Larry Aubry: Yes on S to Fight Gentrification

Civil rights activist legend Larry Aubry has made it plain in his latest op-ed, where he points out the real impact of Measure S on Los Angeles' historically black and brown communities.

Yes on S is About Fighting Gentrification

By Larry Aubry
Black Community Clergy & Labor Alliance, Co-Chair

gentrification-class-war.jpgUrban renewal of the 1960s, which James Baldwin coined, “Negro Removal,” met fierce community opposition. Modern-day gentrification is more subtle, but equally vicious.

The powerful perpetrators of displacement must like that the conversation typically focus on the new residents walking their dogs. It prevents a thorough analysis of the forces at play and the actors involved.

In Los Angeles many of the actors are Black elected officials, who implement the policies of their corporate overseers. That is the primary reason every Black elected official on the City Council of Los Angeles who advocates and votes for gentrification mega-developments is opposing the citizen’s initiative on the March ballot, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative - Measure S. Measure S will delay or end specific gentrification mega-developments that they support and prevent future ones.

Understand that an important component in making gentrification acceptable is convincing people of color that “white ice is colder.” Some want us to blame the absence of quality services in our community on our neighborhood’s lack of White people or the lack of access to white people, so that we don’t focus on the long history of institutional racism, discrimination and divestment by both the public and private sector, because that would lead to demands for holding our elected officials and corporate America accountable. Often after heightened discriminatory policing and/or a new investment in public resources like a new transit rail line, these same people tell us to welcome the new luxury developments with $3,500 per month rents.

Changes are coming. But are these new developments by and for us? And if we are forced to move out to places like Lancaster, because we’ve been priced out of our community, how are we to enjoy and benefit from them?

Review the list of the largest proposed developments in L.A. County and it is clear that this current wave of change isn’t for the Black and Brown residents of South LA and the Eastside.

A real estate article published in May 2016 stated that the county’s biggest proposed developments are not skyscrapers in Downtown L.A. or Century City. Their locations should awaken you.

1. Rams Stadium/Hollywood Park Development (Inglewood): in addition to the stadium, retail shops and offices, 3,000 market rate luxury apartments.

2. New Wyvernwood (Boyle Heights): the demolition of the historic garden apartment complex occupied by poor and working class Latinos, to build 4,400 luxury apartments.

3. Crenshaw Mall Redevelopment (Crenshaw/Leimert Park): in addition to the renovation and expansion of the mall, a new hotel, and nearly 1,000 all luxury apartments and condos.

4. Cumulus Skyscraper (Baldwin Vista): the first approved skyscraper in the history of South LA, 30 stories at traffic-clogged La Cienega/Jefferson with nearly 1,200 luxury units.

6. Historic Sears Building (Boyle Heights): the building is to be rehabilitated for 1,100 luxury-housing units.

7. The Reef (Historic South Central): 1,440 luxury-housing units next to LA Trade Tech College.

Only one of the seven is where you’d expect it -- in Downtown (#5 is the Ferrente luxury apartments by Jeffrey Palmer, the biggest donor to Donald Trump’s campaign). The other six are in historically Black and Brown communities of Inglewood, Boyle Heights, Crenshaw/Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, and Historic South Central, where the units are to be priced much higher than the amount affordable to local residents.

In the case of The Reef, a study found that building the mega-development of luxury housing would put 52% of the people who live within 2 miles of the site, 43,756 people, at a very high to moderate risk of "financial strain or displacement." Rents would go up, and landlords would attempt to push out long-term tenants. It’s happened in places like San Francisco’s Fillmore District, where the "Harlem of the West" is Black no more.

That’s the impact of just one luxury mega-project. We have six proposed, and more are surely coming.

This is a serious threat to Los Angeles’ Black and Brown communities. We are staring down the potential of mass displacement and need to rise up against it.

Since May of 2016, The Reef and Cumulus Skyscraper were both approved by the City Council. They were pushed by the area’s Black councilmembers, Curren Price and Herb Wesson respectively. In both cases the developer spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying and contributions to the councilmembers, and conducted backroom deals that allowed the mega-developments, which broke the local zoning code, to be approved.

Measure S would forever ban the big zone change, known as General Plan Amendments, which the projects needed to be approved. Measure S would also force the city planning meetings these mega-developments to take place in the community on weeknights or on the weekends, instead of downtown during the middle of the workday as they currently occur.

Critics of Measure S have used as a red herring a literal handful of potential affordable housing projects that may be stalled because of the measure. It is dangerously shortsighted to oppose Measure S, which would prevent massive gentrification projects like The Reef that would wipe out entire communities, because a handful of 100-unit affordable housing projects may have difficulty being built.

The principal financial backers of the campaign against Measure S are luxury real estate developers. To quote the LA Tenants Union, which is a major supporter of Measure S, “It is insulting to think these corporations have our best interest at heart.”

Let’s not get bamboozled by the rhetoric paid for by these billionaire developers, who are using as a front, organizations that are showing themselves to be more worried about their personal sustainability than the survival of Black and Brown communities.

Measure S for us should be about saving historic Black and Brown neighborhoods. Los Angeles should vote Yes.

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  • commented 2017-03-03 14:43:20 -0800
    Hello Mr. Aubry,

    My name is Sharon Williams. I don’t know if you remember me, but I worked with you at the Human Relations Commission. I would like to know your thoughts on all of the other measures on the ballot.

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