Gentrification Won’t Stop Some Black Families in South LA


Michael Tubbs has spent years making a name for himself as the first black mayor of Stockton, launching a guaranteed income program and making it a model for other cities and, hopefully, the whole nation one day. .

It was quite the race. But after losing a re-election bid last year, Tubbs and his wife, Anna, have started to think about their next chapter.

They knew they wanted one thing above all else: to live in a strong black community. And so they did what a growing number of black families cannot do as housing costs continue to climb in southern LA – they bought a home in the historically black neighborhood of Hyde Park.

“It made sense,” Tubbs told me one morning recently. “We know that there is a chance that our children will be educated in a predominantly white environment. So we thought we didn’t want their experience to always be “the only” or “one of the few”. We want them to see themselves reflected in others around them.

But, he admitted, with homes now worth $ 1 million, “even moving to Hyde Park for us was a bit of a stretch.”

It’s a crazy thing to consider: Redlining and restrictive covenants created the black neighborhoods of southern LA, and now most blacks can’t afford to buy – or even rent – there.

Go to any open house in South LA and black shoppers are rare.

And yet, only a generation ago, black parents were dragging their children from southern LA to the San Fernando Valley for a better life, as my colleague Sandy Banks recounted in a recent column. Never mind that for decades these neighborhoods were notoriously reserved for whites.

I grew up in Ohio, but I was also dragged from a predominantly black suburb to a predominantly white suburb for a better life. Everything is a cycle, I guess.

So now, with the demographic shifts brought on by gentrification, everyone wants to talk about the influx of white neighbors and the risk of losing southern LA as a mecca for black culture.

I recently had such a conversation with Stacy Lewis, head of the Leimert Park Neighborhood Assn. I asked if he knew of any black families who had recently bought homes south of Highway 10. He just looked at me in confusion and shook his head.

“No, just white people,” he said emphatically.

As if at the right time, a white woman in yoga pants strolled by our table outside Cafe Harun.

But, at the end of the day, there are blacks who can and, more importantly, are willing to pay the mind-boggling down payments and accept the exorbitant mortgages that have become the norm for buying a home in the south of the country. THE.

The exact number of families is not clear. But they do exist.

Many have made their money in the technology and entertainment industries. There are the Issa Raes and Tiffany Haddishs, of course, but also showrunners and writers and executives with names few would recognize.

In recent years, Pam Lumpkin, an agent for Compass Real Estate, said she has sold a number of homes in South Los Angeles to black professionals, both single adults and young couples seeking to start a family.

Lumpkin said many are looking for her specifically because while they may live in, say, Hollywood or Studio City, they want to live in a black neighborhood.

“I feel like there’s some kind of awakening in my community,” she told me, “not just my neighborhood community, but my African American community. We want to get back what we had before. We don’t want to lose this.

Some told him that they had been changed by the racial calculation last year and that they saw George Floyd being murdered by the Minneapolis police. Others say they are simply exhausted from the years of blatant and blatant racism under the Trump administration.

“Our children go to these schools where no one is like them. The teachers, the administrators, all of that, ”said Lumpkin, who lives in View Park. “The feeling of security in the neighborhood is pleasant. For example, you feel safe seeing other people who are like you.

That’s a good thing for those interested in preserving the darkness of southern LA because the future of these neighborhoods will come down to two things. First, if a majority of longtime black residents choose to keep their homes rather than selling them to homeowners or developers. And second, if black families who can afford to live anywhere choose to buy homes in South LA

Home values ​​are rising in southern LA neighborhoods like View Park.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

And, if they buy in South LA, whether they act as gentrifiers or as community actors. This is the difference between economic gentrification which now seems inevitable and cultural gentrification which is not.

Tubbs and his wife struggled with these questions. The former mayor said he went so far as to ask local black officials whether his family would be seen as gentrifying and whether it would undermine their efforts to curb movement.

“They said it is important that people arrive with a sense of belonging,” he said, noting that he is already involved in several grassroots local initiatives. “So it’s about buying property and owning land. I think they also appreciated that it was me and my wife, and we are like the community.

Michael and Clarissa Brooks, who recently bought a house in Ladera Heights after living in the Bay Area, are still worried about being gentrifiers. Then again, they both grew up in Brooklyn, when Brooklyn was Brooklyn.

“The unfortunate part of all of this is that I know it’s not achievable for all of us,” said Clarissa, who works in private practice as a lawyer. “And that part was hard to reconcile, to be honest, because it’s nice to walk into a place where you don’t have to feel different.”

Michael, who works in product management at Snapchat, agreed with his wife, adding that the predominantly black neighborhood looked like “a warm blanket,” as Brooklyn had previously felt.

“No one is crossing the street, no one is holding his purse, no one is closing the door behind him before I can reach him,” he said. “Nobody does that.”

That’s why, despite all the angst over gentrification, Lumpkin is confident that more black families who can afford to buy homes in South LA will eventually do so.

“Why take your money and go buy where you have to worry about who your next door neighbor is, worrying about whether he’ll do it right or not? ” she asked. “Bring your money here and invest it here and let’s build our community. “

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