Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Putting the ass in assimilation

Tuesday's LA Times had an amazing article, "New generation of L.A.-area Latino leaders aren't as friendly toward 'amigo stores'". Apparently, the City Council in Baldwin Park wants to do away with "amigo stores" (you know, quinceañera shops, Mexican restaurants, crédito fácil furniture stores,etc.) and bring in high-class retailers like Fridays and Cheesecake Factory. The quotes in the article are comedy gold:

"We want what Middle America has as well," said the second-generation Mexican American, recounting the meeting. "We like to go to nice places like Claim Jumpers, Chili's and Applebee's. . . "

"Some opponents say that one councilwoman had told critics to "go back to [Tijuana]."

"I don't know where they got that," said Councilwoman Marlen Garcia. "What I said was 'We're striving to insure Baldwin Park doesn't look like Tijuana.' "

Sam Romero, 73, owner of St. Teresa's Catholic Gift Shop on 4th Street, said he once cracked to a local paper that one local politician "broke every glass and mirror in the house so he wouldn't have to see a Mexican."

"Councilwoman Marlen Garcia, said she was tired of pining for the Islands, Chevy's and Jamba Juices of neighboring West Covina...

"As soon as they said 'La Curacao,' I said, 'That's it,' " Garcia said. "We're not against our culture, nothing like that. But we want something that speaks to every culture."


Oh God. Now that I've finished LOL'ing, I'm depressed. What bums me out is this perception that it has to be all or nothing, either 100% amigo stores or a generic mall with the same fucking stores you see from Santa Monica to Covina. One of the things I love about Downtown is that you have both. You have all of the 99 cent stores and botanicas and joyerias on Broadway and in the Fashion District, but you also have 626 Reserve and Pete's and a bookstore on Main. That's what makes it such a rich community. That's what makes it fun to live down here.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of Downtown planners who see it the way the Baldwin Park politicos do. They want to clear out the SRO's. They want to evict all of the Latino stores from Broadway. they want to bring in the Banana Republics and Baja Freshes and turn downtown into a mall with cooler buildings.

Look, I like Starbucks as much as anyone and having a Starbucks down here would be nice, but not if it means getting rid of all of the cheap gold stores and sunglass vendors and the video game stores down on Los Angeles. Can't they co-exist? Why does it have to be all or nothing?

Being from NYC, I see that it can be different (thought unfortunately, NYC has also become a little more generic, a little more chain-oriented than it used to be). If you walk down Broadway in New York, yeah, you can shop at the Gap and H&M, but you also get the great cheap shoe emporiums, the Chinese department stores that sell satin bedspreads and cotton Mary Janes and giant woks, the street vendors who sell Gucci knock-off bags. This stuff can all live together, believe me. And it should. Otherwise, you're living in Reseda with tall buildings and expensive parking. And what's the point of that?

17 comments:

Julio said...

I am one of those persons that has hated on Starbucks since back in the day, so I wouldn't want a Starbucks anywhere near my neighborhood but it sure bums me out that some folks think having one equals social capital.

Why is everyone in a race to make their neighborhood EXACTLY like everyone else's?

Dave Bullock /eecue said...

Come on now, a Chilis would be awesome!

=]

Btw, welcome to the neighborhood.

-Dave

Li said...

"it sure bums me out that some folks think having one equals social capital. "

Seriously. I'll drink Starbucks coffee, but I know it's McDonald's for yuppies. No social capital there.

Dave, thanks for the welcome!

Dave Bullock /eecue said...

You're welcome. =]

My wife and I are planning on having kids in a year or two after she is settled in to her nursing career.

Btw here is her blog:

http://peneloper.com

and here is mine:

http://eecue.com

=]

-Dave

Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately, there are a lot of Downtown planners who see it the way the Baldwin Park politicos do. They want to clear out the SRO's. They want to evict all of the Latino stores from Broadway. they want to bring in the Banana Republics and Baja Freshes and turn downtown into a mall with cooler buildings."

Really? Is that what the BP politicos think? Here are the quotes from the story:

"We want what Middle America has as well" (key words, "as well," meaning "in addition to.")

"Lozano complained that downtown Baldwin Park had too many discount gift stores, too many beauty salons, too many Mexican restaurants and way too many pawnshops." (key words "too many," as in some are fine, but multiple is unnecessary)

"I love to go to traditional Mexican restaurants. I shop at Vallarta [supermarket], but I can't get everything I need" (in other words, the shops that are native and currently there are fine, but MORE of something else, i.e. diversity of commercial goods is needed.")


"What bums me out is this perception that it has to be all or nothing, either 100% amigo stores or a generic mall with the same fucking stores you see from Santa Monica to Covina."

Funny, because your read of the article is exactly what bums you out--the belief that wanting more types of commercial uses, in addition to the existing mom and pop "amigo stores", is the same as wanting 100% of either.

Li said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Li said...

Anonymous, had they explicitly said it was important to preserve the amigo stores *in addition* to bringing in the chains, I'd agree with you. But the people quoted in the article are pretty upfront about wanting to replace the traditional retail, not coexist with it. From the article:

"To make it happen, the city is considering a plan that could require the use of eminent domain power to clear a 125-acre area.

That would result in the loss of more than 80 homes and more than 100 small businesses."

And how about Marlen Garcia's crack about not wanting BP to look like Tijuana? If you read Curbed LA, whenever they write about Downtown some idiot jumps on the thread and compares Broadway to TJ. Nice that Garcia is using the same rhetoric as those bigoted mouth breathers.

The one person in the article who seemed to have a more balanced viewpoint was Anthony Bejarano, who said he loves Mexican restaurants and shopping at Vallarta but also wants to be able to buy Kenneth Cole shoes closer to home. That's pretty much how I feel about it. But Lozano and Garcia seem like they want turn BP into another generic suburb.

Anonymous said...

Most of my post got lost when I tried to post it, Li, but here is the most important point:

125 acres is the proposed upwards limit of the downtown project.

There are something like 600 acres in a square mile. There are 6.7 square miles that is the city of Baldwin park. The proposed project is approximately 3% of the entire area of the City. Even if you make adjustments for the amount of commercial space (a) the downtown area is at MOST half of the available current commercial space in the city. Even if the city got rid of every mom and pop store in that area (which, the city is not proposing, btw), it would not be a complete suburbanization of the City. (b) the City plans to invite back some or many (depending on which article you read) back into the project area once it is redeveloped. (c) Chances are the entire 125 acres will not all be redeveloped so many of the current businesses will remain as is.

EL CHAVO! said...

Sounds like anon works with one of the developers!

Anonymous said...

AHA! But of Course! If someone disagrees with you, they must work with one of the developers and or be on the take!

it's completely outside the realm of possibility that someone could have a different point of view than you!

Anonymous said...

Li,

"Anonymous, had they explicitly said it was important to preserve the amigo stores *in addition* to bringing in the chains, I'd agree with you."

Well, you and I can go round and round assuming and trying to read into the quotes, or you can ask the vatos yourself:

mgarcia2@baldwinpark.com
abejarano@baldwinpark.com
mlozano@baldwinpark.com

Li said...

Anonymous/chuppie, I think I need to read up some more before discussing this further. I'll admit it, you're making some good points on the LA Eastside blog. But I still think Marlen Garcia is an ass. ;^)

Anonymous said...

Li,

Fair enough. Your original point, that why must it be all one or the other, why can't the coexist like they do in "real" cities (i.e., NYC, DC, Chicago, etc.) is a good one, and in all honesty, I firmly believe that is what BP is striving for.

=)

the discourse has been a pleasure.

EL CHAVO! said...

I'm more than accepting of differing viewpoints than my own, but what I've learned during my time on the internet is that when someone comments exclusively on one topic, across blogs, they tend to have a vested interest in the issue. And when they seem to have more detailed info (3%, 125 acres, email addys) about the subject than anyone else, that's another vested interest pointer. Maybe you ain't, but you sure do seem it.

Deep pocketed developers can't let public opinion get away from them. Trivial investment to direct it accordingly is nothing new. It's a proven method.

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fairfaxfocus/2005/10/developer_buys_full_page_newsp.html

Li said...

Chavo, my husband made the exact same point after reading the comments and I can't believe that I was naive enough not to pick up on the obvious clues. Thanks for weighing in and for the Washington Post link.

Anonymous said...

I do not have a vested (or indirect) financial interest, as you have implied. Any interest I may have is a social one.

Yes, I do have detailed information--information that is public knowledge and easily accessible IF you have the inclination to educated yourself on a subject prior to speaking out on it.

But that's just me. Before I pop off on a subject or personnel, I tend to look at more than just a newspaper article. Otherwise, I keep my comments to questions and direct observations, and not value judgments.

Interesting how both of you wrote a blog on the subject matter, with some fairly weighted opinions on the people involved, their intent, and their "motive," yet, items such as the square footage of the community involved, the area of the project, are in your opinion detailed inside knowledge.

I know that the blogosphere, by its very nature, invites opinions and statements that are not necessarily fully informed.

However, what is disheartening is that I've engaged all of you in a fair manner, with facts that you can easily check yourself, with opinions not only this project, but the overall phenomenon that this project stems from. And rather than meet me on that higher sphere of discourse, your immediate (and apparently continued) method is to try to undermine my arguments and viewpoint by making unfounded, completely baseless accusations about who I am, my motivation, and my allegiances.

And that, in my humble opinion, is weak sauce.

Anonymous said...

P.s., I find this statement amusing:

"when they seem to have more detailed info (3%, 125 acres, email addys) about the subject than anyone else, that's another vested interest pointer."

a) The story says 125 acres, google Baldwin Park and you'll find out that it is 6 or so square miles, if you convert miles to acres, and then divide 125 by that number, you get 3%. It's not exactly rocket science.

b) the email addresses (and if you're interested the bios and phone numbers) of the council members who Li and are were debating the intent of can be found at www.baldwinpark.com. Again, Google is pretty helpful when you try to get "detailed" info on a subject you're debating the finer points about.