Saturday, February 28, 2009
Labels: Eagle Rock
"Bohemian Sprawl Hits the Limits in Los Angeles"
WHEN Emily Cook, a screenwriter, bought a house four years ago in Eagle Rock, a neighborhood on the Northeast side of Los Angeles, she fantasized what the area might look like in a year or two, with cafes and boutiques replacing tattered old businesses. “It was like fantasy football,” said Ms. Cook, 38, who also sings in a band named Fonda.
A sad flower shop on the corner, she thought, could become a miniature Whole Foods. An upholstery store could be a gastropub where she and friends would grab a beer, and a neglected 1940s diner could become a retro spot for a quick meal.
But Ms. Cook has stopped fantasizing about what might be, and started worrying about what might shut down. The flower store has closed; no gourmet market is moving in. Lucy Finch, a vintage boutique, folded last month. That Yarn Store, a hangout for crochet-heads, didn’t survive a bad winter.
And what will become of the storefront that once housed Blue Heeler, which sold Australian imports?
“Please don’t make it another martial arts studio,” Ms. Cook pleaded. “What is it about Eagle Rock and martial arts?”
The deep recession, with its lost jobs and falling home values nationwide, poses another kind of threat: to the character of neighborhoods settled by the young creative class, from the Lower East Side in Manhattan to Beacon Hill in Seattle. The tide of gentrification that transformed economically depressed enclaves is receding, leaving some communities high and dry.
For long-time residents, the return to pre-boom rents may be a blessing. But it also poses a rattling question of identity: What happens to bourgeois bohemia when the bourgeois part drops out?
Over the last five to six years, Eagle Rock became the glamour girl of Northeast Los Angeles, a crescent where the asphalt jungle meets the foothills. The neighborhood of 35,000 or so has attracted screenwriters and composers, Web designers and animators, who labor on their laptops in cafes, discuss film projects at Friday night wine tastings, and let their children play with the handmade wooden toys in a Scandinavian-style coffee shop, Swork.