This Is a Black Neighborhood. You Aren’t Black.
Speaker 1: We all grew up, attended public schools here. Our families are here and to have entities to come in and destroy our communities is sickening.
Speaker 2: This neighborhood has just a long history of disinvestment. Now that we're seeing investment coming in, we want to be able to take advantage of those investments. We want a home-court advantage.
Speaker 3: To me gentrification is a polite word for white people coming in. Unfortunately, that's just how property values increase.
Speaker 4: People pull up and say, "Why did you buy here? This is a Black neighborhood. You're not Black." I say, "Look, okay, let's talk about that." I hear where you're coming from and this is who we are. This is why we're here.
Speaker 5: I don't want to live on an all-Black neighborhood. I don't want to live in an all-white or all [unintelligible 00:00:48]. I want a rainbow culture of people bring everybody in there.
Speaker 6: Los Angeles is changing at a very fast rate and that rate is almost blindsiding some of the African-American community that have been here for an extremely long time.
Speaker 7: [unintelligible 00:01:07] on Boulevard.
Speaker 8: There goes the neighborhood.
Speaker 9: There goes the neighborhood.
Speaker 10: There goes the neighborhood.
Speaker 11: There goes the neighborhood.
Saul Gonzalez: Recently KCRW reporter Anna Scott interviewed a guy who lends money to real estate investors. His name is Jerry Ducat. She asked him for his advice on LAs real estate market. Here's what he said.
Jerry Ducat: You should be buying in Inglewood.
Anna Scott: I was surprised at first. Certain LA neighborhoods come up over and over again in conversations about gentrification, Highland Park, Echo Park, Silver Lake. Those are the places you find the $7 lattes and the expensive new condos. Those neighborhoods all fit a kind of LA gentrification paradigm, a Latino community on LAs East side sees large numbers of white people move in. Inglewood however, doesn't fit that mold. For a long time, it was a largely Black city and it doesn't have many white people, at least not yet.
Saul Gonzalez: I'm Saul Gonzalez. This is There Goes The Neighborhood LA and today we're going to Inglewood. Now, if you're a Lakers fan of a certain era.
Speaker 12: Magic Johnson is entering the game.
Saul Gonzalez: Or watch the series Insecure on HBO.
Speaker 13: That looks so much bigger than it felt.
Speaker 14: I know. It's going to make some young white couple really happy someday.
Saul Gonzalez: Or listen to music.
Saul Gonzalez: You know Inglewood.
Saul Gonzalez: Like many Black communities it's sometimes gotten a bad rap from pop culture. Let me just play you this scene from the 1991 movie Grand Canyon. Kevin Kline's car breaks down at night in Inglewood after a Lakers game.
Kevin Kline: Yes, hi, I need road service for-- I don't know, let's say Inglewood.
Saul Gonzalez: The camera pans menacingly across a liquor store. Then a car full of young Black men blaring NWA pulls up.
Kevin Kline: Mayday, Mayday. We're going down.
Speaker 16: Why don't you get out of the car?
Saul Gonzalez: After that movie came out Inglewood officials wrote an open letter to Hollywood. They call Grand Canyon an assassination of an entire municipality's character. Now, it's not that Hollywood completely invented Inglewood's problems. For decades, it saw high crime in failing schools, but it's also a long-time bastion of LAs Black middle-class. More than a third of the city's residents own their homes.
Erin Aubry Kaplan: I grew up right across the Inglewood border in Southcentral, and then actually bought a house here myself into 2004. I've never really left.
Anna Scott: Erin Aubry Kaplan has been writing about Inglewood for more than 20 years, including as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. She lives in a ranch style home on a quiet suburban street in Inglewood.
Erin Aubry Kaplan: People sit out on their porches and talk. It's kind of this transport of Southern culture that still is around. It's not upper-middle class, it's working to middle-class, but the people aren't just struggling to survive. There's isn't that tension of being in poverty and I know that too. There's kind of this space to talk and breathe and talk about racial struggle, but also talk about other things like how's your lawn doing?
It's that kind of space that brings together a lot of different elements of the Black experience, the middle class, the working class, the historical past, and it doesn't exist certainly nowhere else in LA or LA County.
Anna Scott: Right now, Inglewood is in the crosshairs of developers, speculators, and money lenders like Jerry Ducat.
Jerry Ducat: Inglewood is because of its geographical location and all the activity taking place in Inglewood is a great opportunity.
Anna Scott: In two years, a new light rail line is expected to open connecting the city to the airport and downtown LA. The Forum where the Lakers used to play has been revamped into a premier concert venue. The biggest thing an NFL stadium, the most expensive one ever built will be home to both the LA Rams and the Chargers. It's under construction on what used to be the Hollywood Park racetrack. It's more than a stadium. It's part of what's supposed to become a $3 billion city within a city. It'll have thousands of new housing units, a hotel, stores, restaurants, a theater with 6,000 seats, four parks.
Mayor James Butts: Two lakes. I like to say on a Partridge in a pear tree.
Anna Scott: That's Inglewood mayor James Butts.
Mayor James Butts: This is going to be a development that's going to be three times the size of Century city, three and a half times the size of Disneyland, and twice as big as Vatican city for perspective.
Anna Scott: He says Inglewood is a city on the rise. In the past six years it's recovered from being on the verge of bankruptcy and crime has fallen steadily.
Saul Gonzalez: There are Inglewood residents who are profiting from the changes.
Speaker 17: Ready, set, go. Oh, yes, [unintelligible 00:06:07]
Saul Gonzalez: Every Sunday, a group of local men meet at the Inglewood Forum's huge parking lot to raise small radio-controlled cars.
Crap. Those are fast. How fast do they go?
Leroy Clavin: Oh, we've topped these cars out, just right in here over 80.
Saul Gonzalez: It's here that I meet Leroy Clavin. He's a painter and a handyman. As we talk he points in the direction of the future NFL stadium.
Leroy Clavin: Actually, I'm liking it. I'm liking it. I've been making money off of it. Yes, I'm into construction. A lot of people are refurbishing their properties near the stadium. A lot of people are coming in and buying the dirt around the stadium. I have been making a lot of money in the last year and a half off of this. I ain't going to lie. I've done nine projects over here.
Saul Gonzalez: For you it's good. Bring the boom on if there's a boom.
Leroy Clavin: Bring it on, bring it on. It's bringing money back into the area.
Saul Gonzalez: What's happening in Inglewood though isn't just about a stadium or a light rail line. Remember Jerry Ducat, the moneylender talking about its geographic location. It's about much larger economic forces, squeezing LAs Westside housing market and pushing demand East. Inglewood's a short drive from Silicon beach where hundreds of tech companies have opened offices along the coast. We're talking, Google, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, and Yahoo. They've created thousands of high paying jobs.
Anna Scott: If you want to buy a house in that area, be prepared to spend. In Venice, the median home value is upwards of $1.5 million. If you're looking to rent good luck finding anything affordable.
Lucy Williams: Hi.
Saul Gonzalez: Hi, how are you? If you purchase a house in Inglewood, it costs a lot less. I'm a young tech worker and maybe I've just moved to LA, you would say great house to buy.
Lucy Williams: This is a cute little house. The neighborhood has a lot of people who've lived here a long time. Somebody on the street said that they've lived here for 10 years and they're a newbie.
Saul Gonzalez: That's real estate agent, Lucy Williams, who I meet at an open house for an 800 square foot Inglewood cottage. It's list price $400,000. I can be in Silicon Beach in how many minutes from here?
Lucy Williams: Less than 15, I would say. It depends on traffic, but yes.
Saul Gonzalez: Like everything in LA depends on traffic.
Lucy Williams: Yes [chuckles].
Anna Scott: Why is Inglewood still so cheap? The answer has to do with history and race. I asked Erin Aubry Kaplan, who you heard from earlier, why she thinks LA's Latino neighborhoods gentrified first before it's neighborhoods with large Black populations.
Erin Aubry Kaplan: I think people are less frightened of Latinos. Black people give everyone pause, particularly poor Black people. No one wants to live next door to a poor Black person. They just don't. Black people are scary to most Americans. I'll be honest. They're foreboding, they're forbidden. There were laws specifically written to keep them out of society.
Saul Gonzalez: Those laws Erin just mentioned. Well, they were actually racial covenants, explicit language, and property deeds that prevented homes from being sold to African-Americans and other minorities. It was also really common for banks not to provide mortgages to people of color. Go back more than 50 years and those practices helped to keep Inglewood largely white.
George Smith: You couldn't go to Inglewood because we had the post office right there at 83rd and Western, and you couldn't cross down there. See, there was a line. You couldn't cross down there because that was Inglewood.
Saul Gonzalez: George Smith. Who's Black and in his 70s remembers those days.
George Smith: This side of Venice was LA and you couldn't go over there to even buy a house. If you're going over there, "What are you doing over here? You don't live here." If you want to work to movie or shop the police would stop you. "What are you doing over here?" "Well, I'm just driving through." "Well, keep going then." I thought [unintelligible 00:10:01] in Mississippi or some place.
Saul Gonzalez: Then there's this guy who remembers the old days very clearly right down to the fight song for Inglewood High.
Jack Frost: Cheer, cheer, cheer for Inglewood, Inglewood, we're for you, here for you.
Saul Gonzalez: That's my father-in-law, Jack Frost. Yes, Jack Frost is actually his name. He's a white guy who grew up in Inglewood in the 1930s and '40s, and he describes it as a pretty idyllic place then except--
Jack Frost: Inglewood wasn't a very nice place in a way, in that it was quite racially segregated, I guess, is [unintelligible 00:10:37]
Saul Gonzalez: Blacks weren't welcomed.
Jack Frost: Right. I went to high school there and graduated in 1947. At that point in time, we had no Black people in the school.
Speaker 22: Six days of rioting in a Negro section of Los Angeles left behind the scenes reminiscent of war torn cities.
Saul Gonzalez: That changed after the Watts riots in 1965, and the resulting of white flight across LA from the city to the suburbs.
Speaker 22: Firemen were [unintelligible 00:11:05] by snipers and brick-throwing hoodlums as they attempted to control the fires, many of which were left to burn themselves out.
Saul Gonzalez: Real Estate Agents also help speed along racial change. Historian, Wade Graham.
Wade Graham: The way it worked was, if you could take advantage of somebody's situation and get them to sell to a Black family, you could then go door to door and tell the white homeowners that their property values were going to plummet, and they needed to get out fast before it got even worse. You could grab those houses at a discount and then sell them at an enormous profit to African-Americans who were desperate for somewhere to live.
Anna Scott: Erin Aubry Kaplan knows people on her street who are witnesses to that change.
Erin Aubry Kaplan: I have a neighbor around the corner, she moved here in 1967 when Inglewood was largely white. Her neighbor, who's a white guy, would come out every morning on his porch, and say to her, "What are you doing here?" By the end of the summer, the entire block had changed and just became all Black. She laughs about that story, but I think it's a painful story. What does that feel like to move somewhere to start to achieve this dream of integration and then everybody leaves?
Now we are in 2017, faced with the prospect of white people coming back. On the one hand, we know property values go up. On the other hand, we know this can't work because history has shown it can't work, and it won't work.
Saul Gonzalez: When we come back, can Inglewood gentrify without sacrificing its Black community?
Saul Gonzalez: Is gentrification a zero-sum game in Inglewood if white people start buying in the community? Does that inevitably mean Black people get pushed out?
Anna Scott: Hi, Henry.
Henry Manoucheri: Hi.
Anna Scott: Hey.
Henry Manoucheri: How are you? Hi.
Anna Scott: Good. Anna. Nice to meet you.
Saul Gonzalez: Again, here's Anna Scott.
Anna Scott: Meet Henry Manoucheri. Henry is a real estate investor. He raises a lot of money from Hollywood executives. His company is called Universe Holdings.
Henry Manoucheri: It's a vision that my father had that one day we will have properties all over the universe, thinking big.
Anna Scott: Henry came to LA from Iran when he was 15 in 1978. He has a simple formula, buy apartment buildings, renovate, raise rents, then hold on to the properties for a long time to bring in a steady cash flow for investors.
Henry Manoucheri: We generally don't like to sell property. We like to buy property.
Anna Scott: Henry and his team are like gentrification bloodhounds, and they've followed the scent to Inglewood.
Henry Manoucheri: We saw rents back in 2014 that were 70, 80 cents a foot. We hadn't seen that anywhere in LA for years. I'm like, "What's going on over here?" This is like, 30, 20, 45 years ago. Inglewood looks like a great buy.
Anna Scott: In the past two and a half years, Universe Holdings has scooped up seven apartment buildings in Inglewood.
Henry Manoucheri: Would it ever become the west side? Who knows? Probably not, because it's just behind the times, but we look at this as a growth stock. We think there's a lot of room to grow because we're starting at the ground level.
Anna Scott: One of the reasons Inglewood has been undervalued is because it's been a largely Black neighborhood for many years. As Black neighborhoods gentrify, often there's a racial change, and they become wider often. I guess, I wonder just what you think about that and how you think about your role in gentrification.
Henry Manoucheri: When people who've been living in this community for the past 30 years, 40 years, see the change is going to create a lot of inspiration, and that invites more people to come in. I think it's nice that their area gentrifies because people learn to coexist amongst other racial types, and it could create a very nice, cohesive community.
Anna Scott: What about the nice, cohesive community that already exists? I asked Henry if the area can gentrify and stay largely African-American. He sidestepped race, and said, "Hey, LA is booming. We have all these new industries now like the tech sector. There's more prosperity, and that creates winners and losers."
Henry Manoucheri: If people can't elevate themselves economically by working harder and getting better jobs, there's going to be no choice for them but to move to the less affluent neighborhoods.
Anna Scott: Henry has faith in the market, but the market is not an even playing field. One study published last year by UCLA and Duke University found that the median wealth of white households in Los Angeles is 89 times what it is for Black households.
Saul Gonzalez: Some people in the Inglewood already feel the financial pressure of guys like Henry coming in, renters. Unlike the City of LA, Inglewood doesn't have rent control. We went to one of Henry's properties, a two-storey apartment complex. It's built around a square central courtyard. A few kids were playing there. I asked if any of their parents were home. A few minutes later, a guy about 50 years old came down to the courtyard. He asked to go by the nickname Hysie. He's afraid using his real name might get him in trouble with Henry, his landlord. Yes, Hysie says his rent's been increasing.
Hysie: It started going up last year around November or December. The rent went from $13.25 to $18.75.
Saul Gonzalez: That's a 40% increase. Hysie shares a two bedroom with his girlfriend, his daughter and two grandchildren.
Hysie: Everybody else as a minority is basically being pushed out. That's what's happening right now.
Saul Gonzalez: You see that happening, or you think you see that happening?
Hysie: No, it was happening. If you go probably three miles north, what they used to call The Jungles in Baldwin Hills down there. It had a bad name as far as saying that it was bad because there's a lot of gang and drugs and everything else around there, but now, you have a lot of white and Asians that move in there. You would actually see them late at night or early morning walking their dogs to these postmen bad neighborhoods and not to be like say on a stereotypical like statement. Once you really start seeing white people walking with dogs out, there it is, right there.
As a matter of fact, here's a couple of white families that moved in here already, and then they build in a rail system on Crenshaw. If you look at everything together, it's really not for us. I guess the first cupcake shop goes up, it'd be official.
Anna Scott: Guess what Erin told me.
Erin Aubry Kaplan: Oh, there's a new cupcake shop. We have a cupcake shop now right around the corner from here. I figured that's a good sign, right?
Anna Scott: I told Hysie what Erin said.
Hysie: There it is, it is official.
Anna Scott: Erin is a homeowner. If Inglewood property values go up, she could make a lot of money. Her fear isn't about being priced out. It's about the future of Inglewood's Black community and not just because of this new talk about gentrification. In 1990, Inglewood was 50% Black and 38% Latino. Since then, those numbers have flipped.
Erin Aubry Kaplan: Inglewood, even though it was a concentration of Black people, it's heavily Latino. The new people who moved on this block have been Latino, and that "displacement" has been going on for quite some time. I don't mean to sound like a hostile takeover, but it's been changing anyway so that you add that to the gentrification prospect, and it's very nerve-racking for a lot of Black people all over LA. I got an email from my neighborhood [unintelligible 00:18:45]. Someone just sent out a message, "Don't sell your house. Don't sell your house. Stay put."
Anna Scott: Erin has lived in other parts of LA, but she says they felt anonymous to her. Living in a largely Black neighborhood is something she treasures.
Erin Aubry Kaplan: I really know everyone, and we all talk a similar language. We have similar interests, and that's community.
Anna Scott: The mayor of Inglewood, James Butts, is familiar with this sentiment, but he says the city is open to everyone.
Mayor James Butts: People that can afford to buy a house that someone else wants to sell should be allowed to move here and to have any consideration that that person is white. That's just a bigger nonstarters. It was in 1960 when the current residents cared if that person that could afford to buy a house that someone wanted to sell was Black.
Anna Scott: Of course, what do you expect the mayor to say? Butts has made it his job to bring new investment and money to the city. Erin wants to see new investment, too. She'd love to have more sit down restaurants, a new grocery store, but she says history doesn't show us a good track record of Black communities getting those things and staying Black.
Erin Aubry Kaplan: Why can't that happen? It happens in other neighborhoods. Other populations expect certain amenities when they live there. It's the American sense of entitlement, I guess. We've never been able to share in that and that's real equality. When you move somewhere, Trader Joe's comes to you. I call it retail justice. It's not the same as racial justice but we've substituted it in our mind. If we could just get that Trader Joe's, that's equality.
Anna Scott: The possibility of getting that Trader Joe's now feels bittersweet.
Erin Aubry Kaplan: People have been asking for decades for certain things, improvements, better this, better that, somehow it only happens when this gentrification process starts. Until that happens, nothing happens.
Leroy Clavin: Race is ready, set, go.
Saul Gonzalez: In the parking lot of the forum, Leroy, the handyman who races those radio-controlled cars, well, he has mixed feelings too. Even as Inglewood changes, help him.
Leroy Clavin: Now, it's going to price to poor people out. You got to give and take somewhere. It's going to price them out.
Saul Gonzalez: When you're working on your projects here and you're refurbishing homes and remodeling process, are you playing your own little small part you think, in gentrification, honestly?
Leroy Clavin: Yes, I do feel that but what can I do? I have a large family to feed myself.
Saul Gonzalez: African-Americans beyond the city limits of Inglewood have anxieties too about their future because of gentrification and changing demographics. Black residents now make up about 9% of the city of LA's population or nearly half of what it was compared to 1980. There are very few majority Black neighborhoods left in LA.
Regina Freer: There also is an anxiety about disappearance of Black folks in the city.
Saul Gonzalez: That's Regina Freer, a professor of politics and urban studies at Occidental College. For years Regina's neighborhood, Leimert Park, has been a crossroads of Black LA life with African-American owned businesses and cultural institutions.
Regina Freer: It is the cultural hub of Leimert going to include Black people as residents and stakeholders in the wealth that's generated or they merely going to be the performers of Black culture and for someone else.
Saul Gonzalez: Looking to the future, Regina says she totally understands that change is inevitable in Los Angeles. She just hopes there's a strong and large enough African-American population here to help shape those changes.
Saul Gonzalez: Listeners, we really want to hear your experiences about change in LA or your own city. Do you have a personal experience with this issue in Inglewood or another traditionally African-American community? Please check out There Goes The Neighborhood's Facebook page and leave us a comment. We'd love to use your feedback on our next episode. Check out kcrw.com/theregoestheneighborhood. On the next show.
Bidder: 70,000 to take the lead. Now, 75. 1 million-
Saul Gonzalez: House flippers have moved from suburbs to LA's inner city neighborhoods.
Speaker 28: I want to buy every property for $1 is ideal.
Saul Gonzalez: That's the ideal.
Speaker 28: That's ideal. If it makes dollars, it makes sense.
Saul Gonzalez: You can also find There Goes the Neighborhood LA on Apple podcasts. Subscribe and tell your friends to subscribe and please leave a review. There Goes the Neighborhood's reporter is Anna Scott. Our producer is Miguel Contreras. Celeste Wesson is our editor. Sonya Geis is our managing editor. Ray Guarna and J.C Swattic are our recording engineers. At WNYC studios, our producer is Paige Cowett. Our executive producer is Karen Frillman. Cayce Means is our technical director. Our composer is Hannis Brown with additional music by Terence Blanchard.
I'm Saul Gonzalez. This series is supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Thanks for listening.
Leroy Clavin: We got to educate ourselves. We can't be stale and stuck back in the past and think that this is all supposed to be one way. We all have to learn. This is how we learn. This is how whites learn Blacks and Blacks learn whites. This is how we learn to get along with each other and realize that we all come from the same place, we breathe the same air and nothing in my home is going to affect you and your home. You live in yours, I live in mine.
When I look out the window of my house, all I want to see is your neighbors in your area looking nice. I'll do my part so when you look out your window. When your white friends come to your Black or the mixed neighborhood, they say, "Who live in that house?" I want to make sure that when they look across the street, I'm representing my house from your perspective so we can all say this is a beautiful neighborhood.
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