"Learning from Boyle Heights / Saving Los Angeles" webinar announced

Gentle reader,

Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles sightseeing tour company, now offering digital programming until we can again organize groups to gather and explore the city we love.

At 4pm today, we’re going live with our latest immersive cultural history webinar, A Natural History of Los Angeles Freeways, and we’d love to have you in the passenger seat for this virtual road trip. Our special guests are Freewaytopia author Paul Haddad, photographer and educator Jeff Gates and Bunker Hill native son Gordon Pattison, each shining an opinionated light on how the region’s high speed roadways have shaped the city and its people. You can watch live and participate in the chat and Q&A, or catch the recording on-demand when it’s published, later this afternoon.

Sign up for the L.A. Freeways webinar

We like to preview upcoming webinars when wrapping one up, but here’s a sneak peek for newsletter subscribers. On Sunday, November 14 at 4pm we’re delighted to present Learning from Boyle Heights / Saving Los Angeles.

This is an immersive cultural history webinar about Boyle Heights’ rich legacy of civic activism, arts education, faith and progressive social service organizations, and the devoted community advocates who are fighting to preserve and reactivate historic landmarks to give the community places to honor their past and shape the future.

All the major challenges faced by Los Angeles in 2021 come into sharp focus in Boyle Heights, the early residential suburb on the east side of the L.A. River.

The longtime councilman Jose Huizar is facing trial on racketeering charges, gentrification is encroaching from the high-rent Arts District across the still unfinished “world class” redesigned Sixth Street Bridge, small businesses are struggling and locals with deep roots are facing displacement.

But the solutions to the community’s challenges are there in the past, in the stories of progressive political organizers building coalitions and taking back power, arts education transforming young lives, and charitable homes for orphaned children, immigrants and seniors protecting the most vulnerable. Today, locals are working to restore, repurpose and preserve landmarks associated with Boyle Heights’ progressive past, to serve as incubators for a new generation of community builders.

For more than a century, the citizens of Boyle Heights have taken on tough civic challenges with brains, grit and heart, and come out stronger. How can current residents look to their past to find a new model for engaged civic and cultural life, and inspire the rest of the city to follow? Let’s talk about it!

Our special guests for this program are:

  • Sean Carrillo, a member of the ASCO arts collective who as a teen found his artist’s voice in the photo labs of the All Nations Youth Center (Soto-Michigan Jewish Community Center) and studying under Sister Karen Boccalero at Self Help Graphics.

  • Vivian Escalante, who leads Boyle Heights Community Partners, a non-profit dedicated to preserving cultural landmarks, protecting legacy businesses and documenting neighborhood stories.

  • Stephen Sass, President of the Breed Street Shul Project, a longtime chronicler of local Jewish history and advocate for the preservation, restoration and reactivation of the historic temple.

  • David Silvas, Vice President of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, who has a particular interest in historic preservation and equitable and ethical land use decisions, including fighting the displacement of culturally Japanese seniors from the Sakura Gardens retirement facility.

Topics include:

  • A short history of Boyle Heights’ development as a culturally diverse streetcar suburb absorbing waves of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Japan, Mexico and Russia.

  • The history of the Breed Street Shul as a Jewish spiritual site, and the decades-long campaign to protect the earthquake damaged landmark from demolition with the aim of restoring and reactivating it to serve the secular Boyle Heights community.

  • The neighborhood’s influential arts education programs, including the Soto-Michigan Jewish Community Center and Self Help Graphics, and how ideas hashed out in these fertile spaces spread far beyond Boyle Heights. If you’ve ever participated in a Día de los Muertos event in the United States, you can thank Sister Karen and Self Help Graphics for their work at Evergreen Cemetery.

  • How secular Jewish organizers associated with the Vladeck Center, Jewish Labor Committee, Los Angeles Workmen’s Circle and CSO-Community Service Organization, including Julius Levitt and Saul Alinsky, helped to transform the political power base in Los Angeles and foster a vibrant Chicano Power movement.

  • The landmarking campaign for the Nishiyama Residence and Otomisan, the last Japanese restaurant in Boyle Heights, a significant commercial landmark and a poster child for Los Angeles’ failure to enact a Legacy Business Registry.

  • The history of the culturally Japanese retirement facility Keiro / Sakura Gardens. Originally the home of the pioneering Workman family, it became the Hebrew Shelter and the Jewish Home for the Aged, before being sold to a Japanese-American non-profit with the proviso that they continue the charitable work of protecting vulnerable elders. In the aftermath of the property’s sale to a developer and the rejection of more than a century’s ethical land use, we’ll talk about what comes next for the historic site, and how the community can help hold private developers and politicians accountable.

  • Plus we’ll highlight interesting landmarks that tell the layered history of Boyle Heights, including the Max Factor House on Boyle Avenue, with its garage that served as the laboratory for his cosmetics innovations, and which was later home to community physician Dr. H.J. Hara.

Get your Boyle Heights ticket

It’s nearly showtime, and we’ve still got a few details to fine tune for the Freeways webinar, so we’ll sign off, as always,

yours for Los Angeles,

Kim & Richard