Urban Change and Neighborhood Politics in San Diego: a comparative Perspective

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Urban Change and Neighborhood Politics in San Diego: A Comparative Perspective

Gerald Billard and Emmanuelle Le Texier

Since the 1960s, demographic changes have played a major role in shaping the politics, culture and urban landscape of California, especially in cities of high immigration, which are facing a restructuring of their social and political organization. The transformation of neighborhoods, due to changes in urban policy making and a growing minority population, has a pronounced effect on political participation and forms of local activism. It affects not only ethnic enclaves but also White middle-class neighborhoods. Extensive qualitative fieldwork in two San Diego neighborhoods allows us to contrast a Latino segregated enclave (the Mexican barrio) to a White middle-class neighborhood (Ocean Beach). On the one hand, it is often stated that barrio residents are distinguished by their weak capacity for mobilization. Indeed, low voter registration and turnout, the lack of party campaigning, and a large proportion of disenfranchised individuals define a space characterized by, among others factors, a high proportion of undocumented migrants, low rates of naturalization and low socioeconomic attainment. On the other hand, White middle-class neighborhoods are supposed to benefit from more socio-economic resources, higher political involvement and interest from the political parties. Residents of these communities are considered well equipped to influence the design of local and urban politics. To sum it up, ethnic minorities are supposed to have less influence on urban development and are therefore less likely to benefit from changes

This study of two San Diego communities might reverse in part the conventional wisdom. We raise two questions. The first is whether contemporary urban changes differently impact activism at the neighborhood level depending on their socio-economic characteristics. The second is how radically different neighborhoods can experience similar or divergent entries into local politics, as well as varied responses from local governments. This chapter begins with a comparative presentation of Ocean Beach and Barrio Logan regarding the urban and demographic changes that occurred in San Diego in the last two decades. Then, it focuses on forms of political activism in reaction to urban restructuring in Ocean Beach and gentrification in Barrio Logan. Finally, it draws conclusions from the contrasted results obtained from the two neighborhoods.

Urban changes and community participation in San Diego
The City has often been portrayed as a place where everything is “under the perfect sun” (Davis et al., 2003). Nevertheless, urban change and gentrification have initiated new political dynamics. It has become one of the wealthiest areas in the United States. It is home to approximately 1.3 million people (3 millions inhabitants for the metropolitan region), composed of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds: 27,2 % Latinos, 15,3 % Asian, 7,2 % Blacks, 46,7 % White (U.S. Census 2006 estimates for the city). A quarter of the population (25,72%) is foreign-born and 37,4% speaks another language than English at home. However, the economic growth has not been distributed evenly. The local Latino population has not benefited as much as the population at large. For instance, racial residential segregation in San Diego has increased in the last decade, both at the city and metropolitan levels. In 1990, suburban Latinos lived in census tracts that were 58 % White, whereas in 2000, they lived in census tracts that were 45% White. Segregation rates are even higher for Latino children than for the adult population1.

Today, the situation of the housing market in San Diego was a crucial issue both for the lower and middle classes but also for the entire regional economic growth. In 2006, in order to be able to afford a median-priced house ($550 000)2, buyers needed an annual income of about $134 000.Yet, according to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), the county's median household income was a mere $64 273 (San Diego Housing Commission, March 2006). In addition, the average apartment rent in San Diego was $1.254, which is a 100 percent increase from 1990. Combined with a low 4.4 percent rental vacancy rate, it is increasingly difficult for the newcomer or the inhabitant to find an affordable home in the city. "We've dropped out of the top 20 on Forbes magazine's ranking of the best places for business and careers […] The primary factors: cost of living (we're sixth costliest out of 150) and cost of doing business (we're third costliest out of 150)"3. In the past few years, San Diego has experienced a large increase in leisure jobs, hospitality and food service industry. But because most of them are low-paying jobs , many workers were unable to find affordable housing in the area.

The shortage of affordable housing and more particularly its cost is not new to San Diego. Besides, it is correlated with the larger issue of urban growth management in an attractive metropolitan area. Since World War II, the "Navy Sleepy Town" has started a slow change to transform itself into a vibrant city with a diversified economy dominated by aerospace, electronics, military research and tourism industries. In the early 1970s, the job creation rate was approximately 25,000 per year in the metropolitan area. As a result, the population of San Diego increased by 21 percent between 1960 and 1970 (696 769 inhabitants). In order to answer the growing demand for housing, parcels of land increasingly far away from the central city were opened to construction encouraging an increasingly incoherent urban sprawl beyond the city’s boundaries (Calavita, 1992). The city of San Diego however had an old tradition of city planning, as illustrated by the first two Comprehensive Plans designed by John Nolen in 1907 and in 1924. But already at that time the debate over Urban Growth versus Growth Control became central not only to the exercise of city planning but also to the election campaigns (Billard, 1999). Breaking with the ideas of a pro-growth elite which had controlled the city for over half a century, Pete Wilson, elected mayor in 1971, put the issue of the urban growth control of on the agenda. He supported the idea of a strong municipal government with significant powerful tools to control the location and the density of the new urban developments. Pete Wilson followed two political strategies. First, he used state legislative opportunities to pass environmental protection measures and quality of life improvements. In 1974, Kevin Lynch and Donald Appleyard were appointed to prepare a study advocating a strict protection of the environment in adequacy with the California Environmental Quality Act (1970) and the California Coastal Act (1974). Second, Pete Wilson used the population itself as a strategic. In 1974 for example, the City Council adopted an initiative supported by the inhabitants of the coastal communities to limit constructions density(30 Feet Height Limitation). The mayor also relied on the support of Community Planning Groups (CPG) created in 1966 (Council Policy #600-05) which were further clarified in 1976 by the City Council's adoption of Council Policy #600-24. These groups of residents, gathered in non-profit and non-partisan organizations and still operating on about fifty planning areas today, often seek to preserve their quality of life against urban development.

By the end of the 1970s, this joint legislative and community influence led San Diego to experience a brutal drop in the number of building permits. The low rate of housing vacancy reached a record low (1 %), causing an unprecedented blaze of real estate prices. This situation marked an important political and social turn for San Diego for, the city planning process still carried the weight of this legacy in 2007. Since the appointment of Pete Wilson to the senate in 1982, the successive mayors (P. Wilson, R. Hedgecock, M. O' Connor, S. Golding, D. Murphy, and today J. Sanders) have entered a game with actors of the private sector -some were crucial in campaign founding-, supporters of the land deregulation and with homeowners who are generally in favour of growth control and the limitation of new multi-family housing. The compromise between the need to answer housing demand and the desire to limit growth was the adoption of a Smart Growth policy which does not limit growth but directs it towards already urbanized areas (Billard, 2003). The Downtown Community Plan initiated by the Center City Development Corporation (CCDC) is a typical example of this process: today, downtown San Diego is “home to 30,000 residents and the population is anticipated to grow to almost 90,000 residents by 2030” (CCDC, 2007: 2). However, this urban renewal policy is unequitable: it often preserves stable and socially organized districts from urban changes but at the expense of more vulnerable neighborhoods, namely minority and lower-middle class neighborhoods. This gentrification movement is best illustrated through the cases of the communities of Ocean Beach and Barrio Logan.

These two residential communities obviously have little in common except for being under the same jurisdictions of the City Council and the City of San Diego Planning Department. Ocean Beach has a 80 % white population and a household median income of $49 082 in 2006. It is the typical example of a peaceful residential middle-class community rocked by the Pacific Ocean. Barrio Logan, however, has a 90% Hispanic population. Its median household income is $30 375, much lower than that of the city of San Diego. Yet over the past three decades, both areas have been undergoing major urban and social changes hardly controlled by the residents, despite their involvement in the planning process and the actions carried out by various community organizations. Officially introduced in San Diego in 1966, residents participation in the city planning process could have been considered as a variable able to influence the morphological and, by indirect impact, the social evolution of neighborhoods. The neighborhood planning process, which defines the urban morphology of an area, has the potential to ensure the sustained development of a community and to define the nature of community relations..

This importance of urban morphology has been emphasized in many studies conducted in the second half of the twentieth century in the United States. Cities ceased to be perceived as a global organism and the individual became the center of the analysis (Williams, 1985). Influenced by the works of Lewis Munford, Yates (1973) argued that the concept of neighborhood seemed to be the only practical response to the gigantism and the inefficiency of the hyperconcentration of metropolises. At the beginning of the 1980s, Gates and Rohe (1985) mentioned that more than a third of US cities over 500,000 inhabitants had already integrated residents into the process of city planning, by conducting development at the neighborhood scale. However, this current systemisation of the concept of community urban development in the American cities raises two series of questions. First, what is the place given today to the concept of community in the United States? The community of interest seems to have supplanted the community of place (the neighborhood) the idealized urban variation of the pastoral community. Second, what place do the American people occupy today in the daily exercise of democracy and therefore in the neighborhood planning process? Tocqueville praised the citizen participation through community based organizations.. Nevertheless, there is a danger in the confusion between the values defended by the elite (including local one) speaking in the name of the people and the values really conveyed by the average citizen (Billard, 1999). This study conducted in the communities of Ocean Beach and Barrio Logan highlights the concept of community in its spatial, social and political dimension.

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Ocean Beach: white resistance against white gentrification
The community of Ocean Beach is located 8 miles north-west of downtown San Diego, along the Pacific coast. It is a small mainly residential area of 742 acres with 13.752 inhabitants in 2006. This community has undergone a double pressure. The first one is tourism: during summers, up to 250,000 people daily go to the beach, famous for its fishing pier and surf spots. Beyond the traditional problem of road congestion, this attraction has also impacted the structure of the residential area.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Ocean Beach was a resort area composed of little summer cottages. After World War II, the morphology of the resort community started changing quickly as a massive arrival of labor force put a lot of pressure on the housing stock. A rezoning process authorized the construction of small buildings (4 or 5 stories) which made Ocean Beach become the densest community of the coastal area. In the 1960s, a young, white and often student population moved to Ocean Beach, attracted by the beach lifestyle and affordable housing opportunities,. The Bohemian way of life and even sometimes a "contentious environment"gave the community a specific identity distinct from the conformism of the other coastal communities (e.g. La Jolla), and even from the general conservative political context of San Diego at that time. However, the land pressure was so intense that, the intrinsic qualities of the place (access to the beach, proximity of the downtown area, housing opportunities) quickly turned the community into a prime target for gentrification. This change in the housing structure of Ocean Beach and in its social profile was accompanied by a form of community resistance which shows the limits of the residents’ involvement in urban planning.

Residents' involvement in community planning   
In 1968, the inhabitants of Ocean Beach had the opportunity to become part of the development of their first community plan. Unfortunately, organization problems delayed the recognition of the area as a community planning area. In 1972, the creation of the Ocean Beach Implementation Planning Group4 (OBIPG) officialized the partnership between the community and the municipality regarding urban planning. However, the institutionalization of a partnership does not guarantee efficiency. The social making of Ocean Beach quickly proved to be a barrier to the implementation of an effective community participation. At the time, a strong concentration of hippies lived in the neighborhood and often claimed its hostility to any kind of governmental control (even locally): the slogan “US out of Ocean Beach” -the rallying sign of some of the residents- illustrated this rebellion. This form of rejection of any public authority limited, in a contagious manner, the process of vertical integration inherent to the community planning process..
Community participation radicalized and led to more spectacular and tough actions. Sit-ins, mass demonstrations, vandalism and illegal occupation of building sites were the responses given to housing rehabilitation projects or the opening of franchised stores! After 1975, the anti-establishment movement faded because of the lack of demonstrative actions to carry out and the lack of motivating ideological elements (end of the Vietnam War). Ocean Beach somehow returned in the row and a plan was adopted in 19755. The Ocean Beach Precise Plan (partially updated since then) was the oldest community planning document for the city of San Diego in 2007. The 1975 Plan underlined the lack of control of the community on the beach frequentation. Moreover in adequacy with the California Coastal Act, measures were taken to limit the erosion of the beach, to fix the parking congestion and to reduce building densities. Even if this last policy guaranteed the demographic growth control of the community, it did nothing to regulate the control of the rents increase.
Some sort of fatalism can be detected in the speeches of community leaders in the early 1980s, contrasting with their spectacular actions over the previous decade. Urban changes in Ocean Beach would be bound to happen in the future no matter what and it would be better to model these changes rather than start a never-ending struggle (Casing, 1993). For example, after a ten-year battle, a 7/Eleven store and a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant were finally built. But public mobilization started again in 1983 when the City Council projected to allow higher density buildings in several areas. At first, the OBIBG board of directors supported this rezoning but, during the public hearing, 49 residents (out of the 55 who spoke) firmly claimed their opposition to the project and won. This victory for the preservation of the existing quality of life in the community further encouraged the gentrification process by compressing the housing market. Moreover, under the impulse of the California Coastal Commission, Ocean Beach prepared its own Local Coastal Land Use Plan in 1985 without the influence of the neighbor community of the Peninsula. According to the recommendations of the California Coastal Act, the preservation of the community landscape led to a reduction in building densities which inevitably induced a rise in the prices of real estate because the area was increasingly attractive. Without any external regulation, the private market was unlikely to serve the interests of the community. Willing to protect their quality of life, some residents thus indirectly accelerated gentrification. On the contrary, the Ocean Beach Merchants Association obtained some funds to revitalize Newport Beach,the main commercial street, and succeeded in maintaining the maximum number of community stores (non-franchise) which is generally a central element to strengthening social link within a community. This strategy was difficult to apply because another non-profit organisation (Ocean Beach Front Improvement Committee) wanted to develop beach-oriented business activities instead.
At a time when the new policy of city planning was based on the principle of a “City of villages”6, Ocean Beach seemed to represent the archetype of a community with a strong spatial and social identity: a relatively restricted and enclosed territory, some community-oriented retails, iconographic public spaces (a main street - Newport Avenue, the pier, the beach…) and an important activist legacy. If we consider that the presence of ten associations testifies of the intensity of social life within a community, the case of Ocean Beach illustrates, just like the Barrio, the existing gap between a strong community participation and its real capacities to control its destiny.
Lessons from Ocean Beach

Affordable housing has been the main concern for the inhabitants of Ocean Beach. The stability of the real estate market is often a determining element in the maintenance of a community identity. But the OBIPG cannot really fight global urban changes. In 2006, the median income per capita and per annum of the inhabitants of Ocean Beach amounted to $ 49,082, far from the average for the city of San Diego ($ 61 043). But for 10 years, this median income had experienced an increase estimated to 29.1 %. The median contract rent grew by 30 % between 1990 and 20007, which is a revealing sign of the social evolution of the community. This increase was 4 points higher than the growth of median contract rent in the City of San Diego. Far from the cheap real estate opportunities of the 1970s, the average contract rent in Ocean Beach is now similar to that of in San Diego. Besides, the median housing value is around $ 269,753 (census 2000) that is to say approximately $ 30,000 above the median housing value in the entire city of San Diego. More precisely, it is difficult today to find a detached house for sale at less than $ 460,000, and prices can climb up to more than $3 millions8.

Community leaders have always been aware that Ocean Beach needed a more sustainable collective mobilization: “if you get some sleep, you lose9”! But the community hardly believes in a vertical integration in the city planning process. The important rate of multiple family housing (61 % in 2000) and renters (83 %) does not facilitate residents long range involvement. Moreover, the non-conformist legacy of the community as well as some victories registered through mass demonstrations 10 reinforce the idea that collective actions in the streets better match the profile of the residents. For twenty years, the community movement in Ocean Beach has remained active despite of an important turn over among the residents: it proves the deeply rooted sense of collective identity11 (Pryde, 1993). A symbol reads on some licence plates: “Ocean Beach is not an address, it's an attitude”. 
The few victories obtained through specific demonstrations carried by community organizations do not compensate for their difficulty to anticipate urban changes on the long term. Residents massively mobilized during periods of crises when the community was directly threatened. It is obviously a positive point which shows that the defense of the community interest is a reality in Ocean Beach. However, the relative failures of the first community plan (1975) and its updated versions to preserve more particularly the diversity of housing, shows the complexity for the leaders of developing a real culture in urban planning. Indeed, this exercise does not live on collective enthusiasm only. As the study of another community of San Diego (La Jolla) shows, the high level of education and high financial resources of a community are often good assets to assimilate the long and technical process of city planning12. The case of La Jolla also proves the importance of the individual and professional networks. Contrary to La Jolla, Ocean Beach does not have the capacity to negotiate in the back stage of City Hall… It would be essential to make the difference between the theory of community planning and its daily political practice.    
As it faces rapid gentrification, the Mexican barrio of San Diego has become a symbolic place to study how minority communities can challenge, protest or resist power relations in a global and dual city (Sassen, 1991; Mollenkopf and Castells, 1991). Although Chicano residential patterns have spread far beyond the original barrio and have expanded to suburban areas such as San Ysidro, Chula Vista and National City, Barrio Logan remains a focal point to study minority politics (Griswold del Castillo, 2007). In fact, the significant demographic shift experienced in San Diego, now a majority-minority city with Latinos and Asians being the two main groups, has provoked paradoxically both abandon and decline in the traditional barrio, as well as a revival of its social, political and cultural significance13. Chicanos constitute now the largest ethnic group in San Diego. This translates into increased demands for political representation and for resources to resolve community issues, focusing in particular on the reconstruction of the barrio (affordable housing, environmental hazards, recreation places, economic development, transportation system and social infrastructures).

The San Diego's inner city barrio, located southeast of downtown is composed by three specific spatial zones: Barrio Logan, Logan Heights and Sherman Heights. They are home to approximately 40,000 inhabitants, with about 70 % of the population made up of Latinos (primarily of Mexican origin, up to 90 % for Barrio Logan only) and about 40 % living below the poverty level, following the trend of an increase in Latino poverty in the US14 (Iceland, 2006). Unemployment rates in San Diego's barrio are more than threefold those for the entire city and the median household income is half less than the median income for the city of San Diego ($ 30,375 versus $ 61,043). Education levels are extremely low, which also adversely affects involvement in politics. Furthermore, Census data report a set of negative predicaments accounting for much of the political disenfranchisement. Two-thirds of the residents are native-born, whereas one third are foreign-born. Among the foreign-born population, only 22 % are naturalized citizens. Access to the electoral process is thus limited to a fraction of the residents. Both at the local and state levels, voter registration and turnout are indeed extremely low. For instance, voter turnout for City Council elections in the District 8, which encompasses the barrio, ranged from 7 % to 36 % of the registered voters over the past twenty years. In addition, a significant segment of the barrio population does not have legal immigration status.

San Diego is also peculiar because of its location on the border and its permanent limited political opportunity structure for minority claims (Le Texier, 2006). The San Diego political system has long been characterized by its stability and limited openness to minority politics. General absenteeism and Republican Party dominance have been unchallenged (Davis, 2003). Mayor Pete Wilson, former Governor of California known for his anti-immigrant stances, and Mayors Hedgecock, Murphy and Sanders have favored little diversity at the city level. Until the 1990s, power relations have been clearly set up on the stand of excluding formally and then indirectly minorities from politics. Since then, however, in addition to the demographic changes, a reform of the electoral charter took place in 1992 in order to create a redistricting commission after each decennial census. The redistricting has led to a better representation of minorities at the municipal district level. In fact, District 8 is now owned by candidates of Mexican origin, who often refer to the barrio, specifically to Chicano Park as the source of their commitment to the Latino community. Chicano park was founded in 1971 by a community “take over” of the land during the Chicano Movement peak in San Diego.
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But conversely to what appears to be increasing minority political participation, the system actually offers only a symbolic visibility to minorities. The fact that no substantial redistricting has been operated after the 2000 Census shows the local reluctance to open the political opportunity structures to ethnic groups. The districts remain “ghost districts”, meaning statistically majority minority districts, but in reality mainly Anglo voters districts. As a consequence, ethnic candidates compete with each other for the single reachable position. There is an institutionalization of minority exclusion and of power rotation among the Latino elite: Ralph Inzunza has been susbtituted by Benjamin Hueso (District 8, municipal); Juan Vargas (District 79, State assembly) and Denise Moreno-Ducheny (District 40, State senate) "represent" the Latino constituency. So the barrio is not really at the core of conventional politics, but Mexicans and Mexican-origin residents use symbolic resources such as territorial identity and solidarity to help politicize a socially isolated and changing urban space.
Political deficiency is certainly a complex phenomenon, but excluded groups get involved in different ways. Gentrification has become a mobilizing agenda for Mexican and Mexican-origin residents. The constitution of new forms activism, such as social networks based on gender solidarity and territorial identity, extend the definition of social capital in determining participation at the neighborhood level. Nevertheless, the traditional tools of evaluation of political participation (such as electoral behavior, political parties, unions, formal organizations etc.), miss out some forms of participation chosen by excluded people. It is thus necessary to explore the political to daily-to-day experiences (de Certeau, 1990; Scott, 199015), as they define or defend a certain type of social organization (the barrio) and a collective identity (la comunidad). This leads to an analysis of less visible forms of political participation and to a refining of what is active citizenship in ethnic neighborhoods. That's why as far as methodology is concerned, an ethnographic study16 was conducted in the barrio from August 2002 to February 2004: observation of community meetings, cultural events, political demonstrations, and marches; participation in community daily life at different stages and levels (voluntary work, citizenship classes). In addition to participatory observation, 98 semi-structured interviews were completed with community leaders, members of organizations, elected officials and governmental agencies' representatives involved in the barrio and 18 life-stories interviews with non-mobilized residents. More than a hundred informal discussions took place during the fieldwork. Finally, local newspapers and archives from the San Diego City Redevelopment Agency for a twelve-year period, from 1991 to 2003, were examined. Finally, phone interviews were conducted on occasional basis from 2005 to 2007.

Gentrification and activism in Barrio Logan

Urban planning for the barrio has been framed without taking into account the opinion of the residents. During the 1960s and 1970s, residents have engaged in opposition movements to protest land use, freeway construction and community dismantling, especially with the creation of Chicano Park in the Barrio Logan, it is only since the late 1980s and early 1990s that planners and elected officials have started seeking consensus and asking for community input (Le Texier, 2005). Nevertheless, residents are still not seen as important stakeholders in discussions concerning the revitalization of their neighborhood. As stated by Diaz: “Planners defined the urban cartel and real estate industry as their main clients rather than the lower-income communities. Lower-income communities were stigmatised as an underclass with limited comprehension of technical aspects of revitalization” (Diaz, 2005: 194). Today, new forms of activism are emerging in the neighborhood because conflicting views on social space, gentrification17 process and land use control. These new forms of activism are a way to resist power relations and claim equality of treatment (Valle and Torres, 2000). San Diego's local government initiated the process of urban renewal in the late 1960s. The 'redevelopment', 'revitalization' and 'beautification' programs started with major investments in the downtown area. These programs transformed the downtown area into an entertainment and commercial area (cafés, restaurants, shopping malls, movie theatres). The construction of the Padres Ball Park accelerated the gentrification. The City adopted the so-called City of Villages urban plan to promote a 'smart growth' approach that focuses on redeveloping 'historically or culturally distinct communities'18 (Gale, 1984; Smith and Williams, 1996). The complexity of gentrification is reflected in the changing discourses by media (San Diego Union Tribune) and public officials about the San Diego 'poor inner-city area'. The metaphors have shifted from the barrio as a 'gang-plagued neighborhood' to a 'vibrant residential community'. An optimistic vision stresses the revitalization of neighborhoods through ethnic mixing and private investments. But a pessimistic approach would rather link beautification projects with a form of 'cleaning up' (also labeled 'strategy of containment'19) that evicts minorities from a historically Mexican-origin space. In fact, part of the barrio was turned into a redevelopment project area. As soon as 1998, residents started suffering from a sharp increase in rents, eviction and displacement. In fact, the data show that 80 % of San Diego's inner-city barrio residents are renters. More than half of the barrio population spends over a third of their household income in gross rent; with over a quarter of the population paying for housing with more than half of their income. Because recent urban changes threaten residents both individually by displacement and collectively by the disappearance of the community, gentrification constitutes a mobilizing agenda.
The example of some community organizations' activities illustrates the forms of activism that emerge. For example, in 2000, Barrio residents created DURO, Developing Unity through Resident Organizing (in Spanish, Desarrollando Unidad a Través de Residentes Organizados) an almost exclusively female grassroot group. A loose voluntary association of first and second-generation women and students of Mexican origin composed DURO. Among other things, the organization is dedicated to the defense of barrio renters against forced and unlawful evictions. The association also asks for low-income and affordable housing units, and promotes community inputs for the use of vacant lots in the barrio. As one flyer states, members “who work or were born and raised in the communities of Logan Heights and Sherman Heights (gathered) to dialogue about signs of gentrification that seemed to have gained momentum with the Ballpark development and the downtown redevelopment efforts”. The community meetings were held either in private homes or in the local Sherman Community Center. The first 'victory' of the movement happened when a DURO member won an eviction court hearing in May 2001. Different activities started, such as door-to-door contacts, bilingual flyers’ distribution on tenant's rights and responsibilities, petitions for rent stabilization, and community meetings and marches. For instance, on June 30, 2001, over a hundred residents participated to a march to protest displacement20. Another march entitled a Trail of Tears March (Caminata de Lágrimas) took place and bilingual slogans stated: “We are organizing to claim our human right to housing. Our inherent dignity is being violated”; “Make your Voices heard”; “Here we are, and we will not move”, “Uniting is strength”; “Unite to our community effort”. The association attempted to raise consciousness about the housing problem during city council meetings but received only limited media coverage, mostly from local Spanish-language or bilingual media (La Prensa San Diego, Frontera...). In 2002, the organization tried to build up coalitions and networks with other groups, but the mobilization began to decrease due to the lack of results and organizational skills. In 2003, DURO started to meet on a regular basis, addressing the specific issue of the use of vacant lots in the barrio, as well as low-income/affordable housing projects. The results were limited but set a new political agenda into local politics.

Another example is the Chicano Park Steering Committee, Unión del Barrio and Raza Rights Coalition which are intimately related organizations led by both former Chicano activists involved in the Chicano movement and a new generation of educated first and second generation youth of Mexican origin, who inherited from the discourse of emancipation. All organizations have limited but extremely politicized and organized activists advocating for identity recognition and equality of rights at the national and local level, as mentionned in their statement: "We invite all honest people who will no longer live their lives being ashamed of being Mexicano or Mexicana but are willing to plug into concrete struggle to better our community for ourselves and by ourselves, today"21. They have contributed to politicize the issue of housing and gentrification, as well as other issues (such as regularization for undocumented immigrants, police racial profiling, border control, etc.). Several marches were organized, one of them during children's day with parents and children. Although poorly covered by the local English-speaking media but better by bilingual or Spanish-speaking media, the marches are moment of territorial and ethnic identity formation, and political socialization. They allow residents to voice their concern using the public space and marking it by their presence. Another symbolic event was the pressure put on the local government to call a barrio street "César Chávez Avenue", from the name of the former Chicano leader of the Union Farm Workers. This struggle gave residents a sense of pride and community. The last example is the community preservation of the Chicano Park, created in 1970 by community take over (la tierra mía, my land). Every year, the Chicano Park Steering22 Committee celebrates this "victory" by gathering activists, local artists and hundreds of residents to create a sense of common belonging around a common cultural heritage (Chicano murals and history). The last celebration on April 21, 2007 allowed to voice concerns about gentrification with the presence of media and elected officials: Sal Barajas, a muralist and activist noted that : "in the past, the committee has addressed bilingual education, police brutality and pollution of San Diego Bay. Gentrification and unattractive development are issues that might be taken up in the future"23. The new elected official of District 8, Benjamin Hueso, has family roots in the barrio and refers to it constantly, indicating the importance of territorial and ethnic identity.

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