Photo: Graffiti on the front entrance of Namaste, a yoga studio in Highland Park recognized as a force of gentrification.
By Audrey Hellenbrecht
On the morning of November 18, graffiti was found on the front door of Namaste yoga studio, a local gentrifier in the Highland Park neighborhood of Northeast Los Angeles (NELA). The graffiti reads “Northeast ain’t for sale -NEM.” At this point it is still unknown whether “NEM” refers to a group or individual.
A page named “Highland Park NELA” shared the initial images on social media and told Incendiary, “The community is tired of getting 60 day notices to leave our homes; tired of our businesses getting kicked out; tired of our murals getting erased. There is 250 students in Highland Park that are experiencing homelessness because of gentrification. So yes, the community is tired of [this] bullshit.”
Highland Park was one of Los Angeles’ first suburbs, and since the white flight of the 1950’s it has been a predominantly Chicano neighborhood. Starting in the early 2000’s the neighborhood began to see the precursors of gentrification.
In 2003, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority extended its Gold Line train route into Highland Park. In 2013, Occidental College began buying up properties in the neighboring city, Eagle Rock. By 2015, apartment buildings near the Gold Line had been bought out and all tenants given 90 days to vacate. Real estate developers began “retenanting,” the process of evicting working class tenants paying low rents, and subsequently raising prices and bringing wealthier people into the neighborhood.
While the graffiti is not publicly tied to any particular group or organization, it shows that the community is taking up new tactics to combat gentrification unhampered by respectability politics. The action also signals the expansion of the militant anti-gentrification struggle exemplified by the residents of another working class barrio, Boyle Heights. As more and more people are displaced, and the social character of historic barrios like Highland Park face destruction, working class and oppressed nation communities will continue to take up and lead the fight against gentrification by any means necessary.