Highland Park: A City on the….grow?

Ξ October 29th, 2007 | → 9 Comments | ∇ Highland Park |

When describing to my middle class southern California family the neighborhood in which I’ve purchased my first home, I often find myself falling back on the refrain “There’s a reason I can afford it”.  I don’t intend it as a pejorative, but for a family that purchased their homes in San Diego in the 1970s, $100K would sound like a lot for a two bedroom house, (obviously not appreciating the fact that the average home in the city of Los Angeles costs over $500K today).  There were many areas of town where I could have afforded a very modest dwelling within a reasonable (for SoCal) commute of my Westside job: the outskirts of the San Fernando Valley, South of the 10 and East of the 405, and some areas of Northeast LA.  I settled on Highland Park because it was an area I was familiar with from my college days, and because I believe I am seeing an upward trend migrating in a roughly northeast direction from Hollywood towards Pasadena.  In the late 90s, Los Feliz and Silverlake were the vibrant areas full of art studios, hip restaurants, and cafes with the ubiquitous Five O’clock Shadow Guy working on his screenplay and nursing a bottomless cup of coffee.  Starting around 2001, Eagle Rock began to gentrify with soaring home values and the new businesses that those homeowners want (Swork, Coffee Table, Panda Express, Starbucks, Coldstone, The Chalet, etc.).  By looking at a map, there isn’t much more affordable property left in the area.  The aforementioned Eagle Rock has already come up in price (an average of $512.09 per square foot in the first fiscal quarter of 2007 according to dqnews.com). South Pasadena and its better regarded public school system and lower crime rate averages $513.70 psf.  Highland Park by contrast, only costs $470.45 psf, or an average of about 8-8.5% less than the neighborhoods on its east and west borders.  Yes, Highland Park has a gang problem that is less prevalent in our more expensive neighbors, and yes, our business corridors lack the commerce of Colorado Blvd in Eagle Rock (Think of all those Piken “For Lease” signs on Figueroa).  Still, truly destitute neighborhoods don’t have many of the unique amenities we do.  I believe I would be hard pressed to find an establishment like The York in Florence or Normandy.  Nevertheless, are comments like this one I found on a wikipedia discussion forum indicative of outsiders’ impressions of Highland Park?  Responding to how and if gentrification is affecting the neighborhood, this individual wrote:There is nothing subjective about the statement that much of Highland Park is still rather below par: a collection of photos taken on any given day will prove that. Highland Park is in fact somewhere between a quaint historic district and a shithole full of winos and street gangsters.Yes there are gangsters, and yes, there are winos but do I feel like Highland Park is “full” of them?  My old apartment by the Veterans Hospital in West Los Angeles had many more winos and schizophrenics than Northeast LA.  Echo Park and West Adams have active gangs but these neighborhoods are widely considered to be rapidly improving and gentrifying.  Maybe the best comment I’ve heard on the neighborhood was when my San Diegan family came to visit for a weekend and my step-mother implicitly approved by acknowledging, “It’s a neighborhood where everyone is trying to make it.”  From my neighbors who work rotating twelve hour shifts to carve out a better life for their children, to the new home-owning hipster looking for his slice of the American dream, Highland Park residents are trying to make it.  What do you think?  Shithole?  Gentrification?  Or something else?  I think you know where I stand.Bonus points for catching the Simpsons allusion in the title.


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