Communities that have historically been disinvested, such as Boyle Heights, Santa Ana and East Oakland, have established rich community networks, informal economies and culture. Community organizers say these cultural networks can still flourish despite government cuts in social services, accelerating urban decay and rising rents driven by gentrification, as long as people have places to come together. Culture contributes to community pride and what one expert calls a home’s “use value”. Less fortunately, culture also makes a neighborhood attractive for gentrification. In that process, speculators are buying up land and letting properties sit vacant until their market value rises. Residents lament that what makes their communities distinctive may be lost in this process, as redevelopment threatens to take away the spaces in which they gather.
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