Tuesday, May 22, 2021
Arts District Artists, Residents, Fight Back for Affordable Housing for Artists, See Gains from Developers
In just a couple of months, a grass-roots group comprised of handful of artists and residents from the Arts District and the Santa Fe Art Colony, concerned about the displacement of artists from downtown LA, has grown to a standing-room-only crowd at local meetings. Affordable Housing for Artists (AHA) was formed in the wake of the loss of the 800 Traction building that had been home to artists since 1978.
The sale of that building and consequent displacement of those residents, many of them distinguished artists with impressive resumes, was for many in the community a death knell for the arts scene for which the Arts District was named. Hundreds of other artists who had been a part of the cultural fabric of the community for decades have been forced out of the Arts District by gentrification.
The goal of AHA is to create regulations that would require all new housing developments in the community offer some affordable housing specifically for artists and set aside some common areas in those projects for workshop or gallery space. Several developers have already agreed.
AHA turned out a diverse crowd at a recent meeting of the city’s Planning Commission to support a project slated for 1800 E. 7th St. that will include 11% affordable housing for artists and much needed studio workspace. At least a dozen speakers from the group praised the project as a hopeful sign auguring a return of artists to the Arts District. AHA is also encouraged by Council Member Jose Huizar, who passed a motion encouraging the the concept of affordable housing for artists.
AHA also seeks to rehabilitate the Citizen’s Warehouse, once a thriving artists’ loft structure that has been derelict and abandoned ever since the city purchased it to tear off a hunk to widen the First Street Bridge. The city had pledged to restore the structure but the cost was daunting and so ever since it has remained boarded-up and derelict. Now Metro wants to tear off another 20,000 square feet to widen its rail yard. The city may require Metro to invest in restoring the structure as the price to reduce it still further. AHA would like to see it become artists’ housing and work space and has proposed to Metro and the city that it partner with the national non-profit, ArtSpace (artspace.org) to create an independent, affordable, artist-residents’ operated arts center that might include gallery, workshop and performance space. It could offer an opportunity for some of the artists displaced from the 800 building to return to the community. It could be the sort of vibrant, experimental space that flourished in buildings around the neighborhood from the 1970s through the oughts.
AHA is advised by Mercedes Marquez, Asst. Secretary for Community Planning and Development under President Obama, Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles under Antonio Villaraigosa and former Head of Los Angeles Housing Commission.
AHA is supported by Los Angeles Downtown Arts District Space, an Arts District non-profit dedicated to preserving and promoting the community as true Arts Distrlct. LADADSpace acts as the fiscal receiver for AHA but AHA is an independent entity. It also includes former artist residents of the 800 Traction building and members of Self-Help Graphics, a Boyle Heights arts non-profit. AHA is grateful also for the support and organizing efforts of Arturo Gonzalez, Director of Urban Affairs at Urban Strategy Group.
Read the AHA mission statement.
Jaimee Itagaki (800 Traction Building)
Lucy Jensen (Santa Fe Art Colony)
Jonathan Jerald (LADADSpace) - jonathan (at) ladadspace.org
Taiji Miyagawa (800 Traction Building)