Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar Friday denounced the tactics some activists have used against a coffee shop in Boyle Heights at the center of anti-gentrification protests after it has been subjected to online trolling and vandalism.
The Weird Wave Coffee shop opened in June, but has been a focal point of a group of protesters concerned its presence and majority white ownership will help usher in gentrification, raise property values and drive out longtime residents from the traditionally Latino neighborhood east of Downtown.
Although one of the three owners of the shop is Latino, at one rally a protester held a sign that said "White Coffee" and included an expletive, and another said "AmeriKKKano to go," according to the Los Angeles Times, which also reported that the shop was victimized by online trolling on its social media accounts and also had its front door smashed. Some art galleries that opened in Boyle Heights in recent months have also been harassed, The Times reported.
"While I share the concerns of displacement and rising costs of housing in Boyle Heights, race-based targeting or vandalism of any kind, like what has been leveled against small businesses and art galleries, and most recently the Weird Wave coffee shop, is completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated," said Huizar, who represents the area. "We all have the right to express our 1st Amendment-protected opinions -- that is not in dispute. But when that turns into destroying property, or violence of any kind, or targeting people solely based on race, that goes against everything Boyle Heights stands for."
While 88 percent of Boyle Heights' renters live in rent-controlled units, Huizar said a lack of affordable housing is still an issue in the neighborhood and around the city. Rather than target small businesses, Huizar said activists should focus on supporting legislation which tackles the housing crunch in the city driving up prices.
Among the legislation Huizar said he supports is the creation of a linkage fee on developers which would be used to build more affordable housing.
The council is currently considering the idea, although a Planning and Land Use Management Committee meeting in June revealed the City Council members on the committee were divided on the issue.
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"I will also continue to press for a linkage fee, which would help create a steady stream of affordable housing income by linking new fees to development. This proposal will soon be heard -- and I hope adopted -- in the Planning Committee that I serve as chair," Huizar said.