Downtown Crenshaw has been working to stop the sale of the Baldwin-Hills Crenshaw Mall to outside developers for over a year now. This community-led coalition is comprised of community stakeholders, social justice advocacy groups, as well as people from the surrounding Crenshaw community.
The mall is seen as prime real estate to large, real estate development groups because the mall sits adjacent to the Crenshaw/LAX Metro train that is currently under construction. For those who grew up in the community, however, the mall is more of a cultural landmark.
“Once they started to work on the train line on Crenshaw, I knew the gentrification was going to triple at a rapid pace. They did not build that train for us. All of these high rises and the new construction of apartment buildings, all of them are not for us,” said Veronica Sance.
Sance is lead organizer for the Grandmama’s of Downtown Crenshaw. Next month Sance will be 60-years-old. She continues to organize around the issues of gentrification because she will be impacted by these changes and has no options to move from where she currently lives due to her budget.
“It’s very important for us to help save our community from outside developers as much as we can. We have been responsible for stopping the last two sales of the mall and we intend to stop this one as well.”
Sance is one of 60,000 residents who live within a 2-mile radius of the Baldwin-Hills Crenshaw Mall. She will be one of the first impacted by the mall closure as well as the potential loss to access retail businesses located inside the mall.
She has lived in the Crenshaw District since moving back home in 1990 and understands the impacts that new owners have on properties. Sance has been in her current apartment for over a decade and knows that the new owner does not treat the people or property the same as the previous owner.
Sance used to live in Hollywood through a housing program. She could not afford to live there on her own budget and felt like she was pushed out of living there because she was fighting for her rights.
This is what fuels Sance in this fight against gentrification and to see ownership of the mall in the hands of the community. She was also one of several protestors who showed up in Century City this week, to protest outside the offices of the new real estate group with their eye on the mall.
“I love where I live,” Sance said. “I can’t afford to move nor do I want to. That’s why I am fighting. I am going to be one of the first people displaced. I am too close to be comfortable with gentrification. I am 15-minutes from the beach, from downtown, from Beverly Hills,—why would I move?”
Damien Goodman has been one of the fiercest advocates in the fight against gentrification for the Crenshaw community. A founding member of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, he has been active in presenting community concerns and demands to the City of Los Angeles and Metro regarding the new train and has worked for the past year on efforts to acquire the necessary funding so that Downtown Crenshaw could be taken seriously in its bid to acquire the mall.
To that end, Downtown Crenshaw says it has secured over $30 million in financial donations, as well as pledges from prominent names in the field of philanthropy. Their bids, however, have been rejected in favor of larger real estate groups.
Through their collective effort to leave self-determination and cultural landmarks in the hands of the mostly Black community, Downtown Crenshaw has been able to drive away two real estate groups who submitted proposals for the project. Development groups that included CIM, who in April 2019, submitted a proposal to redevelop the Crenshaw Mall into an “office campus,” a corporate tech model that would only serve the purposes of gentrification.
“They do not want to see a project that has affordable housing for residents. They want to see a project that gentrifies the city. Outside capital will not control this and there will be a Black face in front of it, which is how most development takes place,” said Goodman.
According to Goodman, after CIM backed out of their bid for the Crenshaw Mall, they filed a lawsuit to get back their $10 million down payment on the property. Downtown Crenshaw thought their bid was in the clear, only to find out recently that Los Angeles-based Harridge Development Group, has now placed their bid for the property.
In 2017, Harridge Development group purchased property to build a gated community on 18-acres near the new Los Angeles Rams stadium in Inglewood.
“The Black community can be in control of this. A community that is made up of low income tenants as well upper middle class homeowners,” Goodmon states. “It’s a different model. We are not looking for Black celebrities to save the day. The goal is to give the property to the community, so the community can be in collective control of the space.”