandra de la Loza, put it in her Field Guide to L.A.: Monuments and Murals of Erased and Invisible Histories (2011):

“For the dispossessed whose stories are not memorialized or recorded, memory becomes a vital space in resisting erasure, silence and invisibility.”

J.T.

close up shot of scrabble tiles on a white surface

Eight Days Out, L.A.’s Missing Voters in the Millions for the 2022 Primary

With just eight days left before the June 7th primary, as of Friday, May 27th, less than 139,000 ballots of 2.1 million mailed out to voters in the city of Los Angeles have been returned to the Registrar’s office, making for a gap of 2,010,187 ballots to find quickly over the next week. 66% of these returned ballots have come from voters aged 50 and upwards. Since these groups hold only 44% of all ballots, their early returns mark an increase of 22% over their registration rate. Voters aged 18 – 49 currently hold 55% of L.A. city’s ballots, but can only claim credit for 36% of ballots returned to the Registrar so far, marking a 19% gap with respect to their registration rate.

Additionally, white voters have returned 59% of L.A. City’s 2.1 million ballots so far, or approximately 82,000 ballots, a 10 point increase from their share of ballots overall (49%). Latinx voters have accounted for only 20% of returns so far, or roughly 28,000 ballots, despite their hold on 33% of ballots overall, making for a 13 point decrease or gap with respect to their registration. Ballots returned from Asian-American voters currently make for 12%, or 17,000 ballots, a 3 point increase from their hold on ballots overall. And ballots from African-American voters returned so far make for 9% of all returns, or about 12,500 ballots, consistent with their hold on ballots overall (9%).

It’s accurate to say, then, that the 13 point gap for ballots returned from younger, Latinx voters in particular relative to their hold on all ballots have so far opened a path for more returns from white and Asian-American voters, particularly those over the age of 50.

The trajectory so far is reminiscent of L.A.’s last major primary in 2017, when Eric Garcetti and Mitch O’Farrell were re-elected to their offices by only 17% of L.A.’s voters; ballots from white voters also surged then as those from Latinxs fell by nearly half. The 2017 primary also saw saw an uptick in ballots returned from Asian-Americans compared to their registration rates, while ballots from African-American decreased, albeit slightly, compared to their registration rates.

Data from Tableu Public by paulmitche11, 2017

Let’s now take a look at the numbers more locally. In Council District 13 (CD-13), at least 11,000 of approximately 148,000 ballots have been returned so far. 57% of these ballots are from voters aged 50 and upwards, compared to their share of 48% of the electorate in the district overall, an increase of 9 points. 43% of returned ballots in CD-13 so far hail from voters aged 18 – 49, compared to their share of 51% of the electorate overall, a decrease of 8 points compared to their registration. In terms of ethnic categories, white voters have accounted for 59% of these same returns so far, or 4 points up from their overall share (55%). Latinx voters, who account for 30% of the ballots in CD-13, have accounted for 22% of returned ballots so far, or a decrease of 8 points compared to their registration.

Asian-American voters, the third largest bloc in CD-13, have accounted for 17% of ballots returned in the area so far, an increase of 4 percentage points, while African-American voters, the fourth largest bloc in the area, have accounted for 2% of returns, consistent with their share of ballots in CD-13 overall.

In Council District 1, at least 7,300 of roughly 106,500 ballots have been returned so far. 62% of these ballots are from voters over the age of 50, compared to their 47% share of the electorate in the area overall, an increase of 15 points. Along ethnic categories, ballots returned from Latinx voters have made for 36% of returns so far, making for a gap of 12% with respect to their share of the electorate in CD-1 overall (48%), which is also the largest voting bloc in the area. White voters, who make up for the second largest voting bloc in the area (34%), have returned 35% of CD-1’s ballots, an increase of 1 point with respect to their share of the area’s eligible voters. Asian-American voters, who represent the third largest bloc of voters in CD-1, have returned 27% of the area’s ballots, an increase of 11 points from their registration rates in CD-1 (16%). African-American voters, the fourth largest bloc in the area (3%), have returned about 2% of ballots there, a slight decrease of 1% with respect to their registration in CD-1.

While so far L.A. City’s numbers aren’t exactly reassuring, they’re also not far removed from trends for the Golden State as a whole at the moment. Consider that across California, there are roughly more than 22 million voters on the rolls; of this number, those over the age of 50 represent up to 10.8 million voters (slightly more than the size of all of L.A. County before 2020, or 49%). However, as of May 27th, these voters accounted for more than 75% of ballots returned so far, an increase of 26 points with respect to their overall share. Inversely, voters aged 18 – 49 represent 51% of California’s electorate, but only made for 25% of votes back to the state registrar as of May 27th.

Ballots returned by Age and Ethnicity in California overall as of May 27th, 2022; Political Data, Inc.

Additionally, white voters maintain the largest bloc in California, representing 57% of the electorate, but have returned at least 69% of the state’s ballots so far, or an increase of 8 points. Latinx voters, who make for the second largest bloc at 27%, have returned 15% of the state’s ballots, or a decrease of 12 points with respect to their rate of registration. Asian-American voters, who are the third largest group of voters at 12% of the state’s electorate, have returned 12% of ballots, consistent with their registration rate; and African-American voters, the fourth largest voting bloc at 4%, have returned 3% of the state’s ballots, a slight decrease of one point compared to their registration rates.

The numbers are obviously poised to change over the next week, but it’s clear that it will take more from the state and voting proponents across our cities to dislodge the historic trends. As the California Public Policy Institute noted as early as 2000: “At present, California’s electorate does not accurately reflect the state’s diversity. Despite being only about half of the state’s population, whites make up 68 percent of the voters. Latinos are well behind with only 19 percent of the electorate, and blacks and Asian Americans follow with 6 and 7 percent, respectively.”

According to the U.S. Census in 2000, Latinxs made for 32% of the state’s population then, while Asian-Americans accounted for 11% and 7%, respectively. As recently as 2020, white residents made for roughly 41% of the state’s population, while Latinxs, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans accounted for about 39%, 15%, and 6%, respectively.

Statistics cited for the June 2022 primary are from Political Data, Inc.’s Tracker, a well-crafted data engine. Keep up with more updates over the next week via this page and wherever else you follow JIMBO TIMES. And if you’re still doing research for your ballot, the L.A. Times can lead you to a useful guide HERE.

J.T.

L.A.’s 2022 Elections are the Most Important for Council District 13 Since the 1960s

The original version of this article was published on April 21st, 2022 for our new Making a Neighborhood Newsletter. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber today to get more stories like it, plus more work from our colleagues Samanta Helou Hernandez and Ali Rachel Pearl.

In a report on low voter turnouts in L.A. County when compared to our neighbors up north—which has consistently resulted in more success for political candidates from the latter—reporter Laurel Rosenhall noted that “Southern California is home to a greater share of Latinos than the Bay Area, and has many more people living in poverty—both characteristics correlated with low voting.”

Apartments in East Hollywood, of Council District 13, where as recently as 2018, Latinx residents accounted for at least 52% of the population (Wiki Commons).

These historic characteristics notwithstanding, things looked better for L.A.’s voter turnout in the general election of November 2018, when 58% of the county’s registered voters sealed Newson’s victory over Trump’s John Cox. The spike proved fleeting, however, as voter turnout dipped again for a primary less than two years later.

In March 2020—a day before California declared a state of emergency in response to the novel coronavirus—Bernie Sanders beat out Joe Biden for the democratic nomination in Los Angeles, but with only 39% of L.A.’s registered voters participating. It thus wouldn’t be until the general election of 2020 that precautionary measures for the coronavirus gave way to a simple yet powerful transformation in L.A.’s and CA’s voting systems: mail-in ballots to registered voters everywhere.

During November 2020, on the one hand was the prospect of four more years of MAGA hats; on the other, the largest marches in U.S. history over George Floyd’s documented murder. In response, more than 76% of registered voters in L.A. County submitted a ballot; of the 4.3 million of these collected, 3 out of 4 were sent by mail. It was the political equivalent of snow in L.A. County.

Before this, only the 1992 general elections—which took place less than seven months after the L.A. riots—held the record for the highest voter turnout in several decades when 61% of voters came out. L.A.’s strongest turnout for a local election took place in 1969, when 76% of the city’s registered voters came out for a match between Sam Yorty and City Councilman Thomas Bradley, a major drive for which was Yorty’s brutal response to the 1965 Watts rebellion.

Taken together, the 1969, 1992, and 2020 turnout rates suggest that L.A.’s voters show up in larger numbers when issues of race are clearly on the line. But there’s a caveat to keep in mind: with the exception of the 1969 election, which was a runoff, the higher turnout rates occurred during general and not primary contests, which we will return to shortly.

An additional outlier during 2020’s general elections was the success of Nythia Raman, who defeated incumbent David Ryu to represent East Hollywood and CD-13’s more resourced neighbors, including those in Los Feliz, Sherman Oaks, and the Miracle Mile, among other neighborhoods in “East Central” L.A. (That is, before L.A.’s redistricting commission remade Raman’s district in 2021 to represent more of the San Fernando Valley.)

In a conversation with the L.A. Times after the flip, decades-long former L.A. City Councilman and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky predicted that: “a Raman victory would embolden the movement that rallied for her—younger, grassroots activists who favored Bernie Sanders and are frustrated with City Hall—to get even more involved in the 2022 election, when eight council seats and three citywide seats will be up for grabs.”

DSA-LA Candidate Endorsement, January 2022, provided by Democratic Socialists of America

Yaroslavsky—now in his 70s—was right. The post-boomers, millennials, and zoomers were just getting started with political campaigns in 2020—when only two city council districts were at stake—and are now in full swing as five times as many seats are up for grabs in addition to state and national congressional offices. As the Times’ David Zahniser recently noted , “[it’s] the most significant turnover in political leadership at City Hall since 2013.”

Most importantly, L.A.’s 2022 candidates for public office are far more reflective of the diversity embodied by the city’s first familias than what’s been the case in decades, and have likewise hit the ground running against the city’s more established political class. Four years ago, by 2018’s primary, candidates had raised up to $4.5 million for their contests by the start of the year. As of January of this year, candidates raised four times as much at nearly $18 million.

The question thereby facing more than a few L.A. City Council incumbents is if the diversity of these new challengers, combined with the larger funds they’re attracting—plus new access to voting from universally mailed ballots—are enough to get more L.A. voters to turn out than what’s historically been true for primaries. The recent upswing in political engagement—along with careful consideration of 1969, 1992, and 2020’s elections—suggests this should be the case. But let’s look even more closely at the two major primaries over the last decade to place this June’s into more perspective, starting with Council District 13, when Mitch O’Farrell took over for Eric Garcetti. 

In 2013, after 12 years of keeping the district open for business, Garcetti was finally ready to upstage dad, who was L.A.’s District Attorney during the 1990s, and move on to the mayor’s office. To usher in a subsequent wave of gentrification after him in the area was former staffer O’Farrell. So on to the primary they both went.

The primary election for March 2013 saw only 21% of L.A.’s 1.8 million registered voters—or less than 400,000 people—submit a ballot. For the mayor’s race, out of eight other candidates, Garcetti’s campaign managed to get just over 1/3 of the vote. 33% in the contest was nothing to write home about, but it still advanced Garcetti and second-place Wendy Greuel to a runoff in June of 2013. Garcetti then claimed victory when an additional two percent of L.A.’s voters cast their ballots. As the L.A. Times remarked about the number of ballots cast in that contest: it was “the lowest in any two-candidate runoff in the past 100 years.”

Back in “the Hollywood district,” as it was known to pundits at the time, less than 1/4th of CD-13’s voters chose between O’Farrell and 11 other candidates. O’Farrell eked out just 19% of these voters’ support, or less than 4,600 votes, but the rate still advanced him and second-place John Choi to their own runoff in June 2013. As a decades-long resident in CD-13, there was certainly a time when I wondered what would have been had Choi defeated O’Farrell in that close runoff. But the fact is that like his rival, Choi was also an “insider,” specifically a former Public Works Commissioner for the city. Similarly, though Greuel lost to Garcetti by just a couple of ten thousand votes, she was a City Controller for L.A. from 2009—2013, hardly a stray from the normal resemblances between high-profile names for public office.

Today, by contrast, the mayor’s office in June 2022’s ballots counts 12 different candidates, at least two of whom—Gina Viola and Alex Gruenenfelder Smith—are stated police abolitionists and supporters of Black Lives Matter, the first in the city’s nearly 172 years under U.S. jurisdiction. In CD-13, while one of the top three challengers to Mitch O’Farrell, Kate Pynoos, has previous experience in public office as a staffer for City Council representative Mike Bonin, her peers in fundraising and online presence, Hugo Soto-Martinez and Albert Corado, are both first-time candidates for an office at City Hall. Corado is also a police abolitionist, while Soto-Martinez is an organizer with Unite Here Local 11, which represents hospitality workers across Los Angeles; both are substantially distinguished from most of 2013 and 2017’s candidates for the district.

Albert Corado, who is running to unseat Mitch O’Farrell in Council District 13.

With this in mind, let’s zoom in on 2017’s primary one more time. Data provided by Tableau Public, an open-source data website, shows not just how many people were registered and voted in that election, but also considerable demographic info.

In 2017’s primary, when it came to registration, the group with the lowest registration rate was voters 18-24 years old at 9%. Voters aged 35-44, 45-54, and 55-64 had similar registration rates at 18%, 15%, and 15%, respectively, while voters aged 25-34 had the highest registration rate, taking up 24% of the rolls. Just after this group were voters 65+, taking up 20%.

In terms of ethnicity or race, white voters accounted for 52%, or over half of all registrations. Latinx voters accounted for 35%, and Asian-Americans and African-Americans accounted for 9% and 4%, respectively. Together, then, non-white voters took up 48% of voter registrations before election day.

Assuming most of these folks received a ballot well before election day, the potential for a diverse and multi-generational turnout was definitely there; instead, recall that just 17% of these registrations translated into votes by the time the primary was over. It’s when we look at data for the number of returned ballots, then, that we start to see how major “drop-off” or “disappearance” of ballots took place along categories of race, age, and class.

Data from Tableu Public by paulmitche11, 2017

First, returned ballots from voters by election day in 2017 showed that 18-24 year olds turned in an exceptionally low rate at 3%. The rate for voters aged 25-34, 35-44, and 45-54 year olds was similar at 14%, 13%, and 13% again, respectively. A significantly higher number of returned ballots came from voters aged 55-64 years old at 17%. But the highest number of returned ballots—40%—came from voters 65+. As such, the age group with the greatest drop-off or “disappearance” after registration was the 25-34 year old category, while the group with the largest boost were Seniors or baby boomers.

Secondly, when it came to racial data for ballots returned by or just after election day, white voters took up more than 3/5ths, or a super-majority of the category at 68%, which was also 16 percentage points more than their registration rates before election day (52%). Asian-American, Latinx, and African-Americans, on the other hand, accounted for 32% of returns, creating a drop-off of 16 percentage points less than their registration numbers prior to election day (48%). White voters not only accounted for more registrations prior to election day, then, but also saw more physical turnout for the vote than their non-white counterparts.

Asian-American voter turnout for returned ballots by election day increased by two points relative to their registration, while for Black voters, the rate of returned ballots fell slightly by 1%. But the group which saw the greatest “disappearance”of voters was Latinx, with a 17% “loss” of ballots, or half of their rate of registration prior to election day.

One of L.A.’s roughly 414,000/1.3 Million voters on March 7th, 2017 at First Baptist Church in Hollywood. (Photo by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The final key data point provided by Tableau Public shows the rate of registrations versus ballots returned between renters and homeowners. During registration, or before election day, renters accounted for 42% of registrations, while homeowners took up 34% of the portion. The data is not clear on what the living situation of the remaining 24% of registrants was, but by election day, homeowners accounted for 49% of the ballots turned in, while ballots from renters, on the other hand, made for 40%. Renters lost a couple of points by the day of the election, then, while homeowners surged in double-digits.

With all of these data points combined, we can note with certainty that nearly seven out of ten mailed ballots for the 2017 primary were from white voters, and that four out of ten were from voters 65+. We can also note that nearly half came from those who owned a home in L.A. County, while three out of ten were from Latinx, Black, or Asian-American voters, with apartment renting likely concentrated among them.

In other words, the people who came out most were L.A.’s older, wealthier, and whiter voters at the same time that Latinx voters in particular—the city’s largest single ethnic group—saw a substantial loss of voting power by the day of the vote relative to their registrations prior to it, all key data-points for the current set of campaigns to keep in mind.

Questions facing not incumbents, then, but challengers, from Hugo Soto-Martinez, Kate Pynoos, and Albert Corado in CD-13, to Eunisses Hernandez in CD-1 and beyond, are clear and simple: Can their campaigns appeal to seasoned and consistent voters, including older white homeowners, as well as Black, Latinx, and Asian-American voters? And can they bring in “newer” participants, especially younger and Latinx voters, whose turnout hasn’t been as “reliable” in previous political campaigns?

If so, then coupled with the symbolic power of their fresh and diverse faces, June 2022’s primary turnout is poised to leave 2017’s in the dustbin. Turnout might not reach the all-time high for local primaries—also set in the 1960s at 66%—but should certainly be at least double, if not triple 2017’s rate, which may be all that’s needed to make the difference.

One last glance back at the election years of 1969, 1992, and 2020 is important. The first marked just four years after the Watts Rebellion; the second, just seven months after outrage over the Rodney King verdict; and the third, only five months after nationwide protest in the name of George Floyd; in each of these timelines, anti-Blackness was at the center of the question on justice in cities across the U.S.

Today, few injustices in these cities are more overt than that of homelessness. In L.A., it has translated for decades into Black people accounting for 34% of the unhoused population despite purportedly making up just 8% of the county’s 10 million residents, or four times their demographic share.

In late 2021, after an “L.A. County Homelessness Survey,” the L.A. Times’ David Lauter published words that in the U.S. should read as more than copy, but as indictments against municipal governments under the 14th amendment:

“Nearly half of Black voters in Los Angeles County have been homeless, have experienced housing insecurity in the past year or know someone who has — a significantly larger share than for other racial and ethnic groups, according to a new poll.


Homelessness—and the policing of Black bodies associated with it— has touched every neighborhood in the city since even before the 1960s and continues to do so, including in East Hollywood. As recently as 2017, Black residents made up just 2.4% of the neighborhood, but accounted for 13% of those arrested by police, or six times their demographic share. In 2019, former L.A. Homelessness Services Director Peter Lynn noted that “there is probably no more single significant factor than incarceration in terms of elevating somebody’s prospects of homelessness.”

Voters in neighborhoods across Los Angeles should make no mistake about it, then. Over these next six weeks, despite the repeated lousiness and seeming ineffectiveness of the voting process—particularly for workers and their families—there’s nothing less than an historic referendum on anti-racism on the ballot, or the most critical one since voters nearly elected L.A.’s first Black mayor in 1969.

Although flawed in several ways, after his successful election in 1973, Bradley went on to serve the office’s longest term of all time at 20 years, going on to champion and oversee construction of Metro’s Blue Line in 1990. The Blue Line ushered in a new era for public transit, including East Hollywood’s local Red Line in 1999, which has played a key role in connecting the area with the rest of the city. Both services, like Metro as a whole, remain lousy and constantly ineffective as well, but nonetheless continue expanding in opportunity, albeit incrementally, as more time passes.

There’s also no telling just what the city’s first non-male mayor in its nearly 241 years in existence could achieve for voters with a term or two onto 2030, and all the more so given L.A. city hall’s historically inequitable—and often compromised—structure in any case. But given Gina Viola’s strong position on divestment from incarceration for L.A.’s most vulnerable communities—especially Black Lives—which is also a policy that’s gained increasing momentum at the voting booths over the last decade, it sure is something different for the city and its neighborhoods in generations; in fact, with the data and ground-game in mind, it’s an unprecedented opportunity.

J.T.