IS SOLA TREND­ING?

Cam­paign urges new nick­name for South L.A. Not ev­ery­one is sold.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By An­gel Jen­nings

Twelve years ago, res­i­dents on Los An­ge­les’ south side com­plained that their neigh­bor­hood had be­come syn­ony­mous in popular cul­ture with gangs, mur­der, drugs and de­spair.

So they got the Los An­ge­les City Coun­cil to rechris­ten South-Cen­tral as South Los An­ge­les, hop­ing the change would re­move the stigma.

Since then, the area ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing of a re­birth: Crime has fallen sub­stan­tially and some streets are cleaner and of­fer bet­ter shop­ping op­tions.

Now, some in the area want to change the name once again, this time to SOLA — an ab­bre­vi­a­tion for South L.A.

Such nick­names have be­come popular as gen­tri­fi­ca­tion re­shapes ur­ban geog­ra­phy. There is SoHo in New York, SoMa in San Fran­cisco and WeHo (West Hol­ly­wood), NoHo (North Hol­ly­wood) and DTLA (down­town L.A.) lo­cally.

Los An­ge­les Coun­cil­man Bernard C. Parks said some of his con­stituents like the hip sound of SOLA.

“They see th­ese other com­mu­ni­ties rein­vig­o­rated by th­ese con­tem­po­rary names,” said Parks, who rep­re­sents Coun­cil Dis­trict 8. “And they won­der, at times, why their com­mu­nity is lag­ging be­hind.”

But this name change is

gen­er­at­ing se­ri­ous de­bate that mir­rors larger ques­tions about the fu­ture of the area.

The south side is about to see some ma­jor changes, first and fore­most a rail line down Cren­shaw Boule­vard. A new res­i­den­tial and re­tail vil­lage is planned around the Baldwin Hills Cren­shaw Plaza. And a sim­i­lar $1-bil­lion com­plex called SoLA Vil­lage has been pro­posed on the edge of His­toric South-Cen­tral.

Many res­i­dents are cheer­ing new shops and ser­vices, say­ing that for decades de­vel­op­ers had lit­tle in­ter­est in the south side. But there is also fear that work­ing-class res­i­dents could be priced out if South L.A. be­came the next trendy neigh­bor­hood. And those wor­ries are tied up in SOLA.

Some want to slow down and think about the name change in the larger con­text of what is hap­pen­ing to the com­mu­nity.

“We need a true fo­cus group to see if this is what the res­i­dents want,” said Glo­ria Wal­ton, who is head of Strate­gic Con­cepts in Or­ga­niz­ing and Pol­icy Ed­u­ca­tion. “But it begs the ques­tion: Who is the name change re­ally for? It is re­ally for the res­i­dents who live here now or is this about gen­tri­fi­ca­tion?”

Bar­ber A.O. Her­nan­dez, 33, said SOLA feels like an at­tempt to make the area seem like some­thing it’s not.

“It’s a fa­cade,” Her­nan­dez said. “The name is used to make out­siders feel safe. You are in the same place with the same peo­ple.”

There are no spe­cific bound­aries for South L.A. But it gen­er­ally is used as a catchall for sev­eral ar­eas south of the 10 Free­way from Watts to the Baldwin Hills.

A smaller por­tion of that ter­ri­tory got the name South-Cen­tral gen­er­a­tions ago when the black jazz scene ex­ploded along Cen­tral Av­enue.

The name ex­panded ge­o­graph­i­cally as racial covenants ended and blacks moved far­ther west.

By the 1990s, South-Cen­tral had been in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked in movies and rap about gangs and ur­ban de­cay.

When the city changed the name to South L.A., it got as­sur­ances from TV sta­tions and busi­nesses that they would use the new name. New signs were also erected.

Later, the city started an ef­fort to give for­mal names to smaller neigh­bor­hoods. So South L.A. now en­com­passes places such as Ver­mont Knolls and Green Mead­ows.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the Los An­ge­les Ur­ban Pol­icy Round­table said SOLA is more for out­siders who might view the area in a new light with a dif­fer­ent name.

“South L.A. has been so beaten up and bat­tered and re­ally lam­basted in terms of the public im­age,” said Hutchinson, a life­long res­i­dent. “A change could be help­ful. There might be a dif­fer­ent per­cep­tion in terms of putting re­sources, time, en­ergy and more ef­forts into an area that’s no longer, at least name-wise, seen as pariah.”

Erin Aubry Ka­plan, an In­gle­wood-based au­thor who writes about the black com­mu­nity, said that brand­ing the area SOLA is a cos­metic change that fails to ad­dress the deeper is­sues of ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, good jobs and safer neigh­bor­hoods.

“The fact that we keep chang­ing the name of South-Cen­tral/South L.A. re­ally points to the fact that we haven’t done enough to make it a dif­fer­ent place,” said Ka­plan, who grew up in what’s now called Gramercy Park. “To make it a place you want to go, and not afraid of, you got to change a lot more than the name.”

South L.A. has long strug­gled eco­nom­i­cally, es­pe­cially com­pared to more pros­per­ous com­mu­ni­ties that have em­braced new hip names. But Parks ar­gues the south side stands to ben­e­fit if it fol­lows the ex­am­ple of those ar­eas.

“They didn’t want to be a vast waste­land called some­thing that meant some­thing to other peo­ple,” he said. SOLA “gives peo­ple the flex­i­bil­ity to mod­ern­ize as other com­mu­ni­ties have.”

Jo­sue Bolanos, 32, also sup­ports the change.

Grow­ing up, he proudly ex­claimed he was from “South-Cen­tral L.A. all day.”

“They would make faces or say ‘You’re in the hood,’ ” he re­called.

Now, as the owner of DGM Bar­ber­shop in Jef­fer­son Park, he di­rects clients to his shop by say­ing its near USC. He said re­brand­ing the area could shift the at­ti­tudes of res­i­dents and vis­i­tors.

“You give some­thing a hip name, it could catch on and change the way peo­ple look at this part of the city,” he said.

Pho­to­graphs by Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

THE EXPO LINE train crosses Cren­shaw Boule­vard at Ex­po­si­tion Boule­vard. Coun­cil­man Bernard C. Parks said some of his con­stituents like the hip sound of SOLA. The area once known as South-Cen­tral was re­named South L.A. about 12 years ago.

A BI­CY­CLIST passes a beauty sup­ply store. A.O. Her­nan­dez said SOLA feels like an at­tempt to make the area seem like some­thing it’s not.

Pho­to­graphs by Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

A VAC­UUM re­pair shop and a church share space. “The fact that we keep chang­ing the name of South-Cen­tral/South L.A. re­ally points to the fact that we haven’t done enough to make it a dif­fer­ent place,” a critic said.

A CHILD runs at a Cren­shaw Dis­trict mall. One per­son asked if the name change is “for the res­i­dents who live here now or is this about gen­tri­fi­ca­tion?”

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