Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Acres Of Books to close October 18th!

GENTRIFICATION: Noun: The process in which a neighborhood is transformed from low-value to high-value properties, Colonisation of an urban area by a higher socio-economic group, the displacement of lower income residents by higher income residents in a neighborhood.
According to the Long Beach Press Telegram the Acres of Books is will close its doors on October 18, 2008. The Karen Robes-Meeks penned article miffed me.
The Acres of Books is a Long Beach historical landmark that is being removed by eminent domain. It is not going out of business due to, the Internet or chain stores. The Acres of Books is being forced out of it's current location by the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) in conjunction with the City using eminent domain as the means. The RDA is planning to build on the site which extends from Broadway Ave. down Long Beach Blvd. to East 3rd Street and up Elm Ave. The RDA has accepted bids for contracts from private developers to build luxury condos and artist lofts and retail stores. They have also included the option to include California State University Long Beach. (CSULB) has not signed on to the project as of yet. The RDA has promoted this project as The Art center or some such name commiserate with the East Arts Village. There is however no explanation why the RDA would force the existing Art galleries, Photography and Bookstores out of business. Couldn't those businesses have been included in the layout of the new project? Why replace Art galleries with other art galleries if that is your true objective?
The Shades of Afrika operated at 352 East 3rd street for 15 years. It is an Afrikan American owned Bookstore and Art gallery. It also is a community center. NA AA meetings are held, Sistah Circle, a rite of passage program for young women, Poetry, Yoga and Afrikan history, CPR/First Aid classes and cinema nights. Why wouldn't you include that. They have since moved. The Acres of Books also hosted a weekly open mike. Al's Photography and Fingerprinting held several exhibitions of local art and photography. They have also moved further up 3rd Street. Why would they not be included? So I find it disingenuous of journalist Karen Robes-Meeks, of the Press Telegram to write that the Acres of Books is closing due to the changing literary landscape. I talked with Mrs. Meeks back in April when she first published a story about The Acres closing. I let her know that her story omitted several facts and it appears deceptive. Mrs. Meeks has continued to use the same quotes and deceptive omissions.
Nowhere do any of Miss Robes-Meeks articles mention gentrification nor is there any interviews with other local merchants affected by the RDA project. The Acres of Books has been advertised as an historical landmark. It's landmark status seemed to insulate it from the RDA but the city deftly explained that it was a city designated landmark status and that the city can choose to revoke that status. While I agree that this is a smarmy, snake move it is within the cities right but where is the Press Telegrams article on it?

Where is the article talking with local merchants about the city and the RDA's decision to gentrify the area? What about the merchants anger and feelings of betrayal? What about fairness?
What about the small business owners who have supported the area for years only to be discarded following another bout with the cities wanderlust? What about the residents? We're next!
Rents have gone ever higher each time the city gets a hard on to re-develop an area. Wages are stagnant! Where are the renters supposed to go?

Lastly, why is it alternative weeklies like LA Weekly, OC Weekly, The District, The Gazette and bloggers like myself are the only ones mentioning the failures of past and most recent redevelopment projects?

City place, the New Pike? Failures! Why??? Ask John Morris, you remember him? Owns Smooves, The Cohiba room, used to have Jack Roses and Mums, sued the city, won, then lost on appeal? Look at Pine Street right now. Morris complained years ago about the cities wanderlust when the Pike was being built. It killed Pine Street! Now, Z-Gallery is closing their store on Pine for this very reason.

Pine Street used to be the development that was gonna revitalize downtown. They built the new AMC theatre with retail shops and condos and restaurants then California went through a recession and a housing downturn. That was about 1992. Shop after shop has opened on Pine and they've closed most citing lack of foot traffic, the cities lack of support or high rents!
Remember Ben and Jerry's. The System M bar, New York Bryans, Education 2000+? The Afrikan American Gift Shop, Boogie Woogies? All Gone!
The City of Long Beach and The Redevelopment Agency to quote 562 Magazine have never met a developer they didn't like. Project after project has been built or is being built in hopes that the city will be infused with a higher income population. They have shown though that they are more than willing to sell Long Beach's collective soul in order to get it.
The Press Telegram is a decent local newspaper most of the time but good, fair, unbiased investigation is the only way to be a good journalist and continue to be a good paper. The PT is supposed to confront the RDA and The City officials on the failures of the old projects not just promote the new ones.
Don't let me be the only one who asks this question. Feel free to email Karen

BE Prayerful! BE Careful! BE Mindful!

1 comment:

Long Beach resident, Alamitos Beach said...

I'm glad you've blogged on this. The RDA actions concerning ACres of Books are ill advised and just plain boneheaded. Why would they scuttle a city institution like this? This bookstore was just the type of thing you need in a city to give the area depth and diversity. I don't know anyone who wanted to see this bookstore go, so why is it? Is there any acountability for the RDA considering their other failures downtown?
It almost makes one wonder if someone isn't getting kickbacks or some other shenanigans because it simply makes no sense. I'm highly skeptical that whatever project or Starbucks "art center" they're supposedly planning will have much resonance. Sadly, I'm expecting just more condos. Really, the City of Long Beach seems to have little discernment in its redevelopment plans and seems to be haphazardly "cleaning the slate."