The Injustice of Gentrification

by Vins
Published: Updated:

In the “Last Mexican of Venice,” Rip Rense reports for This Can’t Be Happening! on the story of Dr. Jeannine Mendoza, a substitute teacher in Venice, California who lost her home. Before gentrification transformed Venice, Mendoza and her family had the American Dream in their grasp, Rense reports: She and her late husband were the happiest of couples, raising their children; they had friends, and successful careers. (Gentrification refers to the process of renewal and rebuilding that typically accompanies an influx of rich and upper-middle class people into deteriorating areas, often displacing those communities’ poorer residents.) Rense reports that, as Old Venice was replaced by “millennial tekkie royalty, movie royalty, developer royalty,” Mendoza dubbed herself the “last Mexican of Venice,” a reference to her status as the descendant of Francisco Marquez, who in 1839 had been awarded a land grant, which spanned thousands of acres from Santa Monica to Pacific Palisades, by the Mexican governor of California.

After her husband died, Guzman had trouble making mortgage payments on her home. At one point she declared bankruptcy, in a desperate attempt to stall foreclosure on the property, which her parents had bought in 1957. In June 2015, after the bank had re-possessed the house, a buyer paid $1.4 million for it—even as Mendoza herself had secured funding to buy back her house from the investment firm that held it.

Of course, gentrification is not limited to Venice Beach. Like a cancer, it’s metastasized throughout the Los Angeles basin, and is slowly destroying the region’s blue-collar working class and poor communities.

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times published an important article in March 2015 that underscores many of the points made in Rip Rense’s article. In “After 31 Years, Forced to Vacate,” Lopez reported the story of an Echo Park, California family, Jose and Ana Sanchez, who could not able to keep up with increased housing costs in their gentrifying neighborhood, despite the combined income of the three jobs they held. As Lopez reports, many longtime Echo Park residents are being priced out of their homes. Rocio Sanchez, Ana and Jose’s daughter, states, “My parents know where we stand. We’re lower class and we accept that. What we don’t accept is anyone coming here and thinking we’re insignificant.”

Although gentrification receives frequent coverage in the corporate news media, such coverage often simplifies the stories of the working class people and families that are displaced, by simply reporting that they were unable to pay their mortgages or their rent. However, more in-depth reportage, as provided in the articles by Rense and Lopez, shows that in many of these cases even people who hold multiple jobs with respectable incomes can barely afford a place to live once a community is overtaken by gentrification.

Source: Rip Rense, “ Last Mexican of Venice,” This Can’t Be Happening!, October 19, 2015, http://thiscantbehappening.net/node/2888

Student Researcher: David Guzman (Citrus College)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Citrus College)