Me and “the flats” have along history together (btw, that foto is from flickr). I lived there in the PJs for several periods of my life and had familia who stayed there as well until they tore down the projects, after we left I still came around to cause trouble, make money and pick up on girls as a “weekend warrior”. When they tore down the largest collection of projects on the west coast in the late 90s/early 2000s, they squeezed much of the barrio into the smaller more run down neigborhood between the Pico Gardens and Aliso Village complexes, helped push the existing gangs into other neighborhoods (which never disappeared) and made a lot of people angry and bitter. I have mixed feelings about this because the area was pretty rough and a concentration of trouble is a bad recipe, but for christ’s sakes they didnt even replace the new complexes with a competent number of low income housing units, opting instead to section 8 folks away so that their cholito kids can start up clickas in other complexes around LA, real smart. I believe they tore down 600 units from Aliso village alone and replaced it with 400 units, half of which were market rate.
A bit of history and info on this area: It was always a pocket of poverty since the pueblo days of LA. it was the low land between Boyle Hts and the LA River, and attracted poor immigrants, mexicans blacks and indios as the land flooded a lot, originally even the poorest farmers let their animals graze in the location. I didnt know until recently, but the flats actually was sort of L shaped and extended to the area where the Estrada Courts (VNE) projects lie, all at the foot of the hill starting boyle hts and east of the LA River. This area was carved up big time when the freeways, and specifically the East LA interchange, were built in the 50s, but in my world the flats went from the hollywood freeway (top of the Alisos) to the lower end of the Pico Gardens projectos (under the whittier blvd bridge). I read that back in the day molokkan russians also had a strong presence in the area, and up until the racial beefs of the late 80s/ early 90s, the projects were the only ones in East LA with a large black community (which had implanted a strong love for LA’s black culture and population in me that is sadly not present in a lot of Latinos).
So anyways, I took some flicks when I was down there recently checking out the goldline. I rarely stop by and say hi to the folks I knew, as that was the “bad me” part of my life and most of my maintained contacts were involving illicit activities or gang drama, things I now avoid as a soccer mommy. Here is the tip of my picture trove iceburg, maybe one day I’ll pull out my childhood project pics (which my mom had thought she destroyed years back out of the embarassment of the fact that we lived there, thats a whole nother story and therapy session).
The 98 cent store has been the commercial anchor of the community for quite some time. It is also the frontline between TMC and PFlats (that used to occupy the Aliso Village PJs and now are spread out all over). It’s sad how much corporate America avoids minority communities, despite the massive amount of consumer crap minorities buy.
The area, despite its lack of commercial amenities, has a good amount of liquor stores for its small size. That ensures access to lunches of chili fritos. The kids stay obese and sugar addicted, the men stay drunk, and the women are ensured diabetes, yay! BTW, fuck you whole foods/trader joe’s; go to the locations of these asswipe stores within radius of a minority enclave and you will find local barrio residents who are health conscious shopping there, I hope fresh and easy mops the floor with you! And while Im on the corporate apartheid tip, screw In N’ Out and all the asshat restaraunts that need to be given the red carpet treatment to enter “markets” that have plenty of spending capital and need for them yet still act as if brown folks cannot eat like white folks, B effen s.
The flatas area was once mainly a residential shantytown, but policymakers with no concern for their poorer residents allowed much of the area to be checkered with industrial uses. The northwest end of Aliso Village (or vista del sol or whatever the hell they call it now) always smelled like vinegary el pato sauce from the factory across mission, I would also bet that this is the location of the bulk of low income units in the new development sitting on Aliso Village’s grave. Beyond deteriorating the fabric and aesthetic quality of the community, rezoning industrial crap next to a large concentration of poor neighborhoods and low income housing creates “dead zones” for half of the day. The combination of lots of idle children and large swaths of dead zones where there is no supervision is not a good thing, and you dont need to be a child psychologist to figure that out. Im sure that had a lot to do with why the area once housed the most dense concentration of gangs in LA (and there are still a lot in this tiny area), as well as the fact that they plunked down the largest collection of decrepit dense projects on the west coast; I recall Primera Flats, Cuatro Flats (pico stoners), AVKillers, Al Capone, Clarence St., TMC, East Coast Crips, Aliso Brims (thats old skool) and East LA 13 all in an area smaller than USC’s campus. The bottom pic is where a residential clump is surrounded by industrial buildings. The top pic is of the alley I was first robbed in when I was around 11, my black eye sealed my (and my abuelo’s) notion that I would basically live at my grandparents house in the much nicer maravilla area, as long as we still lived in the PJs. I rarely had trouble riding my bike from my abuelo’s to play street fighter 2 at the store on mednik, or the long haul to food city on Garfield where the action got heavy.
This is the new LAUSD highschool that is located on the north side of 1st as well as the goldline construction that will eventually run down the middle of the street. I am glad they are putting in a needed highschool in the area, and the rail line will be a great addition. But much is left to be said about the still heavy handed way public institutions just plunk down things in poorer area with little regard for the locals (see the giant cosco-esque new hollenbeck police station for further evidence). That school took out the last remaining street fronting commercial buildings on 1st street’s north side, many of which were really old and had significant architectural value. There was also a small lot on gless where there was a local open air swapmeet, after they locked the gate folks kind of made due selling stuff on the street but the whole activity is now gone, another example of “screw you” planning in the barrio and its negative effects. The school would have been much better suited placed on the south side of 1st (the bottom pic) which is all industrial deadspace, was much closer to the community’s center, has little local cultural significance, and would not have obliterated the informal commercial hub of the area, but I digress. This kind of whining is what happens when smart kids from ELA get into urban planning.
The area is quite dense, as a stat nerd I always wondered the true population of the area when those below the official radar would be counted. At a meeting i had in South Gate I was told reading water usage rates is the best way to calculate the population of a community with a lot of undocumented folks, they said South Gate’s pop is officially a little under 110,000, but with the meter reading it is actually above 150,000; I can just imagine the jump in areas like this one or South LA.
A mural in the old Pico Gardens.
This last pic is the cherry on top. Notice the lime green crocs, a mullet that would make any girl swoon, black cords, and the whole “fresh out the chower” vibe that would any narco bust out lineas? Vato was too proud to let me get a straight up pic of him, so I snapped this one as they entered the partay. That’s enough of the flatas. Hope you enjoyed!