White gentrification causes debate among ‘Black Beverly Hills’ residents

la downtown view from view park

As one of the few neighborhoods that boast a mostly prosperous African American populace, Southern California’s View Park neighborhood is looked on with pride by those who recognize it as a symbol of African American success that doubles as a stronghold of black culture.

But with a growing presence of white people, some residents are up at arms over what they believe to be the gentrification of what some folks know as “Black Beverly Hills.” So much so that a movement has started to put View Park on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Los Angeles Times notes that proposals which View Park residents feel threatened “their neighborhood’s special qualities — including its solid sense of African American identity” was fought for decades. While some residents consider the historical designation and “its solid sense of African American identity” an honor, others believe it is more of a marketing tool for bringing in white buyers to View Park’s historic homes.

“Somebody found a gold mine and they are trying to milk it,” musician Reggie A. Carson told the Times. “Seniors happen to be the predominate demographic here and they are also the easiest to get rid of.”

view park family

Historically speaking, a largely white population occupied View Park in the 1960s. That changed when the first wave of prosperous black families — lawyers, doctors and businesspeople —“ integrated the neighborhood. As white people moved out of View Park, the area was left with 2,500- to 5,000-square-foot homes for the remaining residents.

Famous residents included Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner, and dance/choreographer Debbie Allen as well as current residents actress Loretta Devine and former LA Lakers star Michael Cooper, according to the Times, which noted that blacks outnumbered whites nearly 3 to 1. A decade later, the ratio was 9 to 1 by the 1970s.

Among the films shot at View Park were “Ray,” “Love and Basketball,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” and “Something New.”

Nowadays, View Park boasts the highest concentration of black affluence in the West Coast as it aligns with neighboring locals Windsor Hills, Baldwin Hills and Ladera Heights and boasts an 84% African American residency.

black beverly hills crest

A description of those in View Park was detailed via the 2010 census. Referencing the census, the Times mentioned that half of those living in View Park have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. It goes on to mention that area containing “most of the most of the neighborhood had an average family income of $90,000 — tens of thousands of dollars above the countrywide average for white families and 21/2 the median income among Los Angeles County blacks.”

Maintaining View Park’s identity as well as concern over outsiders “altering the cultural and architectural character” of the neighborhood served as inspiration for the creation of the View Park Conservancy, in addition to the nomination of the area as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

Outlining the benefits of the federal designation, National Register historian Paul Lusignan told the Times referenced increased value for homes via “property tax credits for new homeowners who maintain a property’s historic characteristics and limited federal protection from development projects.”

“We have so few areas,” author and analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson told the Times regarding his reasons for understanding why some of his neighbors in View Park have taken issue with new white residents arriving in the neighborhood. “So little turf that we can call our own. This is yet another invasion by another group coming in to destroy both the culture, the lifestyle and the economic continuity of our area.”

Despite Hutchinson’s concerns, the conservancy has found support with the group’s co-founder Andre Gaines revealing it reached its $100,000 fundraising goal in less than a year. The money will be used to pay a firm to complete the documentation needed for the National Register nomination, Gaines stated.

Meanwhile, opponents of the designation have circulated fliers for a website called StopGentification.org. “Historic preservation has been transformed into a real estate gimmick to start the gentrification process,” a warning on the site’s home page read.

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