Among the many factors that can fundamentally transform a neighborhood is a shift in zoning law, as Highland Park learned during the late 1940s. These changes across the region allowed single-family homes to be razed and replaced by multi-family dwellings; while this was a bonanza for builders and for those who owned or managed rental properties, the change tended to bring property values down. In Highland Park, the downward pressure exerted on the housing market by the arrival of multi-family housing was amplified by the outward pressure exerted by the arrival of the Arroyo Seco Parkway, creating the perfect conditions for a gradual but epochal demographic shift.
In the 1940s Anglo families began to flee their urban neighborhoods, which they increasingly viewed as sliding into the inner city, leaving them behind for newly minted suburbs in the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys and the Westside. In turn, more and more Mexican-American families began to move onto newly vacated streets, fleeing the increasingly close quarters of places like East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights in search of their own piece of the middle-class, American Dream.
This moment when the neighborhood hung in not-so perfect balance between its old and new identities was a time of confusion and occasional conflict. Older, predominantly white residents—many of whom had not caught the wave out for reasons of either habit or income—found that their streets were alive with the noises and cries of a new generation of kids, this instead of the calm quiet of a graying neighborhood. The surnames were changing as well, from Glassell and Johnston to Duardo and Muñoz, and the food being eaten in backyards and at church socials was different as well--tamales anyone?
The post-war Latinoization of Los Angeles was underway: a change that would transform Northeast and South Los Angeles, and which is still transforming the city to this day.
Above, former city councilman Arthur Snyder, journalist and author Ruben Martinez, UCLA professor and urban planner Eric Avila, and The Duarado Family, longtime Highland Park residents, discuss the political and social implications of Highland Park and Los Angeles' demographic toward a Latino majority.
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