From the 1970s on, Los Angeles was transformed into a center for entertainment, consumption, and commerce for the affluent. Mirroring the urban development trend across the nation, new construction led to the displacement of low-income and working-class racial minorities, as city officials targeted these neighborhoods for demolition in order to spur economic growth and bring in affluent residents. Responding to the displacement, there emerged a coalition of unions, community organizers, and faith-based groups advocating for policy change. In Building Downtown Los Angeles Leland Saito traces these two parallel trends through specific construction projects and the backlash they provoked. He uses these events to theorize the past and present processes of racial formation and the racialization of place, drawing new insights on the relationships between race, place, and policy. Saito brings to bear the importance of historical events on contemporary processes of gentrification and integrates the fluidity of racial categories into his analysis. He explores these forces in action, as buyers and entrepreneurs meet in the real estate marketplace, carrying with them a fraught history of exclusion and vast disparities in wealth among racial groups.
About the author
Leland T. Saito is Associate Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at University of Southern California. He is the author of the award-winning book, The Politics of Exclusion (Stanford, 2009).
"Another richly detailed book on capitalistic space control and white racism by Leland Saito! Although big capital and city officials remade LA's Broadway area, California's progressive growth-with-equity groups democratized this once capitalist-dominated city development process. Accenting historical context and changing meanings of white racial framing of cities, Saito crafts a very innovative racial-spatial formation theory."
—Joe Feagin, Texas A&M University
"Through rich documentation and incisive theorizing, Saito exposes a tragic history of racialized residential and community displacement in LA. He vividly portrays the struggles of regional social justice organizations to wrest community benefits agreements along with nuanced policy appraisals for how to achieve more redistributive and equitable urban futures in LA and elsewhere."
—Jan Lin, Occidental College
"Saito goes beyond the dualities of power and inequalities as he eloquently depicts the struggles and negotiations between community-based organizations and city officials and developers who had little regard for the welfare of racial and working-class minorities."
—Fazila Bhimji, Ethnic and Racial Studies
"Even though many studies have been published about Los Angeles, there is a lot to learn from Saito's thoroughly researched manuscript, particularly about the power of community coalitions and how they could challenge even the most influential developers. This is an excellent book, expertly structured, with a well-crafted and clear message about the path to success of local organizing for social justice."
—Elena Vesselinov, Social Forces