Taking Back the Boulevard

Art, Activism, and Gentrification in Los Angeles

256 pages

49 illustrations

January, 2019

ISBN: 9781479895700



Add to Cart Available: 12/12/2018

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Jan Lin is Professor of Sociology at Occidental College. He is the author of The Power of Urban Ethnic Places: Cultural Heritage and Community Life and co-editor of The Urban Sociology Reader.

All books by Jan Lin

The promises and conflicts faced by public figures, artists, and leaders of Northeast Los Angeles as they enliven and defend their neighborhoods 
Los Angeles is well known as a sprawling metropolis with endless freeways that can make the city feel isolating and separate its communities.  Yet in the past decade, as Jan Lin argues in Taking Back the Boulevard, there has been a noticeable renewal of public life on several of the city’s iconic boulevards, including Atlantic, Crenshaw, Lankershim, Sunset,  Western,  and Wilshire. These arteries connect neighborhoods across the city, traverse socioeconomic divides and ethnic enclaves, and can be understood as the true locational heart of public life in the metropolis.  
Focusing especially on the cultural scene of Northeast Los Angeles, Lin shows how these gentrifying communities help satisfy a white middle-class consumer demand for authentic experiences of “living on the edge” and a spirit of cultural rebellion. These neighborhoods have gone through several stages, from streetcar suburbs, to disinvested neighborhoods with the construction of freeways and white flight, to immigrant enclaves, to the home of Chicano/a artists in the 1970s. Those artists were then followed by non-Chicano/a, white artists, who were later threatened with displacement by gentrifiers attracted by the neighborhoods’ culture, street life, and green amenities that earlier inhabitants had worked to create. Lin argues that gentrification is not a single transition, but a series of changes that disinvest and re-invest neighborhoods with financial and cultural capital. 
Drawing on community survey research, interviews with community residents and leaders, and ethnographic observation, this book argues that the revitalization in Northeast LA by arts leaders and neighborhood activists marks a departure in the political culture from the older civic engagement to more socially progressive coalition work involving preservationists, environmentalists, citizen protestors, and arts organizers.  Finally, Lin explores how accelerated gentrification and mass displacement of Latino/a and working-class households in the 2010s has sparked new rounds of activism as the community grapples with new class conflicts and racial divides in the struggle to self-determine its future.


  • “In this heartfelt and meticulously researched history of the boulevard-lined neighborhoods of Northeast L.A., Jan Lin has given us a crucial and timely investigation into how local cultural and community movements, together with struggles over the right to the city, shape our contemporary urban landscape…With imaginative theorization and brilliantly clear prose, Lin attends to the contradictions and conflicts of the current moment, as well as new, radical possibilities for a green and equitable city that are now also within sight.”

    —Miriam Greenberg, Co-editor of The City is the Factory: New Solidarities and Spatial Tactics in an Urban Age

  • "Jan Lin has written both a meticulous and a passionate documentation of the long waves of investment, migration, and cultural expression that have shaped Northeast Los Angeles since the heyday of Anglo urbanization. From bohemianism and bike lanes, to tacos and lattes, Lin shows how embedded cultural patterns and determined community activists keep the vitality of the streets even in our most automobile-dependent city."

    —Sharon Zukin, Author of Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places