Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Hernandez family says goodbye to York Boulevard *

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.

View from the front porch.

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.

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  1. Not sure what the point of this story is.

    People get priced out of neighborhoods all of the time. It’s the downfall of renting vs owning your own home.

    This isn’t a race issue either. I’m married, white, and live on a dual 6-figure income. Same thing happened to me to our place in Santa Monica causing us to move inland as we couldn’t afford to buy and didn’t want to waste our money on SaMo high rents.. Sucks, but that’s life. It happens to white people too.

    • “probably could have afforded to buy the home but lacked the resources to fix it up”

      how much could a horizontal slat wood fence really cost, though?

      • I’m assuming resources is a reference to financial resources. The home likely has deferred maintenance. There could be many unknowns with this property; foundation, sewer line, and termites are always my first point of inspection on homes of this style and age. Then there’s electrical, roof . . .

    • exactly. Same thing happened to me in one of San Diego’s beach communities. I got priced out and moved somewhere I could afford. Got priced out there, too, and decided to save and eventually buy (where I could afford), so that I could control my destiny.

    • Hi John,

      It’s not about race at all. The reason I made the comment about the notice of change in demographics was just that…it’s a change in demographics. When you’ve lived in the same community for 30 years you notice all of these things. It’s wasn’t meant as anything but that…I noticed a change.

    • Dear John…(hmm, didnt’ mean to start this way)

      I don’t think the story explicitly brought up race, did it? If it did, it definitely did not make it a main focus. Was your comment in anticipation or reaction to someone else’s comments?

      Gentrification is a highly nuanced issue, and one that definitely involves race among other things. At bottom though, I thought that both the writer and residents in the story were very evenhanded and thoughtful in discussing the issue, and instead of making polarizing or over generalized statements (which would be very tempting) they focused on how it has affected one family and let their story speak for itself.

    • paulina hernandez

      This is my home. I grew up in it. I learned so much here. 18 years of my life has been in this house. And its just slipping right from my fingers. I wish I could have bought the house for my grandpa this is the only thing of my grandma he has left. Its the only thing that keeps him close to her. Now he has to move far away from the house and woman he loves. Highland park has changed so much! And it sucks a lot because now I have to watch my family be torn apart. I don’t know how life is going to be when my grandpa moves to Granada and my cousin moves to Texas. They are all going to disappear from me and I cant do anything about it. Yes life happens and this happens to other people. Its a different feeling when its actually happening to you. I’ve always heard about people losing their homes, I never understood how they felt until now. The days seems to be ending quicker and quicker and I’m going to have to be forced to say goodbye to my home, my heart.

      • I am so sorry. Is there a way the owner can “carry the paper” so you can stay and be owners? Having funds to fix it is definitely a strain, I know, but there has to be a way… if you really love the place, find the way.

  2. If they’ve been living in Highland Park since the Glendale Galleria opened, that’s a nice long run. It opened in 1976, about 40 years ago.

    • When you read an article you are only reading the words in the article – a snap shot of an event that is currently happening. People don’t know the entire story. There is no way to get to know my entire story or that of my family and our time living in this home in a short article. It is what it is and I’m all for change. I love that Highland Park has changed so much – it’s a change for the better. And yes, we were extremely lucky to have been able to live this in this house for so long at a low cost.

      Everyone is entitled to their opinions. Whether we agree with them or not, like them or not, is not the point. It’s a small snap-shot of 30 years of one family’s history in L.A. That’s all. No hard feelings towards anyone – especially the landlord. And NO, she was NOT a slumlord. She has always been very kind and very professional, fixed things as needed. No hard feelings to the property management – they do what they and that’s it. And definitely no hard feelings to those of you posting your opinions regarding why I did or didn’t do, what I would’a, could’a, should’a done. It is what it is 🙂

    • Not 40 years – that was an error in the article. We moved to Highland Park in 1983, not right after the Glendale Galleria was built.

  3. So (at least) three adults lived in a house for 17 years (that until recently would not have significantly appreciated in value), did not make an attempt to purchase the house or another in the area, were provided with an opportunity to purchase their current house (which they were apparently capable of affording) and declined it. DAMN YOU HIPSTERS.

  4. Nice human interest story. Thank you. They seem like a very nice family and I’m always sad to see nice people leave the neighborhood. I wish them well in their new home and neighborhood.

  5. They had it pretty good for a long time. Now it’s time to move on..

  6. The house looks like a diamond in the rough! Restoration of this home would be best!
    If you look in Zillow, the home was purchase in 1987 for $112,500. By the looks of
    this house, neither the owner or the tenants made efforts to maintain its deserving upkeep! And, it seemed like the owner and tenants were stuck in the HP circa 1995’s. The area then was plagued with gangs, drugs, and shootings. Absentee owner probably had no idea of the home’s true value! Hopefully, the diamond has found an owner that will appreciate its true value. Pray that this gem is not bulldozed down by an overly zealous buyer!

    The tenants definitely were fortunate to have lived in this home for 17 years at $825. At that low price, minor improvements surely could have been made. A bucket of paint, elbow grease goes a long way. As for the owner, shame on you for not maintaining the upkeep of the home. Some people refer to them as “slumlords!”

    • Dear Sir Verdades,

      Over the years, at least since we’ve been there, the rent has increased. We are currently not paying $825 though we are not paying as much as some other places charge for rent ($1200-1600) in the same area and elsewhere. And yes the house has had repairs. When the roof needed replacing, it was. When the original floor hearter needed replacing, it was. Water heater, the same. When the exterior of the house needed repainting, guess what? It was. From the interior, I repainted (fixed up) the bathroom and when my mom was still around, we repainted the kitchen. We did take care of the house. The landlord and the property manament did fix things around the property. We took care of the house as if it were our own. Regardless of ownership, it is our home. And I agree with you, I too hope that the new owners do not knock it down but restore to it’s original beauty and character.

      • Tina,

        You are a force for good on the internet. I propose you be in charge of moderating every comment section of every website, forever.

  7. I, for one, appreciate human interest stories like this one, and I hope this family is able to find a suitable place to move to. I’m guessing that, unfortunately, as this is a standalone house, they don’t get the relocation assistance that rent control provides.

    I get how they feel. Both with the neighborhood changes, and how it would feel to suddenly have to find a new place and move. I’ve been in my Echo Park rental for 20 years. It was very shabby when I moved in (the whole neighborhood was shabby then). My landlord has done a fair amount of upgrades over the years (new roof when the roof fell in, new support beams when the termites holding hands were causing the house to move when walking across the floor, new wiring when a building inspector relative of mine commented that it was out of code). But the inside only got shabbier and shabbier. I finally negotiated with him to put money into it over the last several years (he paid for the flooring and paint, I paid for the labor) as it was getting depressing. I’m a single person with a decent salary. I can see where an extended family who may be living on a school teacher’s salary (unclear) might not feel they could afford to do that.

  8. I wish this would happen to the “scum” that live in the area, instead of to the generally decent people that live here. As a homeowner, I have noticed the house next door change ownership several times during the last 40+ years, and NONE of them gave a rat’s ass about the type of scum they were renting to…as long as the rent money’s coming in that’s all hat matters, and more so if the landlord doesn’t live in the area and uses a management company to “do the dirty work” for them. I have a rental unit in the back that I would much rather remain EMPTY than rent it out to hoodrats and troublemakers.

  9. Really appreciate this story. It’s rare to have such a well rounded perspective on the people behind gentrification, which are always more nuanced and complex then the debate often becomes. Kudos, and looking forward to more like this.

  10. At the end of the day, this is about people and a family going through a difficult time. I will certainly keep the Hernandez family in my prayers and hope that the transition goes well. Blessings neighbor!!!

    • And I as well will keep them in my heart and soul. I can’t stop thinking about them since this article posted and wish them the very best.

  11. Beverly D'Angeleno

    Anyone else interested to see the follow up human interest story about the next family that settles in here? Some insight into their hopes, dreams and future aspirations? The life they would like to build for their children in this community? Since the demographic shift is a subject, maybe the comparison would even help to shine a spotlight on change. Anyone?

    • +1 Beverly D’Angeleno, for your post.
      Another +1 For your name.

      The commenters on this site are really steering me away from this site lately. So sad to see how gross the neighborhood has become; with voices echoed here as well as on the street.


      A Tax Paying, Upstanding Resident of Echo Park Since 1995 Who Has Also Been Priced Out.

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