New Starbucks stirs up debate at Highland Park council meeting; gentrification town hall in the works*

Starbucks, Highland Park

By Nathan Solis

HIGHLAND PARK — Like it or not, a grand opening will be held on August 15 for a  drive-thru style Starbucks on York Boulevard. While some Highland Park residents can’t wait for their Frappuccinos, the mere mention of the coffee chain’s name at a recent neighborhood council sparked a debate about supporting local businesses.

Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council President Monica Alcaraz motioned for the council to host the grand opening in support of the new business. But some board members questioned the need to support this particular business, pointing out that a Starbucks could hurt other local businesses in the area.  The motion passed.

“That’s not what this motion is” about, said Alcaraz,noting that the Starbucks franchise owner promised to hire local residents and the Starbucks Corporation offered to pay for the installation of a nearby cross walk. “All of that has already been decided. We’re going to hold them accountable for all their actions.”

At the same neighborhood council meeting, a motion was passed to pursue a town hall meeting in regards to gentrification in Highland Park. Director-at-large Fernando Villa stated that some residents and the local chamber of commerce have expressed concern about the topic of gentrification and rising real estate prices. This would be the second neighborhood meeting on gentrification in Highland Park.

* Correction: A previous version of this story said the Starbucks grand opening was scheduled for July 14. That’s wrong. The correct date is August 15.

Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis’ stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.

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  1. I personally don’t care for their coffee, but this company surely doesn’t sound like Walmart.

    “Starbucks bucked the trend, for example, when it continued offering health insurance for both full- and part-time employees as other companies dialed back offerings and blamed Obamacare.
    CEO Howard Schultz, who retook the company’s helm in 2008 and turned around the slumping business, has also stood out among his peers for backing a boost in the minimum wage.”

    “The company announced it will offer both full- and part-time employees a generous tuition reimbursement benefit that covers two full years of classes. The benefit is through a partnership with Arizona State University’s online studies program. Employees can choose any of more than 40 undergraduate degrees, and aren’t limited to only business classes.”

    “He said most of the company’s 135,000 U.S. employees meet Starbucks’ eligibility standard — working at least 20 hours per week. About 70% of them do not have undergraduate degrees.”


  2. Hey, maybe if there weren’t a glaring dearth of decent coffee in the neighborhood, they wouldn’t be here. I’m talking to you, every coffeeshop in a 2-mile radius – Cafe de Leche and Highland Cafe and Antigua Bread (haven’t tried Kitchen Mouse yet, so maybe there’s hope).

    • Cafecito Organico – on Colorado Blvd. near Townsend – serves up excellent coffee (at least their Americanos are great) and they’re rarely busy.

  3. I’d support a local cafe if there was one in that area, but there is not. I don’t see how it’s any different from the rest of the stuff on that strip, low cost food, it’s surrounded by Jack in the Box, KFC, Penny’s, a Chinese buffet and a Rite Aid. It seriously fits right in with that stuff.

  4. I don’t see why this Starbucks would be an issue. It’s not like they’re opening one smack dab in the middle of York. Plenty of other chains in the immediate area.

    And for the proposed meeting on gentrification….A little late don’t ya think? Most of my friends have been priced out of Highland Park and are buying their first homes in El Sereno.

    • Yeah. Starbucks coffee blows… and I can’t be spending all my loot on daily coffee anyway. If I were to, it would all go to Cafe de Leche. But alas! Now we have two Starbucks perched at each end of York… both with drive-thrus. It will still be gross, but just like someone else had mentioned, at least they’re doing good for the peeps. Could be Chik Fil-A! haha

      As for gentrification? I’ve been stalked by numerous real estate agents and random people leaving me notes offering us cash for the house we rent. Been here for almost ten years…. its a bit un-nerving.

  5. Exactly. Gentrification has been started every since York first got going, which has been quite a while now. By the time I’m actually ready to buy a house, I won’t be able to afford to live here and I’ll be forced to move farther east. But personally, I don’t see Starbucks as being that big of a deal, because they are good stewards of the community. I just really hope they stick to what they say and hire people in the community. All these new businesses say that but most of the people who work there aren’t even originally from LA. There are still local businesses who do great though like Antigua and I even recently visited Amara (even though their hours are weird) who are trying to keep cafe’s local and in house.

  6. Carsmakepeoplestupid

    It’s the drive-thru that’s the most troubling.

    • As a sleep deprived mother of two young children who drives that route on a regular basis, that drive-thru will be a godsend. Now if we just had a drive-thru bank…

    • There’s one at York and Eagle Rock too!

  7. Real estate speculation and the need for community housing trusts, and perhaps even a commercial property land trust, taxing land values in special districts (and not improvements) – all of this should be part of the public debate.

    Cities are essentially land trusts to begin with – reaping taxes to provide for the good life. When a city’s investments pay off with elevated land values, the city should directly benefit from that. Instead, we let people cream off the top while taxing all the productive work in our economy. Invest in land and enjoy protected profits for almost no work. Work a productive job and have your income taxed, every purchase taxed, and be forced to gamble your meager pension on Wall Street (indirectly).

    People using our communities as if they were coal mines to be stripped of value and abandoned, to hell with the consequences, is not the fair way forward.

    The LA Ecovillage has found a way to maintain housing prices that are 1/2 the rental rates in their community by using a housing trust.

    And please note, as housing prices have gone up, the shanty town in the Arroyo Seco (which is where the poor collected the last time we had this level of income inequality) has grown in proportion.

    • I’m almost 100% sure home flippers pay a tax penalty (capital gains) when holding onto a property for less than 2 years which go back into the district for things like infrastructure.

  8. It’s a shame that a locally-based business couldn’t have been given the opportunity to open here. It’s hard to see how Starbuck’s marketing machine won’t have a negative effect on the small independent cafes in the area.

    • That’s the thing, there aren’t any small independent cafes in that area.

      • I can think of a few: Cafe de Leche, Cafecito Organico, & Antigua. Whether or not they are any good is another question. I

        Just curious: are these not close enough to “be in the area” of this new location, are they no good, were you unaware, etc., in making your statement?

        • Antigua Coffee (not to be confused with Antigua Bread near Ave 57) is 3 miles away. Cafecito Organico is also in a completely different neighborhood, 2.8 miles away. Cafe de Leche is 1.5 miles (and its coffee is bitterly undrinkable, on top of being a wee bit sceney, and oh yeah, they close at 6).

          Seriously, there’s nothing in the area.

        • I just don’t consider them in the area.

    • Starbucks marketing has no negative affect on any local cafes.

      Its the coffee and the ambiance.

      I check every local cafe possible all across the city.
      Few manage to meet the average Starbucks experience, none beat it, and Starbucks doesn’t set a high bar.

      Is it too much to ask for drinkable coffee (drip, please), sturdy chairs, clean tables and working air conditioning?

    • Starbucks gives better benefits.

    • Some people love the type of coffee served at Cafe de Leche, etc. and some people absolutely can’t stand it; they often prefer the Starbucks style. This is absolutely fine. CDL will still have a line out the door on weekends, and Starbucks will bring some entry-level jobs with health insurance to the community.

      Considering that all of the local coffee spots are closed by 7:00, I’m sure there will be a fair number of people that patronize both.

  9. Oh God, I’m so sick of hearing people whine about gentrification. We live in one of the most expensive cities in America. Sooner or later, every inch of LA will be gentrified, just like Brooklyn, NY, which in some areas is now more expensive than Manhattan. It’s called progress. Yes, some people will fall through the cracks. Business will close and people will be priced out of their rentals. It’s sad when that happens, but it’s a fact of life. We live in a free market system and all of this is determined by the market. You think you can stop it? You can’t. Change with the times or wither away. Just look at Elsa’s bakery. The new owners understood this perfectly. They found a way to upgrade their business, make it more appealing to the newcomers, and now they’re doing fantastic business while still staying true to their roots.

    • Word up. It’s just how things go.

    • Could not have said it better myself. The only exception I would take with the “rampant gentrification” argument is the city of LA does have measures in place to slow gentrification. It is called rent control.

    • Jessica Ceballos

      It’s not so black and white. There can be advantages to gentrification of course, but sometimes population migration can move faster than what the infrastructure of a community, or even a household can bare.


      • That may be true. My only point is that it’s happening and nothing can stop it, so we’d all do well to stop wringing our hands over it and try to cope. Money is poring into Highland Park, and no amount of community activism can stem that tide. For those working class who are fortunate enough to own homes, they are going to see their property values soar. For those who are renting, they ought to buy, if not in Highland Park, then in El Sereno, Boyle Hights, or some other neighborhood where they can afford. Those areas will have their day soon enough. But mark my words, in ten years, Highland Park is going to be like Venice.

        • Oh my god… if I could just fart out a home purchase! But, well… yeah – economy and sh•t sucks since 2008. We’ll probably have to rent for life..

    • Just as the suburban movement wasn’t “just change”, the gentrification movement or “white roosting” isn’t simply just about change either. Change is can be good. Change can be great even. But when you have a system that structurally favors one group over another, that isn’t good. Read up on “white flight” and how the average white family gained “wealth” during this period while others were “redlined” and marginalized. Read up on how cities were divested of their wealth through POLICY like bank redlining and lending practices, urban renewal programs and the building of inter/intracity freeways. The divesting of public infrastructure like schools and transportation were horrible for cities and how that wealth was redirected to the suburbs. So we’re not just simply talking “change” we’re talking social and economic engineering a sort of affirmative action for suburbanites.
      What do we do short of the forced redistribution of wealth, I’m not sure. But there really shouldn’t be a tiring of hearing solid critiques about gentrification if you understand what made it possible.

    • Amen I totally agree. I just don’t understand it.

  10. A lot of posters are confusing house prices with gentrification. They are not necessarily related. The absurd housing prices we have these days comes out of pathological NIMBYism that refuses to allow the construction necessary in desirable areas that would build enough housing to meet the demand and the equally incessant efforts of folks to keep moving to those areas regardless; and a nice dose of resistance to change, to admit that the mid-century idea of a car focused, single family home culture was a mistake and that now we need to build up, build more densely, and to build more transit friendly. Gentrification on the other hand can follow high house prices to a neglected part of town, or it can precede them. Gentrification is simply when old and often stagnant business districts suddenly get re-discovered and come back to the mainstream—usually amidst a poverty centric formerly immigrant oriented area. There’s plenty of “Middle” it’s called the suburbs, where Malls and Strip malls predominate, and where everything is corporate. Local businesses can thrive alongside Starbucks, but they have to be willing to compete, not complain.

  11. I can’t wait for this Starbucks to open!

  12. Who cares. If I don’t want to support Starbucks, I won’t buy their coffee – plain and simple.

  13. I’m getting a kick out of people complaining about money and jobs coming to highland park and bad mouthing the corporate franchise of Starbucks while at the same time sporting advertising for global brands for free aka Lakers and Dodgers
    Do Dodgers and Lakers offers fans healthcare and the ability to take college courses ?

    • So agree Citizen x

    • Citizen x
      Ummmm I think there is sponsorship by the Lakers and Dodgers, of sports programs in areas for youth who are showing promise of getting ahead in their communities. There are also similar programs by the team members who want to give back to the communities they come from, such as one by Magic Johnson and another Dodger player, whose name escapes me!
      These programs are promoting kids to continue in school to graduate into to college and and universities across the nation! Their numbers are increasing every year in every major city with a profession sports team!

  14. There is already a drive through Starbucks on York at the corner of eagle rock and york. I guess this will make two on the same strip.

  15. I don’t mind the idea of another Starbucks so much but I’am concerned with the idea of another drive-thru on York. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to slam on my brakes from someone tearing out of the York/Eagle Rock Starbucks drive-thru. I don’t know if it’s the initial jolt of caffeine, or the anticipation of it, that forces people to rip out of there like they’re leading a high speed chase but it’s a massive pain in the ass and I’m always on the alert for concrete footed caffeine cruisers who don’t pay attention to oncoming traffic at all. Maybe they should reconsider zoning the new space and eliminating the drive-thru?

    • Only poorer neighborhoods or those without strong design guidelines still have drive-thrus on their many strip. Pasadena? No. Rodeo Dr? No. Santa Monica? No. Silver Lake/Sunset Junction? No. It’s proof that Starbucks doesn’t give a f**k about the area.

      • “It’s proof that starbucks doesn’t give a f**k about the area” … Only enough to invest a ton of money in renovating the store, paying a ton in taxes and hiring many employees. I only hope that others care as little as they do.

        I see why you have C. Phylis, you are certainly a blow hard.

      • Pasadena does have a drive-thru Starbucks on Rosemead.

  16. This Starbucks is actually in a perfect location. If the bike lane people get their way and give Figueroa a road diet, the thousands of commuters stuck in gridlock will need the extra caffeine to stay awake, as their commutes are doubled.

  17. You know what is really lame? Is that all of you people are talking about coffee. The bigger picture question is do we need all of these coffee shops in such a tight little area? How about some shops for teenagers to go and hang out? Like an arcade or cool bookstore, or a bike/skate shop? Everything around here is becoming hipster related and it sucks for the locals. The hipsters have moved here with their trust fund money and have opened shops that hardly any of the locals go to. I went to the new Highland Park brewery the other night and it was $10 for a glass of wine night. Highland Park is predominantly a working class blue collar community, people are frugal and family orientated and not into $5 cups of coffee and $10 beers, or $4 slices of pizza. We don’t care if you offer a vegan menu or are “veggie friendly” we don’t care. We are simple and just want a simple life, not bike lanes and crosswalks and organic ingredients. I have a question for you all???????????Does anyone on this forum even know what the new Starbucks building used to be? A Pioneer Chicken………This area has become over populated with unfriendly white people, sorry to pull the race card but it’s the truth…….entitled white, trust fund people. So take away what you will from this post but being a local and 4th generation Mexican (all of my family grew up in HLP/Eagle Rock/East Los Angeles). We all liked the sleepy, rundown little town of ours. You gentrifiers have come here and made this community friendly for yourselves but not for US. And if you look around, US blue collar hard working middle class burrito eating, natural light drinking people are still here, were just not hanging around on York Blvd.

    • There is so much garbage in your post I don’t even know where to begin. Highland Park doesn’t belong to you because your skin happens to be brown. It belongs just as much to the white “hipsters” who you despise so much, who are just as hard working as you are, most of whom have moved to Highland Park because it’s AFFORDABLE, so there goes your bogus trust fund argument. You are a pathetic racist. Why does every store have to cater to you and your “community”? And by community, I mean racist A-holes, because I know plenty of Mexicans who enjoy craft beer, $10 wine and delicious $4 pizza, just like plenty white “hipsters” enjoy eating burritos and pan dulce. Get a life, dude. Highland Park is changing.

    • As a home owner who have been here for 11 years I disagree with your post. This neighborhood needs this growth and doesn’t belong to one class or race. As a black man I am offended by the post. You should not inject race into this. A little history would do you some good. This neighborhood was established by Italians and Jews not by hispanics. That changed when white flight came about partly by the growth of the suburbs in the mid to late 50’s but this neighborhood wasn’t affected as much with a racial makeup shifting until about 40+ years ago when there was a shift to move to the suburbs. It was a national trend which affected lots of cities. This trend started to change about 10 years ago when people decided and discovered the value of cities and decided to live closer to there jobs and redevelop areas. There is one thing you are correct on regarding race the folks that was disproportionately affected by these changes where people of color who could not move or take advantage of some of these changes. Some of these neighborhood become neglected due to the lack of infusion money coming into these neighborhood. But that is a completely different discusion. Please realize this is a mix of various middle class people moving into this are with various ethnic make up and they are investing into this area because they believe in it and consider it here home just as much as those who have been here longer. No one has a monopoly on who’s neighborhood this is. It’s is far better to create these changes and help clean up this neighborhood from blight and crime than to hold on this idea that it should stay in the hands of one group.

      • “This neighborhood was established by Italians and Jews not by hispanics” and this entire city was established by Catholic, spanish-speaking settlers from MEXICO that preceded Italians and Jews by CENTURIES. It’s always interesting to note how those who arived last, always want history to begin with them. Btw, Mexicans are fundamentally American-Indian in race, history, and identity, e.g., Mexico is not a spanish word and the eagle on the Mexican flag is not a european coat of arms, which means that as early as 1810, Mexicans chose to self-identify with their indigenous origins NOT their european occupiers. We know OUR history. Do You?

        • @Properdos

          The LA Basin was settled by the Chumash & Tongva nations long before Mexico even existed. Unless you’re a member of one of those tribes, you’re either a transplant or a descendant of one.

          No one asked those tribes if they wanted to be Mexican or American or if it was ok to claim their land.

          High horse, you need to get off of it.

        • Good to know that your Chicano Studies lessons didn’t go to waste Proper Dos. You should probably get your money back though, because either your Mecha Professors didn’t teach you about the bigger issues of history, or you’re being mighty selective in your criticisms of anyone less Brownly than thou. And yes I do know my history.

          As a lifelong resident of Lincoln Heights, with a Mexican mother and white American father who made and called this neighborhood their own for more that 40 years, I too have insights on how this community has evolved. You have no further to look than the architecture of the houses that stand and the surnames chiseled on the tombs in the cemeteries of East L.A to see that Northeast neighborhoods were established and inhabited by people of every ethnicity and walk of life imaginable, Progress being what it is, the ethnic population pendulum swings. First there was the indigenous peoples, then came the Europeans and then you get the rest – Americans, Mexicans, Africans who were forced here, etc…. until finally you get the Hipsters (seriously you guys should have your own flag). But no matter how you got to the Eastside, the fact remains that these are great neighborhoods to live and raise families in, so it doesn’t surprise me that anyone else wouldn’t think so either. So stop being such an elitist snob. Starbucks isn’t the enemy here, but clearly, you’re thinking is.

    • @Locals_only – It’s unfortunate that you don’t recall that before we called Highland Park home, many Germans, Italians and other ethnicities called Highland Park home! I can still recall when we moved in. I can’t say they rolled out the red carpet for us! In our general radius we were one of a handful of Hispanic families North of York Blvd back in the 1960’s. And, before you knew it…Highland Park had made an enormous 180 degree change. I can’t say that I totally loved some of the negative changes that came with it. A neighborhood is what we make of it. I welcome everyone who wants to live in peace and harmony. Let’s not make this a race issue and quite frankly I’m so tired of the “gentrification” title.
      It’s a community! A community of people who hopefully will enjoy the wonderful, diversity of food, culture, and rich heritage Highland Park community has to offer everyone!!!


      Look at it on the bright side, those $4 pizzas, organic green food eateries and so on you mentioned, are hiring your kids to work in their places. That $10 beer and wine places are hiring your young adults. I visit the area as I have friends in the area, who are supporting the community in as artists who attract others to the area! I am seeing a positive change in the area, that money is coming to the other areas! I might add, the last time I ate a burrito was in a place on York Blvd., and the young man who served it spoke in both English as well as Spanish for the diverse customer base they had inside the doors!

      In our economy, Blue Collar workers are a predominant force in this community and most of them are brown skinned, contributors to the community. Why not be a part of the contribution to the area, and show your pride, and open up a community center for the kids to go to in your area. A place for them to go to to listen to their music, see movies they like and play games they can all be involved in, such as basket ball, and baseball! I will lay odds on that being a success, backed by all colors of the community, Brown, Black and White.

      BTW – Can you correct your rant, it is not easy to read, because it is improperly crammed together and disorganized!

  18. Well locals_only,

    Your community as with others like it in the area have been “targeted” by people just looking for affordable housing. Since you and your fellow “locals” neglected your homes, neighborhoods and local businesses, the area became depressed thus pushing the property values down thus making it attractive for these so-called entitled white trust fund people to move in. Yes that was a pioneer chicken. You know why it closed as so many other businesses in “your” neighborhood? Because “you” were not giving it enough business- not exactly a conspiracy against brown people.

    It seems that you like so many other “locals” think all these people moved in to the neighborhood because it was “cool” or “hip”. Don’t get me wrong, there are some cool things about these neighborhoods but it had nothing to do with you (except for that depressing property values thing you did so well). As for a place for teens to hang, why haven’t you and your “locals” put together something for them? Are white people the only ones who can do things for their teens? I hope not Mr. local.

    By the way, if the white people that lived in your neighborhood as it transitioned to Latino back in the 50’s and 60’s were to say what you just said, they would be labeled a horrible racist.

    • “f the white people that lived in your neighborhood as it transitioned to Latino back in the 50′s and 60′s were to say what you just said, they would be labeled a horrible racist”. They Did. and Were. My parents and uncles remember. This was particularly true among tenants who suddenly found themselves answering to a Mexican landlord. At one point, my mom went to the old northeast station, explained the situation, was told to give a police officer nearby $20, and he paid the squatting Italian family a visit. They vacated the premises within the week. Once again, you won’t be able to revise history to suit your own ignorance and cynical disregard for an established community of residents that are going nowhere.. After all, the novelty of living and raising a family in 800-1,200 sq. ft. homes won’t last forever.

  19. Out with the old and in with the new..good riddance

  20. Long Time Resident

    Gentrification??? Seriously??? Brown skinned people are upset???

    Did everyone forget that Highland Park used to be white??? That the public schools in Highland Park used to be good???

    The neighborhood is slowly going back to what it what it once was when it was a nice place to live and raise a family.

    • “Did everyone forget that Highland Park used to be white???” Has someone conveniently forgotten that the entire state used to be “brown”? Of course, you have but WE haven’t. Btw, ONLY when the neighborhood began to improve did gentrifiers dare move in NOT the other way around. If that were the case, much cheaper housing is available in South and South-central L.A., which is also closer to the beaches but I don’t see any noble and courageous gentrifiers eager to “save” those neighborhoods. I wonder why (Not).

    • LTR,
      I think you need to think about your statement. While it is True that things went down hill, but with what has been happening in the area, I have notice that all people have been moving into the area, black brown white and so on, and the neighborhoods are improving, with all people of color. Houses have been renovated and brought up to code, properties have nice gardens, and many homes are being painted at the very least to improve the appearances.

      There has been an influx of an artistic community that attracts people to visit their places and in turn, the other shops like the music and guitar sales have improved, the local fooderies have benefited, and new shops are popping up where an abandoned building once stood!

      So what if it used to be white, now it wears a coat of many colors, including white! AND that is good!

  21. Locals Only , thank you for displaying the evidence of the the deconstructed bridge between education and reality,
    You lambast on why there isn’t a place for teenagers to hang out and lash out at new businesses but yet claim yourself as a caring local . What moves have you made to provide local teens with a “hang out”? Is it up to the new “white” gentrifiers ?
    Well that just reeks of people living off the system doesn’t it? I mean depending on other to provide your needs? The biggest mistake of your racist rant is thinking people moving here have trust funds, holy shit is that hilarious, they move here because the community has neglected the neighborhood so long that property values became attainable for hard working people like myself, I do construction….. not investing , no trust fund, But I see value inane beauty in historic homes , it cannot be said the same for people of HP before the recent boom.
    Lets remember one thing.
    If your neighbor is selling should you be mad at the neighbor? or the buyer? Good night sweet racist.

  22. van nuys resident

    They are moving into an Arbys over here on Van Nuys Blvd……..I am afraid this will now take the title of “ugliest Starbucks in the world title” :(.

  23. Personally, I wish they would improve their image as a take over the community company with lousy product. They move into a community that already local mom and pop’s that has great coffee, and wonderful taste treats, and take over with lower quality coffee and made elsewhere lower quality food, and then the Mom and Pop’s coffee houses do not have a chance!
    Their branding attracts people who do not care about quality, and their competitive pricing ruins the older flavor of the community!

  24. The first people I blamed when I stepped foot into this mess was the Highland Park HPOZ review board.. Does anyone know whether this had to get their approval? If that was the case the Design Review Board should be the ONLY party to blame.

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