America’s Worst Housing Project Is Being Gentrified
Have you ever simultaneously regretted that the poor had been pushed out of a neighborhood, but wished you could have gotten in when rents were still cheap? Have you ever admired the pluck and ingenuity of the first few nonpoor bastards to move into a poor area? I have.
The Los Angeles City Council just unanimously voted to tear down Jordan Downs, nearly the oldest housing project in America and probably the title holder for ugliest. Jordan Downs is comprised of 103 spookily identical buildings in the low-income, violence-ridden neighborhood of Watts. While notorious for its gangs, its racially tinged police brutality, and its intractable poverty, Watts is also noteworthy for its cultural vibrancy and the palpable neighborhood pride of its residents. I wrote that last sentence by the way, not the Watts Chamber of Commerce, but they can have it for free.
They’re not just tearing down Jordan Downs, they’re turning this Orwellian nightmare-scape into an “urban village,” including four story townhomes, condos, retail restaurants, and a farmer’s market. Residents have been hearing about this pie-in-the-sky renovation for years, or even decades, but about ten months ago, a developer was chosen, and the City Council’s decision on Wednesday, April 17 marked a big step forward. But optimism on the part of lifelong residents might not be the most practical emotion.