A few weeks ago, Rory Carroll published an excellent article in The Guardian on how the City of Los Angeles has used gang injunctions as a tool of gentrification in Venice. Of course, this is not news to anyone who’s been paying attention since the injunction began in 2000. Even at the time it seemed clear that the injunction was a response to the wave of gentrification that began in Venice in the late 1980s and underwent unprecedented acceleration through the 1990s. Of course, everyone who’s smelting gold out of the housing stock of Oakwood in a blast furnace fueled by the burning bodies and lives of the poor people, the dark-skinned people, fed into the hopper by the LAPD, denies this every which way.
And these arguments have been repeated so often I have nightmares about them. “The cops would never ever do such a thing.” “There’s no conspiracy to chase out darkies.”1 And so on and on and on. But Venice’s own muse of slavering psychopathy, the very king of the gentrifiers, the universally acknowledged whitest man in Venice, Mark Ryavec himself, has distilled all of them, every last threadbare tin-foil-hat characterization, into one bitter pithy little ball. As Rory Carroll puts it:
For Mark Ryavec, head of the Venice Stakeholders Association, the notion that police act as gentrification agents is “a bunch of radical bullshit”.
Well, first of all, it’s not actually bullshit.2 The arguments against the idea that the City uses the LAPD to promote gentrification are mostly based on the (probably) factual assertion that (a) the City never mentions gentrification as a purpose for the gang injunctions and (b) that the assertions they make in support of the injunctions have to do with very real problems of violent crime (real at the time when the injunctions are being sought, anyway). There are a number of problems with this line of reasoning.
First, the City Attorney does not seek gang injunctions in every gang-ridden neighborhood. It takes a certain threshold level of complaint and community organization to get one, and that context arrives in a natural way contemporaneously with gentrification. This doesn’t take a conspiracy to explain. The gentrifiers come equipped with privilege, a sense of entitlement, and political juice fueled by campaign contributions, three factors which have the power to draw forth a powerful response from the City that isn’t nearly so easily available to the dark-skinned, the poor, the unprivileged.3 So once gentrification starts in a neighborhood, more and more zealous selective enforcement by the LAPD starts as well. They’re causally linked by privilege and entitlement, so it’s not necessary to posit an overt conspiracy to explain how the cops serve the gentrifiers.
Second, even if it’s true that gang injunctions are not initiated in support of gentrification, they are very easily turned to that use. It is the prime talent of human beings to turn capabilities to infinitely many uses unforeseen by the creators of the capabilities. In other words, because gang injunctions *can* be used for gentrification, they *will* be used for gentrification, regardless of their original purpose. This is summed up nicely in Carroll’s article by Josh Green of the Urban Peace Institute, who’s quoted as saying “Whether or not it was an original tool of gentrification … it became a component.”
And finally, the biggest problem of all is that the police will occasionally peel off the mask and actually admit that they selectively enforce laws in the service of real estate development. For instance, it’s well known that Hollywood has also been undergoing severe gentrification since the mid 1990s.4 It’s not so well known that Hollywood also has a gang injunction and that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the map of the covered area is essentially the same as the Hollywood Entertainment District BID, administered by your friendly neighborhood zillionaire shills, the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance. Yet again gentrification and a gang injunction operate simultaneously.
But in the case of Hollywood there’s much more direct evidence of what’s going on in the minds of the LAPD. Just watch and listen here as Cory Palka, commanding officer of the LAPD’s Hollywood Division, states explicitly that his subordinates enforce laws in Hollywood in such a way as to appeal to investors and thereby to attract investment. The context for Palka’s speech is the (successful) LAPD/HPOA joint effort to shut down music venues that don’t play nice with their cultural cleansing agenda because they have mostly dark-skinned patrons. Here’s Palka’s speech:
Good afternoon. I’m Cory Palka, the area commanding officer at Hollywood Division. You know I had [unintelligible] who owns several real estate buildings in the San Fernando Valley, and he’s considering investing in Hollywood, a multi-billion dollar investor. His concern, like most of the investors who come into Hollywood, is the public safety. And I showed him, through public safety, that we can help him develop and prosper as he invests in Hollywood. In order to continue and sustain public safety, and to continue economic growth in Hollywood, we need to find partners. We need business partners who will meet with us, who will greet us, and who will listen to what we know as being true to operate successfully a business and an entertainment venue. This client, the Cosmo, has not done that. We’ve repeatedly tried to partner with them, give them the opportunity to be successful so we can grow the economy, so people can invest in Hollywood. In the realities [unintelligible] find anchor points in Hollywood, we draw a circle around the intersection where the Cosmo’s at, and I can show you repeated violent crime in and around that neighborhood. [Unintelligible] I need to continue that kind of growth in Hollywood with good partners and good investors, and the Cosmo just has not been one of them. Thank you.
So look at the elements. The Hollywood Property Owners Alliance began operations in Hollywood in 1996. They got a gang injunction in 2004.5 In 2015, if not before, the BID and the City announced a policy of targeting minority-serving entertainment venues for closure. That same year former Hollywood Division Commanding Officer Peter Zarcone, who may find that actions have consequences, conspired with Kerry Morrison and her BID to not enforce laws against white-serving venues. By this Summer, Kerry and friends were counting their gentrification chickens, both hatched and unhatched. And, of course, Zarcone’s successor, Cory Palka, is speaking out loud about how it is his job as the Commanding Officer of Hollywood to enforce the laws in such a way that real estate developers feel welcome and safe.
And what about the demographics of Hollywood during this couple of decades? Well, according to some really smart people at UCLA,6 the Latino+Black population of the heart of the Entertainment District was 71.02% in 1990, 56.21% in 2000, and 46.35% in 2013. It’s certainly lower now. It’s essentially the same as what happened in Venice, for essentially the same reasons, but in this case, the cops actually admit their role in the process. How can anyone doubt that the same thing happened in Venice, for the same reasons, whether anyone will admit it or not, whether Mark Ryavec, in his slavering psychopathy, calls the theory “bullshit”?
Picture of Cory Palka is ©2016 MichaelKohlhaas.org.
- They may say “our less fortunate brothers and sisters of color” or whatever the hell they say, but they mean “darkies.”
- It may well be radical, and I’m not just admitting that Mark Ryavec is half-right out of a sense of decency. I’m admitting it because in many cases to be half-right is worse than to be all wrong.
- The politics of the phrases “less privileged” and “less fortunate” are interesting, aren’t they? They’re not unprivileged, they’re not unfortunate, in fact they are both privileged and fortunate. They’re just less so than the masters of the universe. I try to avoid the phrases for this reason.
- Mostly driven by the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, which is far too long of a story to go into right now.
- Here “they” means the City, but it means the BID as well. Nothing of this magnitude happens in the BID or its sphere of influence without the BID’s consent. This is subject to rare exceptions, such as the currently-developing street vending situation, but gang injunctions are not the kind of thing that gets enacted in Hollywood without the BID wanting it.
- You have to manipulate the map yourself to duplicate the numbers. I don’t see any way to link through to interacted-with versions.