How can urban planners help fix gentrification?

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As part of his MIT thesis, “The Enacted Environment: The Creation of Place by Mexicans and Mexican Americans in East Los Angeles,” James Rojas investigated his community’s identity of place, through the lens of sociology, anthropology, architecture and urban planning.

How can urban planners help fix gentrification?
The building blocks of a city comprise more than simply structures Flickr/James Rojas

Historically, Los Angeles, California’s Latino community has been left out of the planning dialogue on its Eastside neighborhood. Without a voice, quality of life in the community was set back by the removal of the street cars in the late 1950’s and the later construction of the numerous freeways causing displacement and air pollution. However, the Eastside Latino community has strong cultural resiliency that lives on despite all the social, economic, physical setbacks and lack of urban planning.

East Los Angeles is rich in the production of art. Since the Civil Rights movement in the early 1970’s, Chicano artists and area residents have used the physical form of their community as a canvas for self-expression. The verve of the Latino community in East Los Angeles will always live on through the music, narratives, and the visual arts created by its artists. […]

As part of my MIT thesis, “The Enacted Environment: The Creation of Place by Mexicans and Mexican Americans in East Los Angeles,” I investigated my community’s identity of place, through the lens of sociology, anthropology, architecture and urban planning.

Through their cultural, social, and economic behavior patterns and needs, Latinos imagine, investigate, and transform their physical landscape. For example: a fence becomes a place of social interaction; a store sign becomes a work of art; and a front yard becomes a plaza.

Planners often lack the tools to investigate and understand this built-environment, or take seriously these interventions, even though they are creating such a palpable sense of place and neighborhood identity. []