In the last decades, Los Angeles urban renewal has been driven by a classic neoliberal trend toward making the city attractive to “the creative class,” a group of people believed to “create meaningful new forms” (see Richard Florida’s work on the creative class, 2002). The creative class, it is often believed by private and public interests, are crucial to urban revitilization as they bring new energies and money. Who doesn’t want new amenities such as public parks, bike lanes, schools and other projects that make urban streets safer and increase the quality of life of residents? Proponents of the creative class theory include a “rainbow” coalition of planners, city officials, developers and more.
To be very clear, these amenities are never intended for the city’s most poor and vulnerable residents. While some home owners in the Barrio may see their property values increase, many of the current residents will face displacement as a direct result. Research shows that the first people to face displacement are the elderly, people with disabilities and people who lack rent control. Though there is not sufficient research on the subject, it would not be too far of a stretch to assume that the list may also include other (intersectional) groups like undocumented immigrants, people with criminal records and LGBTQIA2S people. Urban renewal projects in Los Angeles and elsewhere where they follow this model are doomed to (re) produce and exacerbate existing racial and class hierarchies wherever they privilege re-development for an elite group of so-called “creatives.”
In the case of Boyle Heights, a historically segregated and underresourced community, it is probably safe to say that the vast majority of residents want new amenities. As it stands these amenities always inevitably come with strings attached. As we see it, we are not prepared to risk our friends, families, neighbors and ourselves be just some sort of “collateral damage.”