EPISODE 47 – HOW TO MAKE OUR NEIGHBORHOOD

In our 47th episode, we chat with Samanta Helou-Hernandez, our fellow East Hollywood resident and cross collaborator who’s also co-hosting with yours truly for Making Our Neighborhood: Redlining, Gentrification and Housing in East Hollywood this Thursday, March 4th, ’21. Samanta and I discuss the background for this special event for our community, and about the importance of our work together in the current media and policy landscape in Los Angeles. To help us complete our fundraiser for translation services on the day of the event, please do so via our FUNDLY.

J.T.

(Re)Making Our Neighborhood – An Excavation of East Hollywood, Part III

This is the third installment of a three-part series.

“The Marshalls were close to their Japanese-American neighbors, particularly the Hoshizakis and the Kakibas, who lived on either side of them. Their daughter, Barbara Marshall, remembers food and culture being exchanged over the hedges of their houses.” – Samanta Helou-Hernandez, This Side of Hoover

The Japanese American and African American families documented on This Side of Hoover were the types of families in East Hollywood whom a band of real estate appraisers & L.A. County officials in the 1940s would come to label “undesirable” for investment. Today, the area, east of Hollywood and west of Silver Lake, is a majority-immigrant community where nearly 4/5ths of the population rent apartments, and which is also disproportionately policed over increasingly valuable real estate for appraisers.

Now, nearly one hundred years since deed restrictions in Los Feliz–a wealthier neighborhood to the north of East Hollywood–stated in their clauses that only members of the “Caucasian Race” were allowed to own property in the area, Black residents there and in East Hollywood now face the highest rates of homelessness and policing of their bodies. Non-white immigrant communities face the second highest rates of homelenessness and policing in Los Feliz and East Hollywood.

Data shows that since 1980, when areas like East Hollywood saw their first major waves of immigration from Latin America and Asia, rents in Los Angeles jumped 55%, even as incomes increased only by 13%.

Since 2000, Ellis Act evictions have taken nearly 500 housing rent-stabilized units out of East Hollywood. Ellis Act evictions take place when landlords decide to convert buildings into condominiums. At the same time, homelessness in the 13th district, of which East Hollywood is a part of, has led to at least 544 families without housing since 2019. The total number of unhoused people in the 13th district has climbed to at least 8,000, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

As we discuss redlining in East Hollywood then, it’s also important to note that Los Angeles was not always segregated between wealthy neighborhoods on the west and north sides and impoverished neighborhoods in the central, east and south sides. Redlined neighborhoods in Los Angeles actually meant that neighborhoods were integrated, made up of Black, immigrant, and European-born residents. The clearest consequence of redlining and related policies was explicit government investment in dividing cities by racial makeup, which eventually came to promulgate the false notion that universal human necessities like housing, education, and healthcare should serve only some residents at the expense of others.

What’s also important to note is that Black and immigrant groups called “undesirable” for investment by the Homeowners Loan Corporation (HOLC) were groups of laborers, many of whom worked for the city’s biggest industries in the 20th century before WW2, that of service and agriculture. Black and Japanese residents served wealthier white residents in areas like Los Feliz as babysitters, nurses, and in other roles of hospitality. Historically then, Black and immigrant communities in Los Angeles played critical roles in making the state of California the fifth largest state in the U.S. by 1950.

Here are also a few interesting questions for participants to consider following our panel series: What would areas like East Hollywood look like today if Black and immigrant communities hadn’t been redlined and were actually invested in, or allowed to own homes and supported adequately in doing so? How many unhoused groups would form in the decades after the 1940s? How much crime and policing over the last 80 years could have been avoided in the neighborhood?

A friend also asked, “Would there have been a 101 Freeway?” Which naturally leads to the question of whether there would still be so many groups sheltering underneath the “free” way.

Redlining entailed private and public officials marking people as inherently hazardous to one another due to racial difference, not unlike an unsafe “building condition.” For example, there were certain parts of the northern portion of Hollywood that were redlined not because Black or immigrant people resided there, but due to an unsafe dam.

Private and public officials feared–or at least professed–that racially different groups living together could only lead to racial rioting, which was prevalent from the 50s – 60s, though largely over the same issues: housing, employment, and police discrimination against Black and other non-white bodies. But if groups of different skin color could only lead to rioting, then what explains the inter-ethnic community between Black and Japanese American families like those noted by This Side of Hoover’s reporting work? Instead of rioting against one another, different groups in Los Angeles, including Black, immigrant and also white, have continually come together in East Hollywood even without much support from local, state and federal officials. They still do.

Now Los Angeles is witnessing the rise of a new generation of multi-ethnic groups organizing to advance justice and equity in the city, particularly in the area of Tenants Rights, though more interethnic movements still need to be forged. At the same time, the vast majority of our public officials continue to appear as distant as ever from such work on the ground towards equity.

In 2018, according to the California Housing Partnership (CHP), “Renters in Los Angeles County need to earn $46.15/hr – more than 4 times local minimum wage – to afford the median monthly asking rent of $2,400.” The CHP also estimated that year that Los Angeles County needs at least 568,255 additional affordable rental homes to meet current demand.But if Los Angeles needed a reminder that Black people have worked to advance justice for ALL groups, or create justice where it was left wanting, including in this city and not just the historic U.S. south, our panel series and the stories contained in it are those reminders.

“I didn’t know we were in an integrated neighborhood until I learned about that word. To be able to walk down the street without fear of people calling you names because everybody was part of the neighborhood.” -Barbara Marshall

Ms. Marshall’s endearing description of everyone belonging to the neighborhood she called home brings to mind a question posed by L.A. Poet Mike Sonsken, when he asks: “Whose story do we tell?!”

In today’s Los Angeles, every resident, whether in the celebrity or political class or not, is a part of this city. But in the midst of the most fatal public health crisis in over a century, civic groups have had to continue calling out L.A.’s political leadership to “seize the hotels” in order to shelter L.A.’s most vulnerable, who are predominantly Black and immigrant groups, even as the federal government has ensured 100% reimbursement for this procedure. The fact is that given Los Angeles Housing policy for non-white immigrant communities over the last century, the neighborly thing for our civic and political leadership to do today would be to ensure such common sense calls don’t have to be made.

Even so, as storytellers, with our panel series we are uplifting elders, activists currently on the ground in Los Angeles, scholars, and even more of what makes East Hollywood and any neighborhood like it more than just “worth” honoring for a moment, but something worth honoring for a future.

Already, we have taken the historical truths of redlining and gentrification and flipped them to serve more than just one group or narrative. Our political officials can do the same, and then some. Find our recorded panel sessions on YouTube, and pose your questions for us at our new website for the rest of our community: Hope.xyz/MakingOurNeighborhood.

J.T.

You are Invited to Making Our Neighborhood: Redlining, Gentrification and Housing in East Hollywood

With our final Redlining poster, one thing is clear:

Racist tools designed to separate and dehumanize “others” can in fact be reckoned with and even “hacked” to serve a higher calling, that is, to bring “others” together for the purpose of humanizing all of us on our own terms.

Photography for this poster is courtesy of Samanta Helou-Hernandez: @sami_helou

Design for this poster is courtesy of Crisanto Simatu: @crisanto.illustration

Our panel series this March is being hosted by the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council: @easthollywoodnc.

Find our Press Release for Making Our Neighborhood…A Panel Series, HERE.

And RSVP to the hottest event in Los Angeles this March at EastHollywood.EventBrite.com.

J.T.