The wood-slate fence has jumped from being a simple signifier of “this house has been flipped” to becoming a part of the construction of the house itself. The above is a photo of an actual house in Boyle Heights being offered for rent at $2995 for 3 bedrooms.
Whereas previously the function of this fence was to shield its new, well-heeled owners from the insufficiently gentrified neighborhood, these wood-slates now are free to signify “flipped” no matter where they are placed on the home. The now defunct website, LAist quotes Dave Bantz an architecutral designer when they say “So, in that respect, the slat is a wordless billboard with the subtext, ‘this neighborhood has potential. But it’s still a place where you’re going to want a sense of protection from the street.'” Just as the pristine, white-walled cafés modeled after an Apple store (and filled with as many if not more Macbooks), that more and more riddle Los Angeles, once merely had recourse to its exorbitantly priced coffee to keep the the proletarian locals out, a new café in Boyle Heights is now a selling point for the flipped house pictured above.
Before gentrification in the L.A. Eastside, fences served a much more utilitarian purpose: to keep stray dogs out of your yard or a way to keep solicitors at bay. Chainlink fences predominate but there are also the wrought iron fences for those homes with a bit more money. There was no real attempt to completely shield one’s home from view. One’s gaze could easily pass through either of these type of fences and see your neighbor on the porch or tending to their garden.
A walk through the heavily gentrified areas of the L.A. Eastside has houses distintinctly separated from each other with those wood-slate fences where you would not be able to see those who live inside, sometimes completely obscuring the house. All this speaking to the fears of the new arrivals who love the relatively low prices but do not love the neighborhood. One Boyle Heights affordable advocate caught heat two years ago for posting a photo of a home in Boyle Heights with a wood-slate fence. People found out where the house was and the owner was livid. He was “45-year-old, white ‘non-hipster’ who purchased the house last year in Boyle Heights because ‘it’s the one place in LA where I could (barely) afford to buy a home.'” Interestingly this home owner thinks that being a non-hipster means that he could not possibly be contributing to gentrification in Boyle Heights: something akin to how middle-class Latinxs returning to Boyle Heights think of their “development” of the neighborhood as a neutral/positive gente-fication and not gentrification. In wealthier areas of Los Angeles you see homes without fences and with uncurtained, unshuttered windows: the interior on display to any passerbys.
A friend called these newly-fortified homes, “a gated community of one [home].” At this rate it would not be a stretch of the imagination, in the not-so-far future, to walk down a street with only slightly-varying wood-slate fences, essentially creating a walled-off street. A smooth transition would be had from the walled-freeways to a walled-street. It’s been noted that the wall that Trump wants to build (but which essentially already partially exists) along the Mexican border would be a fence, and not a wall. On this future street you would see an old Subaru parked out front, with a Bernie 2016 and Coexist sticker on it. But the owner would never, ever dare chant “Build that wall! Build that wall!” like their relatives back home — they listen religiously to KPFK’s “Global Village.” In some parts of Los Angeles you can already see corrugated metal in use.
It is claimed by pro-gentrification advocates that the inverse of the White Flight which happened after the 1992 Riots spells a current form of local de-segregation in a still very segregated city. This would be easier to believe if the well-off “returners” did not feel the need to replace every party supply store with a cold-press juice bar, an old local dive bar with a mixology bar, a cheap local restaurant with an art gallery, a Cambodian-owned donut shop with quirky takes on traditional donuts or encourage some to erase long-standing murals just in time for an event serving to bolster brand-new-to-the-hood businesses. Every city being gentrified now just looks like every other gentrified city. And somehow we are told that these neighborhoods are being revitalized. On the contrary, they’re being sterilized.
A city where Historic Filipinotown only remains Filipino historically; where Boyle Heights exists as a place only to document its past and fading present; where an old Lincoln Heights jail which once housed the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, will soon serve as a site set to erase our present; and where people learn of Echo Park’s past from a fictionalized movie right when being a Chicanx with hood fashion becomes most marketable.
This is the rigged game the racialized proletarians of Los Angeles are forced to play in. We only become desirable when what we have produced out of struggle can increase profits for someone, somewhere. Until then we are forced out of our neighborhoods with racist laws (like gang injunctions), racist landlords and when our neighborhoods do see an improvement in safety and quality of life after years of struggle (as the women of Boyle Heights have done), they can’t stick around to enjoy it. It makes perfect sense then that the wood-slate fence would reach its semiotic apogee in the neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Los Angeles is quickly becoming a place exclusively for the white and rich.