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Boyle Heights is Battling Fiercely Against Gentrification

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A community group has shut down a walking tour and run opera singers out of town

Boyle Heights is increasingly looking like the next great battleground in LA's ongoing struggle over gentrification, and a new story in the Guardian shows how bitter that fight has become. Seeking to curb the influence of outside money on (and interest in) the community, some neighborhood activists have adopted intimidation techniques geared at non-community members. Last year, an organization called Serve the People LA forced a group of UCLA students on a walking tour out of the area and chased an experimental opera company out of Hollenbeck Park.

Incidents like these don't necessarily seem to be the norm just yet, but they certainly illustrate a growing fear of displacement in one of the city's most historic neighborhoods. Back in 2014, when a real estate agent began advertising a bike tour of the "charming, historic, walkable and bikeable neighborhood" to be followed by "artisanal treats and refreshments," residents lashed out against the flyer on social media. The bike tour ended up being called off.

Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council member Steven Almazan expresses his concerns about the area's future to the Guardian. "Gentrification in Los Angeles has occurred clockwise," he says, "progressing from Silver Lake to Echo Park to Eagle Rock to Highland Park to Lincoln Heights and now Boyle Heights. As a neighborhood, we have seen how quickly communities in Los Angeles can change." Activist Xochitl Palomera was more blunt: "Gentrification is a violent threat," she says. "When we feel it we may react in an angry way, through fear."

Regardless of what community activists do or do not do, Boyle Heights probably will see some changes in coming years. Some of these changes, like the transformation of the massive Sears complex into a mixed-use community, are already in the pipeline. Still, residents have already organized effective resistance to projects like Metro's contentious redesign of Mariachi Plaza. As Palomera says, "Boyle Heights is not going down without a fight."