This week I joined Youth Leaders Empowered Active & Diverse (YLEAD) at CDTech for a conversation on urban planning and gentrification in South Central LA. I shared my story of working on the ground supporting the community with tools and knowledge to preserve South Central history. We shed light on the importance of urban planning for a South Central future without displacement.
I recently stumbled upon the fact that my SJSU bepress page was deleted along with the link to my 2012 MLIS thesis proposal, “Libraries in the ‘Hood: A Social History of the Florence and Graham Branch Libraries in the Community of Florence-Firestone, 1912-2012.”
That’s a damn shame.
This work served as the basis for my 2015 chapter “Library History as Community History: Florence and Graham” in the book, A Paseo Through Time in Florence-Firestone, and it remains a local history resource for those who have it.
But it should be an accessible resource for any community member who goes looking for it. They shouldn’t hit a 404 error.
This was the impetus I needed.
The 1992 Los Angeles Uprising began thirty years ago today — April 29, 1992.
I was interviewed for “Reflections of the LA Uprising” 30 years later. This is a collaboration by JOVRNALISM, USC Annenberg, KCET, and LA Times.
I shared how the unrest led me on a path toward urban planning in/for South Central LA. And I testified this path would inspire me to create Embedded Planning as an LA County planner on the ground in Florence-Firestone.
Rightfully, this interview was done at the landmark Roosevelt Park pedestrian bridge over the Blue Line.
Many community voices are part of this project. Check out the immersive video “Echoes of the Uprising” where we share our memories and oral histories.
Three decades later, we still have work to do.
I’m interviewed in the New York Times about the human dimensions of informal housing enforcement in South Central Los Angeles. I’m grateful to the family in @FlorenceFirestone who trusted me to share their story.
Conor Dougherty’s December 18, 2021 article is here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/18/business/economy/california-housing.html
Thank you to AARP Livable Communities Workshop organizers and my fellow panelists for this week’s conversation on engaging older adults.
On September 13th, we lost Ms. Mary Rose Cortese, one of our community elders in South Central LA’s Florence-Firestone community. Mary has joined her brother Joe Titus in the next chapter. I know they’re up there still advocating for Florence-Firestone.
Mary and Joe welcomed me into the community on Day 1 in 2009. They were honorary abuelitos to me and many others. Hug your elders. Ask them to tell you stories. Document their lives. Cherish them every day.
At the end of this #AARP session, I dedicated my presentation to Mary Rose Cortese 🙏🏽💛
The Boyz N The Hood film and years of street reporting on NWA albums helped me become an urban planner in/for South Central LA.
I learned the word “gentrification” from Furious Styles’s speech on the street corner in Compton.
In November 2020, I was interviewed by grad students from the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative. Their research methods seminar examined LA urban theory + praxis through the lens of Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (1971).
I spoke at length about @EmbeddedPlanning praxis, west coast hip hop origins, and South Central LA.
The group distilled our conversation into a dope podcast called, “Flatlands: We Cannot Pod From Our Desks.”
Thank you to Samantha Solis, Miranda Hirujo-Rincon, Carrie Gammell, and Celia Sanchez Zelaya.
Thanks to Danielle Arigoni and Melissa Stanton at AARP, and writer Ken Miller.
Yesterday I was interviewed by an author writing a novel set in the time of the 1992 LA Uprising. I shared memories of interpreting the unrest through my eyes at the time, a high school graffiti tagger in Montebello navigating the larger LA hip hop scene. I’ll share the book when it’s published.
Photo: California African American Museum exhibit, “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992.” https://caamuseum.org/exhibitions/2017/no-justice-no-peace-la-1992
TODAY—I’m at @ucimurp delivering the Medina Family ADU Story in Prof. Lynda Hikichi’s class UPPP 275: Site Development. This is the 9th rendition of this public talk and the 2nd time UCI Urban Planning & Public Policy hosts it, thank you! If you’re on campus or nearby, come through: Room 3240 in the SBSG-Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway building, 11:30am—12:30pm.
ABSTRACT: This presentation puts a human face on California’s housing crisis. Through storytelling, reflection and #EmbeddedPlanning praxis, presenter Jonathan Pacheco Bell @c1typlann3r, a zoning enforcement planner in South Central #LosAngeles, presents the story of the Medina Family from the #SouthCentralLA community of @FlorenceFirestone, who built an informal backyard Accessory Dwelling Unit #ADU for extra income after the sudden passing of their head of household. An anonymous complaint triggered inspection and eventual demolition of the dwelling for code violations. Jonathan himself ordered its removal. Attendees will understand the emotional roller coaster the family endured while embroiled in this regulatory process, and Jonathan’s inner conflict with the outcome. To help himself cope emotionally and to spotlight this family’s housing struggle, Jonathan has turned the experience into a speaking tour offering takeaways for planning policy, practice, and pedagogy. Jonathan will explain the @EmbeddedPlanning approach at the story’s core. This talk will inspire emerging planners to adapt and respond to the problem of housing insecurity with empathetic, activist, street-level planning #praxis.
If you’ve been to my Medina Family ADU Story, or plan to attend an upcoming talk, you’ll see I get choked up. Happens every time. I don’t even try to suppress it anymore. This was a harrowing experience for the Medinas, and for me. My #EmbeddedPlanning praxis rejects the technocratic detachment of Rational Planning orthodoxy. When we shed tears, those tears are earned.
For the Medinas, removing the backyard dwelling built to generate income after the passing of their head of household worsened the stress that started it all. Ordering the removal after knowing the Medinas’ story made me question strict enforcement of #InformalHousing. The dwelling was not substandard—it was simply out of zoning compliance. All of this predated California’s relaxed State ADU Laws, so the only option was to demolish it. This was in 2016. After 10 years on the job, I’d finally realized that “Penalties or Demolition” was a false dilemma fallacy in #ADU enforcement. We’re trying to change this outcome for other folx.
The ending part is emotional for me. I conclude with slides featuring each member of the Medina Fam. I wanted audience members to understand the impact of rigid zoning on real people. I wanted to evoke an emotional response. And every time it works . . . on ME.
The final slide is of little Janelle. Janelle represents the future of #LosAngeles.
This effort is for her.
Gracias Derek Ouyang, Tyler Pullen, and Stanford Engineering Sustainable Urban Systems.
People’s lives are at the heart of Planning. Planners: befriend the community, get to know constituents personally, invest your heart into bettering THEIR lives and you’ll always have a righteous mission.
I could not do this series of public talks on #InformalHousing without permission & support of the Medina Family. My regulatory responsibility resulted in the removal of their informal #ADU but ironically brought us closer together. Theirs was a hard first lesson in Planning & Zoning. They knew others endure the same struggle. The Medinas permitted my public talks because they knew sharing their experience would help other residents & Other Planners understand the street realities of informal housing in working-class communities of color. They entrusted me to tell their story. They granted me a righteous mission.
Planners! We must draw inspiration from The People we serve.
The Medina Family—Flora, Josefina, Maria, and Janelle—they inspire me. Janelle represents the future of #LosAngeles. THIS IS FOR HER ♥️
Gracias Fay Darmawi for including us in the 2018 SF Urban Film Fest, SPUR Urbanist for hosting us, & SPUR’s Amy Thomson for photographing this moment.
I’m honored to serve as UCI MURP Planning Visions Guest Speaker delivering my public talk, “A Matter of Necessity:” Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning, at UC Irvine School of Social Ecology, Department of Urban Planning & Public Policy, Thursday, Oct 25th, 11:30a-1:00p. The event is made possible through the initiative of 2nd year MURP candidate Irene Aceituno. She will introduce me as speaker, discuss UCI’s Diversity in Planning Fellows program, & emphasize the value of mentorships in planning. The talk is Free & Open To All. RSVP at Eventbrite.
SUMMARY: This presentation puts a human face on California’s housing crisis. Jonathan Pacheco Bell, a zoning enforcement planner in Los Angeles County, will tell the story of the Medina Family from the South Central L.A. community of Florence-Firestone, who built an informal backyard dwelling for extra income after the sudden passing of their head of household. An anonymous complaint triggered an inspection & eventual demolition of the dwelling for code violations. It was Jonathan himself who ordered its removal. Audience members will understand the emotional roller coaster the family endured while embroiled in this regulatory process, & Jonathan’s inner conflict with the outcome. Key takeaways for planning policy, practice & pedagogy will be offered. This talk demonstrates that the rules we enforce can have unintended consequences, especially in working class communities of color.
BIO: Jonathan Pacheco Bell (@c1typlann3r) is a public sector Urban Planner in Los Angeles County with over 12 years of experience in zoning enforcement. He is a fierce advocate for the unincorporated areas of South Central Los Angeles. On any given day you will find him in the unincorporated community of Florence-Firestone partnering with stakeholders to improve quality of life.
A field-based planner, Bell researches, writes, & speaks about informal housing, unorthodox community outreach, and South Central L.A. history from his unique, on the ground perspective. He calls his praxis Embedded Planning.
A product of the California public school system from kindergarten to graduate school, Bell holds an MAUP from UCLA Luskin & an MLIS from SJSU iSchool.