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Protesters in Boyle Heights. Photo credit Serve the People LA.

Will SB 827 smash local control of development? 13 MIN, 23 SEC

State senator Scott Wiener has taken the fight over housing to where it hurts: single family neighborhoods.

SB 827 is a bill that would allow for the construction of taller and denser housing projects in neighborhoods within a half mile of major transit stops or a quarter of a mile away from stops on high frequency bus routes.

It would upend local control over planning and upzone parts of some single family neighborhoods.

Residents of such neighborhoods do not like the bill and nor do the councilpeople representing them.

But, says Wiener, and the YIMBY groups supporting his measure, “pure local control has driven the car into the ditch….because local elected officials, and I am a former local elected official, have enormous pressure not to approve housing because of a strong incentive not to allow any change.”

Meanwhile, developers and planners are divided over the possible physical impacts of the bill.

Developer Mott Smith argues it will incentivize a desirable blend of single family homes and duplexes and fourplexes while UCLA geographer Michael Storper says it will produce an undesirable “linear or sort of chaotic density rather than the build up of of true interactive urban centers.”

From the macro perspective, says city branding consultant Thomas Sevcik, the bill is vital because “the 21st century is the Pacific century” and Los Angeles needs to rise above “homeownership small solutions” and plan strategically for becoming the great American city of this century.

Senator Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco in the state legislature, is the author of SB 827. He says building more housing is critical to the state’s future. He says putting housing near mass transit would also cut down on traffic and sprawl. Photo credit: Saul Gonzalez

Saul Gonzalez, Host, 'There Goes the Neighborhood: Los Angeles' (@SaulKCRW)
Thomas Sevcik, Co-Founder and CEO of the Arthesia Group, which provides strategic insight on cities, and is based in Zurich and Los Angeles.
Mott Smith, Civic Enterprise (@CivicEnterprise)
Michael Storper, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs (@michaelstorper)

What is SB 827 and will it destroy single family neighborhoods?

Boyle Heights gallery offers protesters “symbolic” closure 14 MIN, 2 SEC

A war of attrition against art galleries in the western industrial area of Boyle Heights has caused one to announce its closure and another, Museum as Retail Space, to offer up his artist-activist antagonists the “symbolic and actual closing of my gallery.”

A coalition of groups including Union de Vecinos, Defend Boyle Heights and UltraRed operate under the umbrella BHAAD, or Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement.

They argue the galleries bring in expensive housing and cause displacement of the low- income, majority Latino residents of Boyle Heights.

UltraRed is a group of self-described activist-artists, who, according to their online mission statement “pursue a fragile but dynamic exchange between art and political organizing... around issues including AIDS-HIV rights, anti-racism, and participatory community development. The group emphasizes activism as performance through radio broadcasts, installations and “public space actions.”

This mingling of art and activism has Robert Zin Stark, owner of Museum as Retail Space, or MaRS, pondering their motives.

Museum as Retail Space (MaRS) is a contemporary art gallery located in the industrial western edge of Boyle Heights.

Why, he says, do they target the galleries over, say, the 6th Street Viaduct replacement, a multi-million dollar product connecting the affluent Arts District with Boyle Heights? Zin Stark tells DnA he has come to the conclusion they are “a group of intelligent cultural enactors and they're working with symbols and symbolism and community more so than actual political aims.”

And their tactics have produced results.

One of the galleries, 356 Mission, has just announced it will close next month. The founders, Laura Owens and Wendy Yao, told the LA Times it was not directly because of these protests.

But Robert Zin Stark says the attacks on MaRS and the other galleries, which involve trolling online, boycotts and protesting openings, are draining and are turning the gallerists into pariahs in their own community of artists, dealers and arts journalists. So he has decided to respond to performance with performance.

He has sent an invitation to Union de Vecinos, Defend Boyle Heights, UltraRed and BHAAD “to offer the ceremonial closing of my gallery to contextualize the relevance of your cultural enaction.”

Elizabeth Blaney, co-founder of Union de Vecinos, in front of the group’s office in Boyle Heights. Photo by Avishay Artsy.

DnA also talks to Elizabeth Blaney, co-founder of UltraRed and member of the BHAAD coalition, about their tactics.

She says the galleries are just one target of many in their anti-gentrification fight but that the “stubborn and noxious and arrogant gallery owners” have “refused to analyze and acknowledge the negative impact they have on the residents who live around them.”

Many residents of Boyle Heights are nervous about displacement and gentrification. But some supporters of tenants’ rights question the tactics and credentials of the activist- artists. After all, BHAAD has also targeted longtime arts nonprofits in Boyle Heights, like Self Help Graphics.

Eric Avila, professor of history and Chicano Studies at UCLA, says he detects “a certain degree of urban ventriloquism going on in which certain groups or certain actors speak through the voices of people who are positioned or perceived to be more authentic or more connected to the kind of ground level social struggles.”

But he acknowledges that the strategy “brings attention to a bad situation that is getting worse, particularly with regards to housing.”

Elizabeth Blaney, Union de Vecinos (@UniondVecinos)
Robert Zin Stark, Director and owner of Museum as Retail Space (MaRS) gallery (@MaRS_gallery)
Eric Avila, UCLA (@uclaurbnplnning)

DnA: Boyle Heights housing activists target art galleries
Are white hipsters hijacking an anti-gentrification fight in Los Angeles?
LA’s Art Community and Activists React to the Closing of 356 Mission
The 'Artwashing' of America: The Battle for the Soul of Los Angeles Against Gentrification
Laura Owens Responds to Anti-Gentrification Protests of Her Boyle Heights Gallery

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