By Claire Krelitz
Resistance to gentrification in Highland Park is nothing new, though it may be moving into a new phase.
At issue is the composition of the Land Use Committee of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council (HHPNC), which weighs in on matters related to gentrification, such as new real estate developments and liquor licenses for new bars and restaurants.
In Highland Park, the 10-person Land Use Committee is made up of five members of the neighborhood council’s governing board and five community stakeholders who are not on the neighborhood council. People who are interested in joining the committee nominate themselves, with the five neighborhood council self-nominees subject to approval by a vote of the council and the five community stakeholders approved by the Land Use Committee.
At the HHPNC meeting on December 5, the agenda called for appointing one new community stakeholder to the committee. A vacancy had arisen because Yajaira Castillo, who had been serving as a community stakeholder, had joined the governing board of the HHPNC. Under the bylaws, Castillo could not hold a community stakeholder seat on the Land Use Committee while serving on the HHPNC governing board.
But the prospect of a Land Use Committee without Castillo as a member did not sit well with many people in attendance at the meeting. Castillo is a leader in Highland Park’s anti-gentrification efforts, and some attendees at the meeting were concerned that her replacement on the Land Use Committee might not be as sympathetic to anti-gentrification sentiment in Highland Park.
After heated discussion, the HHPNC governing board agreed to put all 10 seats on the Land Use Committee up for election. That arrangement gave Castillo the opportunity to nominate herself as one of the five committee members from the neighborhood council, which she did. Seven other members of the neighborhood council also self-nominated, meaning that eight candidates are vying for five seats.
There was not time at the December 5 meeting to vote on the self-nominees for the five seats to be held by neighborhood council members, so the vote will be held at the next meeting on Thursday, January 9. Self nominations and voting for the five community stakeholder seats will likely take place at the Land Use Committee meeting on Tuesday, January 21.
Meanwhile, anti-gentrification activism continues in Highland Park. On Saturday, December 7, a protest organized by the L.A. Tenants Union Northeast Local drew some 40 residents and activists who marched on Figueroa Street from Avenue 58 to Avenue 50, speaking out against rising rents, the lack of maintenance and repairs at rental units, and intimidation, harassment and eviction by landlords. Among those marching were Castillo and two other HHPNC board members, Prissma Juarez and Rose Tapia-Serna, demonstrating with their participation that the protestors have support on the HHPNC.
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