De-gentrification.




Middle: Photo of Fulham, UK: Helsinki51

“We knew our corner of Fulham was on the downward slide when, instead of hearing songbirds, we started noticing squadrons of crows,” says resident Maxine Fox. “They had grown fat and glossy on a diet of discarded fast food and vomit. It was a shock to discover that an area that was quite smart when we moved there in the late 1980s could go downhill.”

This is a quote from an article in the UK Telegraph entitled, “Going Down in the World” concerning what happens when once solid neighborhoods go into permanent decline. These places do not gain Starbucks, yoga studios, or Gaps, but instead begin to show public disorder, filth and neglect caused by abandonment and poverty.

In Van Nuys, even many single family neighborhoods have multiple cars and trucks parked on the curb: a sign that renters and multiple adults are living together under one roof. Many homeowners do not cut their lawns, they leave trash cans next to the curb, they move out and rent their own homes to sub-leasers. The similarities with declining UK areas is striking.

The article explains more signs of reverse gentrification: “….multi-occupied housing, cracks on pavements, old abandoned mattresses with funny stains on them languishing outside rooming houses.”

Just this morning, here in Van Nuys, I was awakened by the screaming sounds of crows. We often see discarded condoms and fast food wrappers near our home. There are two trucks parked full of junk left on the corner of Gilmore and Columbus every night. Houses near Victory and Columbus look like maximum security prisons with iron gates and regiments of militant Pit Bulls, Dobermans and German Shepherds. There is also that mattress left at the corner of Hamlin and Columbus.

Is someone trying to tell me something?

9 thoughts on “De-gentrification.

  1. Andrew wrote:
    Cities with invigorated economies seem to be ones that are not large or are independent from Los Angeles. The situation in Glendale, Santa Monica, Pasadena or the aforementioned San Gabriel cities, is much better than Van Nuys because this area is not its own city. That means our government is not responsive to our needs locally.
    #####
    But that doesn’t explain the rebound of Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Koreatown and even central Hollywood. All of these are in central Los Angeles and more or less get the same services as the Valley.

    Sometimes, people will just roll up their sleeves and get the job done in spite of the government.

    It all depends on the characteristics of the community. Asians were able to revitalize the western San Gabriel Valley, Latinos East L.A. and Huntington Park and African-Americans Inglewood, Ladera Heights and Culver City. All of these have stabilized communities and small businesses that cater to the local community.

    An economically depressed area is overserved by the following: fast money joints (check cashing, payday advances and pawn shops), strip clubs, used car lots, auto repair lots and junkyards, and government agencies that provide services directly to the public.

  2. In response to some of the comments:

    “Today, Van Nuys has nothing to offer most middle class families in Southern California. instead, it represents one of suburbia’s failures, with its porn shops, littered streets, graffiti, and the distinct tincture of residents who are most definitely not keeping up with the Joneses”

    One of the advantages of living here in the location. If someone works in Burbank or even Westwood, the commute is a lot shorter from Van Nuys than Santa Clarita. The failure comes from the government of Los Angeles which allowed this area to go down in services.

    “Or, for that matter, the Asian/Latino cities of San Gabriel, Rosemead, Alhambra, and Monterey Park. These mature working-class suburbs could have gone into serious decline as their white populations got old in the ’70s and ’80s, but instead they became “the first suburban Chinatown.”

    Cities with invigorated economies seem to be ones that are not large or are independent from Los Angeles. The situation in Glendale, Santa Monica, Pasadena or the aforementioned San Gabriel cities, is much better than Van Nuys because this area is not its own city. That means our government is not responsive to our needs locally. We cannot call a cop and have them show up in 5 minutes. If I see prostitutes along Sepulveda or a neighbor is getting robbed, the LAPD might take a half hour to respond.

    It takes pride and community pride to keep an area nice. Much of Van Nuys is actually exploited by slum lords from out of the area who don’t keep up their properties. When we see pawn shops, slum housing, etc. it might be owned by a man in Sherman Oaks.

  3. Or, for that matter, the Asian/Latino cities of San Gabriel, Rosemead, Alhambra, and Monterey Park. These mature working-class suburbs could have gone into serious decline as their white populations got old in the ’70s and ’80s, but instead they became “the first suburban Chinatown.”

    Returning to the example of de-gentrified Latino-majority cities, Huntington Park would be an absolute hellhole without the infusion of capital and entrepreneurial spirit that accompanied the Mexican-Americans who moved in when the Anglo factory workers left in the ’80s and ’90s. Now Pacific Avenue, the town’s main drag, is one of the most vibrant commercial districts you’ll see in greater Los Angeles. It ain’t Huntington Palisades, but it’s a whole hell of a lot better than many of the places from which its residents have come.

    Hell, even Watts–the black equivalent of a Van Nuys or Huntington Park–is becoming freshly invigorated with Mexican and Chicano move-up buyers, and the businesses that serve them. And why not? Compared to a sweltering 2BR in a Koreatown dingbat, let alone a wretched little shack in a hamlet in Michoacan or a slum in Puebla, a 3BR Craftsman bungalow on 105th Street is downright palatial.

  4. Matt touched upon a good point of Van Nuys’ condition. It had been a suburb that grew out of itself.

    This can be expected of all suburbs after about 30 years. That’s the point when mortgages are up, and nowadays, the point where remarkable deterioration begins to set in on houses. The first wave of suburban residents sold their homes as their children went on to other jobs and then they retired and used the proceeds to move into exurbs.

    A wholesale abandonment then sets in. Since L.A. is still growing, a lower income community moves into the community. In places of overall decline, like the Rust Belt, you could see entire neighborhoods completely abandoned, with no prospects of recovery.

    A “declining” neighborhood is either in entropy (the Rust Belt) or transition. To deem the transitionary community “inferior” to what was is racist; perpetuating that middle-class or higher white neighborhoods are the only areas that can be prosperous or desirable, and everything else is graded below that curve. You could have a stablizing Latino middle class with local businesses and civic organizations, but look down on it as a barrio because there are too many brown-skinned people living there.

    Is a barrio bad? Not always. Go to East L.A. (the actual unincorporated county boundaries), Montebello, Commerce or Pico Rivera. These areas have stabilized residences that are well-maintained, and in fact, housing is very hard to come by since the properties often stay within families. These places have very well-developed small businesses.

    Just give it time and accept the fact that prosperity can be outside the senses and imaginations of whites.

  5. Without a doubt, certain neighborhoods in Los Angeles will continue to decline — and it doesn’t take a PhD to figure out which ones those will be. Los Angeles is an extremely young city and the dust is just settling into the forms that will then hold true for at least a few generations. Van Nuys will grow as a place of low-income residents, because that is how it was designed, and because it no longer has value to the modern American middle class economy.

    Van Nuys was a city that had a specific historical role as a ready-made suburb to house thousands of middle class families following World War II. The Baby Boom happened in Van Nuys and hundreds of other similar cities around America in the 1940s and 50s. Soldiers who returned from fighting the Japanese or Germans could buy a federally-financed home, work in an aerospace factory or attend a free community community college, or use the GI Bill to pay for a first-rate university graduation.

    Van Nuys was one of many instant communities that were built for a specific economic condition. The booming post-war suburbs of Los Angeles played a legendary role in the growth of modern America; with that function fulfilled, these ticky-tack places will often fall by the economic wayside. Today, Van Nuys has nothing to offer most middle class families in Southern California. instead, it represents one of suburbia’s failures, with its porn shops, littered streets, graffiti, and the distinct tincture of residents who are most definitely not keeping up with the Joneses. For the good life, those who can afford better will shun Van Nuys and aim afield for places like Woodland Hills, Agoura, Santa Clarita — any place in L.A.’s wide constellation of suburbs where real estate prices are solid and the riff-raff is at bay.

    The surest sign of how a neighborhood will be in the future is to look to how it is right now: it is far more likely to stay the same than it is to change (and it is far less likely to change for the better than it is to change for the worse). The federal government is no longer in the city rebuilding business, like it was in the 1950s and 60s. Just as the rich are getting richer in the overall economy, so too will the rich neighborhoods get richer, as the poor ones continue downhill. The economy of our era is one of consolidation and the steady flow of money from the poor to the wealthy.

  6. van nuys IS going downhill, and it’s about to start rolling much faster: ralph’s and that home health care joint on sep. & victory are gone, and i wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they’re replaced by a giant 99 cents only store, not a starbucks or trader joe’s

  7. I guess if Chris Hamnett claims that only areas that once were kind of nice or fashionable are susceptible to de-gentrification, then what does that mean for communities that never were nice to begin with? Are neighborhoods like Van Nuys or any number of areas in LA that have been modest-income and ratty-tacky from the beginning uniquely positioned to go from bad to worse?

  8. Maus2-
    Well there are problems here, but like I’ve said before, you cannot condemn the entire Van Nuys area, because there are some VERY NICE areas, and some NOT VERY NICE areas. Just like many sections of LA. \

    I guess the good news is that since the gentrifying hasn’t happened yet, we are still on the upswing?

  9. “Indeed, some of the areas going down may not have gone up in the first place. Chris Hamnett, author of Unequal City: London in the Global Arena and a professor at King’s College, says that de-gentrification can only occur in areas that have already been gentrified.”

    If that’s true, then much of an area like Van Nuys, which wasn’t too nice (or gentrified) to begin with (sorry, Andrew and other residents of Van Nuys—-however, the same can be said about old Bunker Hill or the city’s downtown too) is very vulnerable to not de-gentrification but outright decline, if not collapse.

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