On any given day of the week if you listen to NPR you will hear someone talking about the decreasing middle class, the recession, or the harsh economic gap. In many parts of the country, this gap is so egregious that in many communities, where there is a high percentage of people living below the poverty line, there could be an extremely affluent community right next door. There are many areas where this paradoxical identity exists, such as the City of Los Angeles, which has one of the most cosmopolitan populations with an attractive cultural and social landscape. In the communities surrounding the University of Southern California, in South Los Angeles (formerly South Central), you can see extreme urban decay, and a few blocks over you can see preserved Craftsman, bungalow, and Victorian homes. Most of the people in this region will never have the opportunity to attend this elite and extremely wealthy campus, since about 40 percent of the students come from out-of-state, while another 18 percent are associated with legacy preferences. Not far from there, in the Mid-City section, historical places like Victoria Park and Lafayette Square are also surrounded by blight. Further West, in the Del Rey area, home to the Mar Vista Gardens Housing Project, the area is surrounded by some of the city's wealthiest communities like: Westchester, Playa Del Rey, Playa Visa, Mar Vista, Culver City, and Marina Del Rey.
We hear people talk about income inequality, distribution of wealth, and class warfare, but the fact remains that the closer you are to affluence, the more influence it will have on you psychologically. In impoverished communities, it can be heightened by depression, anxiety, high density, and gang culture, which in turn can lead to escapism and disillusionment. One of the biggest problems is how we perceive money or capital and our relationship to it. For example, in many of these communities you can observe people with luxury cars, fancy rims, expensive urban-style street wear, or jewelry. Their perception of wealth is external, material, and immediate, and for them it is important to convey that to their peers. If you change your perception, you can change things around you. If we taught financial management in high schools, it could help us have a better relationship with money.
In the City of Los Angeles, all you have to do is look at the real estate industry to better understand this economic gap. Not long ago, the influence of affluence encouraged people to get out of the ghetto and move to a suburb. But things are changing now, and the affluence is coming to the hood. Communities like: Highland Park, Glassel Park, Montecito Heights, Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, Mid-City, and South Los Angeles are or have been going through gentrification stages, while places like Echo Park, Silver Lake, and Venice have priced people out many years ago. If your parents raised you there, chances are you might not be able to afford a house there now. A house sold in Glassel Park recently for $900,000, and people are coming into Highland Park with cash offers of up to $700,000 for two-bedroom fixer-uppers under 1000 square feet. With the expansion of the metro to all parts of the city and county, people's commutes will be easier so they are makes niches in communities they hadn't considered before. Soon, Los Angeles will be like New York or San Francisco where it will be almost impossible for working-class people to buy a home anywhere in the city, and they have to come in from places like Riverside or Palmdale.
We asked for a world-class city, cleaner and greener, so brace yourself for the coming changes. Whole Foods is already coming to downtown and the metro will soon take you to the Santa Monica Pier.
Follow Rodrigo Ribera D'Ebre on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@TheWestsiderLA