Community Lead Story Local News News West Edition

Fears voiced about gentrification at film screening

Documentary about Seattle sparks concerns in Leimert Park

LEIMERT PARK — A screening of “On the Brink,” a new documentary about the gentrification of Seattle’s Central District — a former black enclave — sparked a discussion Sept. 20 at the KAOS Network.

A panel featuring Ben Caldwell, executive director of the KAOS Network; Donald King, professor of architecture at the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington; Kyle Townsend, a musician born in Seattle’s Central District, George Davis, executive director at the California African American Museum who was also born and raised in Seattle; and Ziggy, an artist born in Seattle; discussed Seattle’s situation and how that applied to South Los Angeles.

One thing most of the panelist agreed on was that once gentrification begins, it happens quickly.

“Gentrification happens faster than you think,” said Townsend, who saw Seattle’s Central District disappear before his eyes. “You have to start working at it right now. Whatever the plans are — you are going to have to move on them.”

“You need to organize,” King told the audience. “People need to start anchoring their businesses. They need to try to control the land use patterns and policies that happen and try to control what is happening from the government side.

“There’s a feeling that things are going to move quickly,” said Davis, referring to Destination Crenshaw, a $15 million artistic development that is currently underway along Crenshaw Boulevard.

Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, has been at the forefront of the gentrification fight. 

“We can fight gentrification,” said Goodmon, who recently launched the summer resistance movement to bring in more “freedom fighters” to take on the gentrification battle with more force.

“We are educating and mobilizing the community about what’s going on because I think a lot of people don’t know what’s happening,” he said.

“We’re making people aware of the role that our elected officials are playing in pushing gentrification. Every single one of our elected officials is pushing these gentrification projects.”

Pausing, he said, “Who’s worse? The African leaders who sold our African ancestors into slavery or our local black elected officials who are selling off and selling out the last remaining black community in the region?

“I would argue that [local politicians] are worse because there is no gun from the colonizer at their heads. 

“If you’re black and you are removing black people from the black community, isn’t that the ultimate form of betrayal?” Goodmon asked. 

Goodmon said he attended the National Emergency Summit on Gentrification in Newark, New Jersey in April where the issue of gentrification was front and center.  

“If we can’t afford it, don’t build it,” was the national cry, he said.

“Unfortunately, gentrification is a national trend,” Goodmon added. “We have to hold ourselves accountable, hold our local leaders accountable, hold our preachers accountable, hold our elected officials accountable and come together and participate in anti-gentrification groups like the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and the L.A. Tenants Union,” Goodmon said.

Assata Umoja, president of the Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment who watched the documentary, noted the similarities between the Central District and what was occurring in Hyde Park.

“The construction in Hyde Park has been massive, especially in the last two or three years,” she said.

She was particularly concerned about the rail line subway that is currently being built along the Crenshaw corridor. 

“Streets are being torn up, the rails have cut off the streets and it has cut the community in half,” she said. “The construction has been awful. You used to be able to cross the street to go to the bank, post office and copy center. Now you have to walk to the end of the street just to cross the boulevard.

Umoja also noted that many residents have wondered why there are no black men working on the rail line construction — only whites and Latinos. 

“Someone made an inquiry and they said that the black men could not pass the drug test [to be hired],” Umoja said. “I don’t believe that.

“These developers are strictly putting in housing — but how do you maintain an economic base when you’re totally destroying the commercial corridor?” Umoja said. “Without a sound economic base, you don’t have community. If there is housing being built, it should be mixed use and it should have significant commercial space.

“You have people coming into the community who do not look like you who are tearing up your community. The community should at least be part of construction decisions,” Umoja said. 

“It reminds me of Africa where they bulldozed the villages and the people had nowhere to go,” she added. “Historically, black people have been put out of their homes and now developers are coming into Leimert and Hyde Park neighborhoods and uprooting people from their homes and destroying our commercial institutions. 

“There is a huge number of people who seriously do not have the incomes to live in the places that they’re building,” Umoja said. “The rents that they are charging constitute a person’s salary for a whole month.” 

Umoja noted that a development called the Brinhurst project, a five-story development that was to be built between two family homes in Hyde Park, was temporarily halted. 

“Marqueece Harris-Dawson has put forth a temporary stoppage from developing projects that would be in the middle of neighborhoods such as between two family homes. It allows an opportunity for us to look at the community plans and to develop different a type of plan to give better protection to our community against a lot of these developers coming into our community.”

Umoja said the rapid changes taking place in the community have been startling. 

“The Bank of America at 54th Street and Crenshaw is closing up, and the post office across the street from the bank is up for sale. The Chesterfield Square shopping center at Slauson and Western avenues is going to be sold for $29 million.

“There’s a lot of anxiety and a lot of stress being felt among the local residents and no real efforts are being made to hear the cries of the community,” Umoja said. “The community is being barraged and is under attack. Where will the people be able to afford to go? How will you be able to buy a home for your family? There’s no consideration at all.

“Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Herb Wesson and Curren Price co-authored a community stabilization plan that was recently passed by the City Council,” Umoja saidd. “But it is just a study. Nothing is in place for what we need. The council people knew something needed to be done about displacement but it seems that nothing is being done to address it.

“There needs to be a moratorium on all of these developers until a serious neighborhood stabilization policy can be put in place,” Umoja said.

Kim Marie, a parliamentarian for the Park Mesa Heights Neighborhood Council, has been keeping a close eye on the developments that are being proposed in Hyde Park.

“There’s a loophole in the zoning laws that is allowing all of the construction to go up in the community,” Marie said, referring to the Brinhurst project that Umoja mentioned. 

Construction of the project is currently on hold.

LIFTOUT

“If you’re black and you are removing black people from the black community, isn’t that the ultimate form of betrayal?”

— Damien Goodmon

LEIMERT PARK — A screening of “On the Brink,” a new documentary about the gentrification of Seattle’s Central District — a former black enclave — sparked a discussion Sept. 20 at the KAOS Network.

A panel featuring Ben Caldwell, executive director of the KAOS Network; Donald King, professor of architecture at the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington; Kyle Townsend, a musician born in Seattle’s Central District, George Davis, executive director at the California African American Museum who was also born and raised in Seattle; and Ziggy, an artist born in Seattle; discussed Seattle’s situation and how that applied to South Los Angeles.

One thing most of the panelist agreed on was that once gentrification begins, it happens quickly.

“Gentrification happens faster than you think,” said Townsend, who saw Seattle’s Central District disappear before his eyes. “You have to start working at it right now. Whatever the plans are — you are going to have to move on them.”

“You need to organize,” King told the audience. “People need to start anchoring their businesses. They need to try to control the land use patterns and policies that happen and try to control what is happening from the government side.

“There’s a feeling that things are going to move quickly,” said Davis, referring to Destination Crenshaw, a $15 million artistic development that is currently underway along Crenshaw Boulevard.

Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, has been at the forefront of the gentrification fight. 

“We can fight gentrification,” said Goodmon, who recently launched the summer resistance movement to bring in more “freedom fighters” to take on the gentrification battle with more force.

“We are educating and mobilizing the community about what’s going on because I think a lot of people don’t know what’s happening,” he said.

“We’re making people aware of the role that our elected officials are playing in pushing gentrification. Every single one of our elected officials is pushing these gentrification projects.”

Pausing, he said, “Who’s worse? The African leaders who sold our African ancestors into slavery or our local black elected officials who are selling off and selling out the last remaining black community in the region?

“I would argue that [local politicians] are worse because there is no gun from the colonizer at their heads. 

“If you’re black and you are removing black people from the black community, isn’t that the ultimate form of betrayal?” Goodmon asked. 

Goodmon said he attended the National Emergency Summit on Gentrification in Newark, New Jersey in April where the issue of gentrification was front and center.  

“If we can’t afford it, don’t build it,” was the national cry, he said.

“Unfortunately, gentrification is a national trend,” Goodmon added. “We have to hold ourselves accountable, hold our local leaders accountable, hold our preachers accountable, hold our elected officials accountable and come together and participate in anti-gentrification groups like the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and the L.A. Tenants Union,” Goodmon said.

Assata Umoja, president of the Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment who watched the documentary, noted the similarities between the Central District and what was occurring in Hyde Park.

“The construction in Hyde Park has been massive, especially in the last two or three years,” she said.

She was particularly concerned about the rail line subway that is currently being built along the Crenshaw corridor. 

“Streets are being torn up, the rails have cut off the streets and it has cut the community in half,” she said. “The construction has been awful. You used to be able to cross the street to go to the bank, post office and copy center. Now you have to walk to the end of the street just to cross the boulevard.

Umoja also noted that many residents have wondered why there are no black men working on the rail line construction — only whites and Latinos. 

“Someone made an inquiry and they said that the black men could not pass the drug test [to be hired],” Umoja said. “I don’t believe that.

“These developers are strictly putting in housing — but how do you maintain an economic base when you’re totally destroying the commercial corridor?” Umoja said. “Without a sound economic base, you don’t have community. If there is housing being built, it should be mixed use and it should have significant commercial space.

“You have people coming into the community who do not look like you who are tearing up your community. The community should at least be part of construction decisions,” Umoja said. 

“It reminds me of Africa where they bulldozed the villages and the people had nowhere to go,” she added. “Historically, black people have been put out of their homes and now developers are coming into Leimert and Hyde Park neighborhoods and uprooting people from their homes and destroying our commercial institutions. 

“There is a huge number of people who seriously do not have the incomes to live in the places that they’re building,” Umoja said. “The rents that they are charging constitute a person’s salary for a whole month.” 

Umoja noted that a development called the Brinhurst project, a five-story development that was to be built between two family homes in Hyde Park, was temporarily halted. 

“Marqueece Harris-Dawson has put forth a temporary stoppage from developing projects that would be in the middle of neighborhoods such as between two family homes. It allows an opportunity for us to look at the community plans and to develop different a type of plan to give better protection to our community against a lot of these developers coming into our community.”

Umoja said the rapid changes taking place in the community have been startling. 

“The Bank of America at 54th Street and Crenshaw is closing up, and the post office across the street from the bank is up for sale. The Chesterfield Square shopping center at Slauson and Western avenues is going to be sold for $29 million.

“There’s a lot of anxiety and a lot of stress being felt among the local residents and no real efforts are being made to hear the cries of the community,” Umoja said. “The community is being barraged and is under attack. Where will the people be able to afford to go? How will you be able to buy a home for your family? There’s no consideration at all.

“Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Herb Wesson and Curren Price co-authored a community stabilization plan that was recently passed by the City Council,” Umoja saidd. “But it is just a study. Nothing is in place for what we need. The council people knew something needed to be done about displacement but it seems that nothing is being done to address it.

“There needs to be a moratorium on all of these developers until a serious neighborhood stabilization policy can be put in place,” Umoja said.

Kim Marie, a parliamentarian for the Park Mesa Heights Neighborhood Council, has been keeping a close eye on the developments that are being proposed in Hyde Park.

“There’s a loophole in the zoning laws that is allowing all of the construction to go up in the community,” Marie said, referring to the Brinhurst project that Umoja mentioned. 

Construction of the project is currently on hold.

“If you’re black and you are removing black people from the black community, isn’t that the ultimate form of betrayal?”

— Damien Goodmon