TalkBack: Highland Park, Despite the Changes, Is Not the New Echo Park

The editor of Highland Park Patch explains why Highland Park isn't now and never will be Echo Park. And, why that's a good thing.

Is Highland Park the new Echo Park? L.A. Weekly music writer Kai Flanders seems to think so, .

No offense to our neighbors to the west, home to some of the finest folks I've met in Los Angeles, but I'm not buying it either.

In a piece published on Friday, Feb. 3, Flanders--armed with evidence culled from overhead barroom chatter--proclaimed that, with its low rents and flourishing arts scene, Highland Park is Los Angeles' latest "up and coming" neighborhood.

In the piece, Flanders quotes a friend--"writer/street artist/zine-founder" Renko Mac--who notes that Highland Park is an especially welcoming area to young musicians and artists given that her "neighbors don't give a sh*t about noise."

I imagine Ms. Mac doesn't live near .

It's easy for anyone with an intimate knowledge of Highland Park to feel some provincial outrage about Flanders' piece. To suggest that a neighborhood which served as the setting for both the Arts and Crafts and Chicano Arts movements could be "up and coming" as an artistic mecca suggests, at the very least, a vague understanding of history.

There's also the worrisome suggestion that--given Echo Park's gentrification--Highland Park now provides a gritty urban playground for twenty-somethings who miss the days when living East of the Los Angeles River was a war story you could write home about.

As my own bio-page on this site makes clear, I'm new to Highland Park myself. I also like to brag to my friends from other parts of the city about how great my adoptive home is. There's much to recommend Highland Park. A thriving gallery scene, wonderful restaurants, easy access to nature and a wealth of homeowners and renters who seem to genuinely care about their neighborhood. 

When my fiance and I first moved to Los Angeles, we were intimidated by the scope of the place. Having grown up in small, tight-knit towns we feared we'd have to trade in that sense of community we were raised with for lives or urban anonymity. That hasn't happened to us in Highland Park, though. We feel welcomed here by neighbors who know that we value our neighborhood as much as they do.

At the risk of sounding like a sentimental bore, the most upsetting thing about Flanders piece is that--while it seems to be praising Highland Park's coolness--it overlooks what is actually cool about the neighborhood--the people.

Flanders', though, isn't working with a faulty premise. As Echo Park's rents go up, Highland Park has undoubtedly become an attractive landing spot for the hip and young. They'll have their impact on the neighborhood, I'm sure. Some will stick around and make their own contributions to the neighborhood. Others will move to move on to the next "up and coming neighborhood" after they get "over" Highland Park.

I'm happy to welcome them. My neighbors have done the same for me, after all. And those newcomers that do stick around? I'm sure they'll find that Highland Park isn't becoming the new Echo Park--it's had its own thing well before they arrived.



LAAgent February 07, 2012 at 04:05 PM
What a great commentary on Flanders article!


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