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  • October 2020.

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers were about to win the World Series.

  • "It was the ninth inning, Dodgers coming in there to close it out..."

  • Joseph had waited for this moment for a long time.

  • But his grandmother was another story.

  • "My mom was at my grandma's house. We called my mom:

  • The Dodgers are about to win the World Series! It's the first time in my life...

  • And you can hear her yelling in the background: I don't care about the Dodgers!

  • I don't want to watch that!"

  • This is Joseph's grandmother, Dolores:

  • "I said I don't care, I don't like the Dodgers."

  • When Dolores looks at Dodger Stadium,

  • what she sees is the place where she grew up.

  • "It was a beautiful, beautiful community.

  • Why did they pick that area?"

  • In the 1950s, liberal and conservative visions of the future

  • competed for control of Los Angeles.

  • It was a battle that caught Dolores and her neighbors in the middle,

  • and replaced their homes with a baseball stadium.

  • "It's kind of golden on the outside. But on the inside, at the root of it,

  • it's torn communities apart."

  • Before Dodger Stadium, this area of Los Angeles

  • was home to three largely Mexican-American neighborhoods:

  • Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop.

  • Together, they're now commonly referred to as "Chavez Ravine."

  • It encompassed about 300 acres of land, and was home to over 1,100 families.

  • "I was born there in 1937."

  • "I was born and raised in Chavez Ravine in 1943."

  • "It was, for me, as a child, it was almost a perfect time."

  • "I think of nature, hills, nice neighborhood, everybody knew each other."

  • "The street was lined with palm trees.

  • The area, in my point of view, was like the Garden of Eden."

  • Los Angeles was a deeply segregated city -- both because of "redlining,"

  • a government policy that kept non-whites from owning homes in certain areas;

  • and because of racially restrictive "covenants."

  • Covenants were clauses, like this one, that were added to property deeds.

  • They specifically barred land from being "sold, devised, used, or occupied"

  • by "any person other than one of the white or Caucasian race."

  • "There were very few places that people of color could live in Los Angeles.

  • So, because of that, Chavez Ravine was a really important site of home ownership."

  • By 1940, it was incredibly common for residents in Palo Verde, Bishop, and La Loma

  • to own their own homes.

  • Homeownership was a crucial part of the American dream;

  • it was a way to start building wealth.

  • And generations of Mexican-American families here were achieving it.

  • "We could actually buy property there, and we could thrive there, quietly, in the hills."

  • "My father had his own business, and my aunt had a bar across the street."

  • "Most of us owned property."

  • "I had a very comfortable life there as a child."

  • "There was a large portion of Chavez Ravine that had what was a real emerging middle class."

  • "Everybody was trying to look into the future to better themselves.

  • We had pride in what we had."

  • "That's when we got displaced."

  • In the 1940s, just after the Great Depression and the end of World War II,

  • LA's population exploded, and the city was facing a severe housing shortage.

  • Support was growing for the government to expand its role in providing public housing.

  • "Social reformers, activists, architects... different people actually starting to think about

  • what it means to build a better world, and build a better society."

  • In response, Los Angeles began designating certain neighborhoods as "blighted" or "slums,"

  • to be cleared out and replaced with public housing:

  • part of a national wave of what was called "urban renewal."

  • One of the places targeted for redevelopment was Chavez Ravine.

  • "There were kind of eyes on this place, that was on the edges of downtown Los Angeles,

  • but that was still pretty accessible and not too far off.

  • And they saw that this is a predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American community,

  • and so didn't necessarily see them as an obstacle to building the vision that they wanted."

  • In 1948, Los Angeles designated Chavez Ravine as the first blighted area to be rebuilt.

  • To residents of Chavez Ravine, all this came as a shock.

  • "They tell the whole city that Chavez Ravine was nothing but shacks.

  • And that's the biggest lie."

  • "We were not slums. And we were a community on an upward trajectory,

  • and we were just Americans like everyone else."

  • The city of Los Angeles had a power called "eminent domain,"

  • which let them acquire anyone's land,

  • as long as they paid residents what the city deemed a fair price for it.

  • By July 1950, residents were notified that they'd have to move out and sell their homes.

  • The city had a plan to replace Chavez Ravine with a new community: "Elysian Park Heights."

  • It would include 13-story buildings, rows of landscaped townhouses, and stores.

  • It was presented to residents as a great opportunity.

  • "They would always say, well, you can move back, into this wonderful village.

  • Why would we want to move into a project,

  • when we already had a yard and home ownership?"

  • "Why would we want to go live in an apartment complex with 100 other people?"

  • "And that's what seems to have escaped everyone:

  • is that we were homeowners, and we had affordable housing."

  • Throughout the spring and summer of 1951, many families tried to fight the city.

  • These residents, often led by women, organized at home, demonstrated at City Hall,

  • and became a force in public hearings attended by hundreds.

  • "The people that I grew up with were great patriots,

  • like many of the people in the United States were after the war.

  • They believed in America. They believed in the American dream."

  • But in the end, there were few good options.

  • Many families took the offer to leave, and received little to no compensation for their land.

  • By 1951, the city had pushed out two thirds of Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop residents.

  • "They valued the houses like, worthless. They never gave us the right price.

  • So everybody that sold their property in Chavez Ravine had to go in debt when they moved out."

  • "I remember that knock on the door when the man came in,

  • and handed some papers to my aunt.

  • My aunt burst into tears, started crying uncontrollably."

  • "They put fear in the people. Because they put the tractors next to your house.

  • What more can people get scared if you put a gun to your head?"

  • "It was awful. It wasn't just, we're taking your home.

  • There was this big feeling that we were helpless, hopeless,

  • and could do absolutely nothing about it."

  • "After the evictions, they start tearing everything down.

  • No houses. Everything was just like the desert."

  • Some families managed to stay in their homes. But the community was gone.

  • But around the same time, a different group in Los Angeles

  • was also fighting against the city's public housing plans -- for very different reasons.

  • Private real estate groups didn't want the government building housing.

  • They began a public campaign against it, stoking fears of communism,

  • and branding public housing as un-American, and a socialist plot.

  • "They have an organization called the Citizens Against Socialist Housing, or CASH.

  • And they really end up kind of turning public opinion against public housing."

  • The campaign led to a dramatic backlash against the city's housing plan.

  • In October 1952, public housing officials were fired and blacklisted.

  • A congressman named Norris Poulson was drafted to run for mayor of Los Angeles,

  • on an anti-public housing platform. He won.

  • And within just a week of taking office, he canceled the Elysian Park Heights project altogether.

  • Thousands of people had vacated their homes seemingly for no reason at all.

  • For the next several years, Chavez Ravine, and the handful of residents still there, were in limbo.

  • And the next chapter of their story was playing out three thousand miles to the east.

  • The Brooklyn Dodgers played at a stadium that had been built in 1913.

  • By the 1950s, the team's owner, Walter O'Malley,

  • was frustrated that the stadium's location in a dense part of the city made it difficult to expand.

  • O'Malley had big plans for a massive new dome-shaped stadium elsewhere in Brooklyn.

  • But he needed financial help, and New York wouldn't give him public funds for the land.

  • So O'Malley looked for someone who would --

  • and within months, struck a deal with Los Angeles city officials.

  • He would bring Dodger Stadium to LA.

  • And LA offered him a prime plot of land to build it on: Chavez Ravine.

  • On May 8th, 1959, the remaining residents were ordered to abandon their homes.

  • One of the last holdouts, a resident named Abrana Arechiga, tried to hold off police.

  • Her daughter, Aurora Vargas, in images that made their way to people across the country,

  • was forcibly carried out of her home.

  • TV news viewers watched that night as the final families were violently evicted.

  • Afterwards, right in front of the residents, bulldozers destroyed the last of the community.

  • "It's, to this day, an episode that will never be able to be unseen,

  • and which really sent a message, about who the city was for, and who the city will protect."

  • At the stadium's groundbreaking,

  • newspapers photographed kids collecting dirt from the site in souvenir boxes,

  • and O'Malley holding a souvenir shovel signed "Chavez Ravine."

  • "As though that ground had never been broken before."

  • In 1962, Dodger Stadium officially opened for business.

  • "Change is part of the city, and part of the landscape.

  • But time and time again, the question that needs to be asked is,

  • who bears the costs of those changes?"

  • In 2020, just a few miles from Dodger Stadium, a new stadium opened.

  • Its construction had cost more than five billion dollars,

  • making it the most expensive stadium in the world.

  • The residents it displaced were mostly Latino and Black.

  • As for Dodger Stadium, its legacy is complicated.

  • It holds multiple histories.

  • "Chavez Ravine is one of the most egregious examples

  • of racist removal and displacement in US history.

  • But it's also the site of Latinx excellence.

  • Different Latinx communities over time have really created a space for themselves in it.

  • And those things will always have to coexist."

  • "On Bishop Road, that's the road you said you lived on, right?"

  • "It's a weird disconnect.

  • I'm still going to be a Dodger fan, I'm raising my son as a Dodger fan.

  • But at the same time, all of the history is rooted in the displacement of families

  • and the displacement of communities.

  • The Dodgers are here to stay. They're LA's team, they're Southern California's team.

  • But to disregard that piece of history,

  • it wouldn't be fair to the people who lived there before."

October 2020.

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The dark legacy of this iconic baseball stadium

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/18
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