By Yxta Maya MurraySeptember 19, 2016
Zillow Listing of 1329 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90033
“The latest flashpoint is PSSST, a 5,000-square-foot nonprofit arts space located in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights. […] Despite its seemingly progressive mission, PSSST has recently received strong opposition from activists both within and outside the Boyle Heights community, some calling for increased dialogue with community groups, while others simply want the space gone.”
- Matt Stromberg, “In LA, Fear of Gentrification Greets New Nonprofit Art Space,” Hyperallergic, June 3, 2016
Heavy Industrial Property 4,716 sqft
FOR SALE $800,000, was $1,160,000
EST. MORTGAGE $2,169/mo Get pre-approved Listed by: Remax
1329 East Third Street is a heavy industrial property in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. It has an estimated value of $836,850, which is 94 percent higher than the $432,354 average for similar parcels in the 90033 zip code. However, the owners have reduced the price to only $800,000. They want out of Boyle Heights as soon as possible and so this is a perfect opportunity for a buyer with ready cash and an unapologetic disposition.
This property was purchased in 2014 for $975,000 by Investors Who Would Like to Remain Anonymous and who used it to host the incipiently defunct PSSST Art Gallery. These Anonymous Investors first sank money into Boyle Heights in 2009, which is when the city’s Metro Rail System built its light rail Gold Line subway station at First Street and Boyle Avenue and initiated the still-advancing Boyle Heights Boom. It’s too bad that the Anonymous Investors don’t have the stomach to wait out the current political controversy, because since they bought in, intrepid developers have brought many exciting development projects to the neighborhood. These include the mixed-use Santa Cecilia Apartments on East First Street, and the proposed Mariachi Plaza Community Center that will actually mostly incubate businesses. The area also hosts a growing number of art galleries, which unlike the minority- and queer-friendly PSSST, enjoy expanding revenue and so qualify as harbingers of the gentrification that makes Boyle Heights so attractive to pioneer stakeholders.
It cannot be said that PSSST failed as an art gallery per se because of its location, it just ran into some bad locational luck that will evaporate when the full and terrible force of the invisible hand soon arrives in Boyle Heights to bat it away. In the meantime, 1329 East Third Street’s values are depressed, and for reasons that we here at Zillow have never witnessed before. Since the dawn of creative capital, art galleries have been viewed by local communities and media outlets alike as the veritable Mother Teresas of the real estate and business worlds. Look for example at what happened in Soho, New York. Soho was a ditch full of sweatshops called “Hell’s Hundred Acres,” and then in the 1970s came along gallery owners like Paula Cooper. Now the New York Observer hails Cooper as a Lower Manhattan visionary and a two-bedroom on Prince Street costs a baffling $13 million. And take a look at Wynwood, Miami: in 1990, The New York Times reported on the Puerto Rican neighborhood’s problems with extreme poverty, drug dealing, and riots. Then in 1998, “bleeding edge” Locust Projects Gallery “planted its flag” on NW 23rd Street and started showing artists like Clifton Childree and Ivan Toth Depeña. Today an old factory on N. Miami Drive is on sale for $6,900,000 and publications like the New York Post cite Locust as a Floridian jewel, despite the fact that it probably made Wynwood unlivable for anybody except for the ever-more-grizzled Generation Xers who complained their way into all available jobs that have employment security.
The same thing will surely happen in Boyle Heights. East L.A. gentrification is as inevitable as the seasons and as death. The only reason why Boyle Heights has not yet become another Echo Park, Williamsburg, or Capitol Hill, and thus why 1329 East Third Street presents low-hanging fruit for people richer than on-sufferance Zillow copywriters who earn $27,432 a year and cannot afford even its depressed rentals, is because of certain disruptive elements in the neighborhood. These elements go by various names, such as Defend Boyle Heights, Ultra-red, Ovarian Psycos, Union de Vecinos, and the East LA Brown Berets, who together have formed the Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement (BHAAAD). These anti-real estate rabble-rousers want to expunge all art galleries from Boyle Heights, because they fear that these galleries’ presence foretells the amazing escalation in Boyle Heights real estate that is probably at this point unstoppable. BHAAAD are poor minority people who for obvious reasons do not want to see rising price levels, which will increase their own rents to astronomically untenable levels. BHAAAD people, in fact, want “all new art galleries [to] immediately leave Boyle Heights and that those buildings should be utilized by our community members the ways we best see fit, which may be converting them into emergency housing, shelters, or centers for job training.” Some of these BHAAAD no-art people also go so far as to quote Mao Zedong for ideological support, which is incredible. They have additionally run around the new local galleries grabbing microphones from curators and kind of threatened the art people with maybe violence. This forms another reason why the real estate values in Boyle Heights are temporarily undervalued but will skyrocket as soon as this nonsense is dealt with by local police.
Mao Zedong! He was a really good urban planner. We here at Zillow are joking when we say that. What we are actually insinuating is that BHAAAD people do not understand the market. The market is an inescapable and implacable force for Progress and for Positive Change, we at Zillow still pretty much think even after working in the web real estate business for two years since graduating from Connecticut College with $180,000 of debt.
The market is a form of Free Choice, unrestricted by governmental controls. People vote with their dollars and create the world that they desire through such market elections as opposed to governmental interventions, which restrain liberty. We here at Zillow learned of the market’s amazingness in high school, way before we hit undergrad and majored in an expensive East Coast Business degree. When we were at also-expensive Choate and still believed that the world was our own personal steaming hot bowl of delicious clam chowder, we read Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. Adam Smith taught us the basic lesson that the market allows for conscious evolution, a crowd-sourced path to progress. Which is to say: The social advancement created by the market is a good thing, or usually a good thing. It is typically a really good thing for people who got into Brown and who are not now collapsing beneath the Northwest’s gig economy, but are rich. Such rich people who will be able to give you an even better pep talk about capitalism would be our Seattle-based Zillow founders, such as former Microsoft Exec Rich Barton, who is worth $400 million.
Not that we here at Zillow are about to quote Mao Zedong! Zillow does not hire fanatics, even at the lowly copywriter levels. Zillow believes in algorithms, accurate Zestimates, co-branding, and company cohesion. But the BHAAAD people do not believe in these forms of rationality. For example, BHAAAD looks like it is made up of mostly Hispanics, who might actually prefer to be called Latino, but we’re not sure. Anyway, w/r/t BHAAAD irrationality, note that some of the art people that the BHAAAD people are attacking are also minorities. It is true that the two art directors of PSSST, Barnett Cohen and Jules Gimbrone, are either white or mixed-Asian and white and went to Vassar and Smith, respectively. But Cohen designed PSSST as a “queer space,” and Gimbrone is transgender. Gay and trans people are still, as far as we here at Zillow can tell, minorities. Moreover, PSSST’s Community Outreach Coordinator is a trans person with a self-described “mutant” subjectivity who has at least some actual Latino in them because their name is Pilar Gallego, which sounds super Hispanic. Also, their artists are often officially Latino, like Lupe Rosales.
The BHAAAD people do not care about this, and say that their lives are being destroyed by art gallery–driven gentrification that poses as charity or do-gooderism but is really a brand of propaganda known as Artwashing and Pinkwashing. Artwashing means sweetening the bitter gruel of gentrification with sparkly frosting made of art galleries and ceramics studios. Sprinkling studios and galleries among rapidly transforming warehouses/lofts and panicked scattering homeless people makes ubercapitalist urban upcycling look attractively progressive because artists are usually talented, socially conscious, and starving. Pinkwashing designates official supports of gay-friendly spectacles in order to divert public attention from governmental or corporate acts like dropping bombs on stateless people or cleansing cities of undesirables via urban renewal. Maybe the BHAAAD people also think that what is also going on here is “Brownwashing,” since Latino art-world types hunker at the epicenter of the pinkified artwashing that the BHAAAD people combat with protests, demonstrations, and it seems like threats against the investors Who Would Like To Remain Anonymous.
Working at Zillow is interesting. In the two years that we here at Zillow have been writing copy to promote the sales of international properties, we have had occasion to draw upon the theories expounded upon by our unaffordable college teachers. In our junior year’s Organizational Behavior class, for example, we learned about the Prisoner’s Dilemma, which is a theory developed by the mathematician and proto-game theorist Albert W. Tucker. The Prisoner’s Dilemma describes how competitors who want limited resources (the chance at escaping prison, say) have a choice of either working together or defecting from their cooperative agreements in order to obtain such goods. In an imperfect world, full of misery, poverty, paranoia, distrust, and misinformation, prisoners usually fall into the false consciousness trap of zero-sum-gamism. As a result, they “defect,” that is, betray one another in order to grab hold of the tasty crumbs that might fall from whatever mighty hand is controlling them. This usually results in their greater degradation and ultimate doom. “In contrast with this non-cooperative solution one sees that both [parties] would profit if they could form a coalition,” Tucker wrote in 1950.
Our two years at Zillow and our expensive educational degrees make us wonder if perhaps the situation in Boyle Heights is not, indeed, a zero-sum game, and that the scary non-coalition currently forming between BHAAAD and PSSST could be better replaced with cooperative behaviors that result in not only economic growth but also wealth sharing. Boyle Heights does not have to go the way of Soho or of Wynwood, does it? A variety of progressive economic experiments spring to mind: PSSST could allocate a certain percentage of its gross to a fund that would help pay for residential rent and food; PSSST could train members of the community in construction, curation, and bookkeeping (all gallery essentials); PSSST and BHAAAD could enter into a community benefits agreement that would allow for Boyle Heights homeless people to sleep at PSSST at night.
But even as we at Zillow begin to imagine such utopian urban possibilities we grow shocked at ourselves and wonder if we have somehow been lobotomized by the Bernie Sanders cult that remains the major religion of Seattle despite his loss in the primaries. We here at Zillow have been trained in neoliberal economics and thus understand that people are awful, which is why real estate actually is a zero-sum game manned with savage players who will tear out each other’s steaming viscera in order to avoid paying closing costs. The world is a horrifying jungle where Paula Cooper and Locust Galleries hunt and kill the indigent like monstrous red-clawed Yetis. One need not even be homeless per se to flee shrieking from such predators but instead can just live in Seattle with a lot of debt and no one is developing a fund for you so that you can sleep on a floor for free.
All of this is to say that the valiant investor who wants to take over the property from The Investors Who Would Like To Remain Anonymous should roll around the floor giggling with excitement at all of the pink- and Brown- and artwashing that is going on in Boyle Heights. The fruit is hanging so low that it has already been plucked and scrubbed and is waiting on a golden platter for your fangs. In no time at all, PSSST gallery will be outpriced from 1329 East Third Street, and its queer and Latino artists will be staggering around Riverside stapling their art to utility poles. Intelligentsia Coffee, Anthropologie, and Medispas will occupy the ever-increasing rents, and condos will arise in priapic ecstasy where creaky single-story c. 1960s bungalows now squat. And you, our dear faithful Zillow reader, will be driving your convertible Merc down East Third Street with the top down and a twinkle in your eyes, eyes that will be looking beyond the Boyle Heights horizon toward the dingy but promising shires that are L.A.’s high-crime but still fiscally underrated Compton, Leimert Park, and Chesterfield Square.
- View: City
- Neighborhood: Desperate
Yxta Maya Murray is a writer and law professor who teaches at Loyola Law School.
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