With its mix of restaurants and boutiques as well as well auto supply stores and taco stands, York Boulevard is best known as a place to shop, eat and hang out. But for Tina Hernandez and her family, York Boulevard is home.
The Hernandez family moved to Highland Park about 30 years ago, with the last 17 of those years spent in a white-clapboard bungalow in the 5900 block of York. With their front-row seat on York, where Tina’s 80-year-old father, Jesus, waves to passersby from the front porch, the Hernandez family has watched as the ranks of gang members have shrunk and the crowds of hipsters have grown. A chic Italian restaurant opened across the street in the same spot where a notorious bar once attracted trouble, and $10 burgers instead of $1.50 tacos are now on the menu down the block.
“It’s nice to see,” said Hernandez, a 45-year-old school teacher, of the changes in her neighborhood. “We have been lucky living here.”
But the Hernandez’ luck has run out. Earlier this month, on Father’s Day weekend, the family’s landlord informed them that their two-bedroom bungalow with flowers in the window box and an American flag hanging by the porch was being sold. They would have to move.
The two-bedroom, one-bath home built in 1920 went up for sale last week at an asking price of $345,000. The listing, on Redfin, describes the Hernandez home this way:
This home has so much to offer. Needs work but there is character in this 1920’s home. Open living room and dining area with hardwood floors. Oversized level backyard with alley access. Close to transportation, shopping, and everything Highland Park has to offer.
Hernandez said the landlord offered to sell the house to the family before putting it on the market. She probably could have afforded to buy the home but lacked the resources to fix it up. That has left Hernandez searching from El Sereno to the San Fernando Valley for a suitable apartment they can afford. Will they stay in Highland Park? Probably not , she said.
“It’s kind of sad,” said Hernandez, who recalls the stores and people that have come and gone since she has lived in the neighborhood. “But what can you do?”
Her family moved to Highland Park in the early 1980s. They rented a house on Avenue 51 before that place was sold, prompting them to move again into a nearby apartment building. But apartment life was not for a family of five, so when Hernandez’ mother, now deceased, spotted a “For Rent” sign on the York Boulevard bungalow, they called the landlord. The home with a backyard avocado tree was theirs for $875 a month.
The home, which is currently shared by her sister, father and daughter, is not ideal. The house needs work and lacks a garage or parking. With the opening of popular new restaurants, finding street parking has become “a pain,” Tina said. Police cars with sirens blaring race down the street and accidents are common, including one that sent a car crashing into the family’s front yard.
“It’s also noisy,” she said, raising her voice to be heard over the roar of a bus heading down York.
But, as the listing says, the Hernandez home is close “to everything Highland Park has to offer.” That includes everything from donut shops and liquor stores to markets and schools, Hernandez said. In fact, Hernandez’ father is able to walk to his doctor and pharmacy down the street.
While York is primarily known as a business corridor where people come and go, the residents who live on York “keep an eye on each other” and their homes, Hernandez said.
From their front porch the family has been witness to the transformation of York from a sleepy street into a hot spot for trendy new shops, night spots, furniture and art spaces. Hernandez does not use the word “gentrification” but she and her family have been keenly aware of the change in neighborhood businesses, buildings and people. Once it was rare to see whites on York Boulevard, Hernandez said, but now she sees them all the time, walking down the sidewalk, bicycling on the street and pushing strollers.
“It has to do with this change going on,” she said of the neighborhood’s shifting demographics.
Since the home hit the market and the “For Sale” sign went up in the front yard, potential buyers and agents have ignored the “Do Not Disturb” notice and knocked on the door to take a look or get more info. “Call the number” is how Hernandez responds, referring to the agent’s phone number on the For Sale sign.
Hernandez said she hopes the buyer will respect and restore the home’s historic features and not tear it down. “I just hope they don’t do that,” she said of a similar bungalow across the street, now obscured by a small commercial building constructed in what had been the front yard.
Hernandez did not express anger or bitterness about the sale but concedes there have been tears and stress as the family begins to pack up belongings. Her father, a retired welder has not accepted the fact the family will be leaving.
In the past few weeks, Hernandez has been looking for homes and apartments large enough for three people – herself, her sister and dad (Her daughter is planning to move to Texas). All of the places have either been far smaller and more expensive than their current home. Monthly rents on two-bedroom apartments in Highland Park and surrounding neighborhoods go for between $1,250 to more than $1,600 and lack laundry rooms, an important amenity for Hernandez. Houses easily go for more than $2,000.
It looks like the family will probably end up renting an apartment in Granada Hills, which is close to the school where Hernandez teaches. That probably will not please her father.
“I’m sure he’s not going to be happy anywhere we go.”
* Correction: A previous version of this story said the Hernandez family moved to Highland Park to make way for the construction of the Glendale Galleria. That’s wrong. The mall had been completed several years before they moved to Highland Park in 1983.