Gentrification of LA: Taking the Old With the New

Hope you are having a good week, Christmas is a-coming! Last weekend I feel like I had one of the best I’ve had in a while, which I’m going to share in this post.  Every day this week has felt like a Friday, I cannot complain! On to the main dish..

When you think of the Downtown of a city, you generally imagine it to be the jewel of the city, teeming with activity.  Off the top of my head  Downtown San Francisco, Downtown Portland, Downtown San Diego, etc. Leave it to LA to break that mold. LA’s  “jewel” is further  North, people think of Sunset and Vine, the Hollywood sign, the  Walk of Fame, All the “Little’s” of LA– Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, etc. DTLA has always been the dark spot of the city, a sore if you will. I took a class at UCLA that covered the Archaeology of LA , I learned in that class that a) Archaeology could be interesting and b) LA was built as a playground for the rich & wealthy.  The poor public transport system is a testament to that. There is money to make parts of the cities sparkle, IF (big IF) the renovation will bring in the Benjamins, it’s all about the Benjamins baby. This post isn’t going to get into the nitty-gritty of the corruptness of LA politicians. This post is merely a reflection on my part on how a place close to my heart located in the Toy District of DTLA  has changed and will continue to change. It is sprinkled with past and present memories I have of the place and people.


When my mother suggested we go to DTLA to shop around in the Toy District  and eat LA street food(<3), I thought in my head why? I’m sorry but this place is dirty,  decrepit, derelict, and filled with down-and-out homeless. This is the truth, it’s the not first place that comes to mind when you think holidays. If there was a list of places to go for holidays, this wouldn’t make the list. Back when my parents ran our little store  filled to the brim with all kinds of Disney merchandise, they used to bring us with them to work every weekend.

La Old
This is a pic of our old store front, obviously different owners now. My sis and I used to spy on the store from the upstairs but it looks boarded up now

This period of time makes up many of my youngest memories growing up. I remember our walks to get to our store, looking at all the homeless lining up the sidewalks. As a youngster seeing poverty in all its rawness.. I was filled with sadness, disgust, fear, and as I grew older, remorse. Remorse that I got to go home to a nice roof over my head,  to a warm meal in a nice suburban city on the edge of LA. I was a child growing up in two different worlds. They just happened to get the short end of the stick. They got the streets, literally a box over their heads, and food from the shelter at the best. At the time the homeless didn’t even have tents, they had cardboard boxes and it smelled like sewage everyday we walked to our store. Looking something like this..


(Source Gary Leonard) 

Fast forward nearly two decades forward, the number of homeless in view has certainly decreased. I saw one person sleeping on the ground. Where did they all go? As many as 40,000 homeless people are predicted to be living in the whole of Los Angeles county, two-thirds of which either live in the street, in tents or in cars. (source BBC)They are occupying tents on a another street. I know more shelters are opening up, thank the lord we passed a whopping 1.87 billion plan to help get an estimated 40,000 people off the streets in LA. Making strides yo!

This time around when we took a stroll down memory lane aka our old stomping grounds, my Mom said she used to let us play on an opened cardboard box near the street, so safe MOM! We went into the building next door that was mostly filled with vendors, some store keepers had changed.  You definitely don’t shop here for ambiance, but they have awesome prices here. I ran straight for the food carts, elote , home-made churros, LA street hot dogs . Honestly, the food was the highlight for me to go. Here is a pic of half a hot dog, I wait for no one, no blog, no instagram to eat.

La dog

Which is why I’d never be a food blogger, it’d just be  a collection of half eaten things from bad angles. There is nothing like a LA street dog, nothing!  Also it is all yours for the thrifty price of $3 (in Santa Ana they sell for $5). I’m going to sidetrack right now a little, but the woman who cooked my hot dog asked us to sit on the stools right by her makeshift food truck. And I absolutely loved that and her sweet hospitality. She didn’t have to ask twice, I had a seat and proceeded to show my hot dog a good time.

I will love LA till I die for the exposure to different culture and people if you allow yourself to.Let yourself wander into the crevices, the little niches– you never know what you’ll find here.

Here is a taste of LA street art:

Decolonize and chill
It reads ‘We are still here’ By Santa Fe artist Jaque Fragua in Indian Alley
Homeless Graffiti
Audrey Hepburn quote, truly lovely person inside and out

I’ve included this picture not just because I have a special place in my heart for graffiti /street art. I thought it was *so* ironic, the message being conveyed and the only homeless sleeping person I saw that day was sleeping in front of it. Did he/she do this on purpose??  I wished I would’ve done something for the person.

I know, I know, I need action.

This wall (part of a Subway) also marks an imaginary border that separates the old/dingy DTLA from the new, up and coming bourgeois DTLA.

keep your eyez peeled

Am I fan of bourgeois DTLA? Yes. I’m not going to lie, the artistic vision is amazing– every spot I’ve visited I’ve honestly enjoyed. In a couple of words, its new but it still feels kinda old. But do I want the toy district to change? No offense, but I like the Mexico feels down there. Let them have this space! I like walking from the old to the new. But real talk, the toy district is going to  become an eye sore for the people moving in, if it’s not already… Here’s a pic of an apt complex they built nearby.

LA New
Right across the street from the toy district

I sincerely hope that whatever they decide on benefits/ considers both the storekeepers and the homeless people who occupy that space. I’m really lucky to have had exposure to different kinds of environment growing up. I don’t want to be a person who is comfortable in just one kind of environment.  I don’t like to live in a bubble, there is so much out there, so many stories to be heard, and many people who need a helping hand. Seeing it first hand is way different than hearing it on the news or picture for sure.

So even though initially I didn’t see any value in coming back to visit this space, I can say that I wholly appreciate this place from the bottom of my heart because of the memories I have here and it’s just special in its own way. Like people it has its’ flaws.. but we can choose to see the beauty in its’ flaws. Can’t wait till the next time I visit. Will it be the same or completely changed??

Happy holidays, keep warm, and do what you can to help people. A note, a smile, some change, a hand… it doesn’t take much!

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