We Said Goodbye to Mary Rose Cortese of Florence-Firestone

2015 launch of the “Everyday Heroes” LA County Library project, Florence-Firestone Constituent Service Center, 7807 Compton Avenue, LA 90001. Featured: Mary Rose Cortese, Joseph Titus, and Jonathan Pacheco Bell [Photo by author]

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 🙏🏽💛

Boyz N The Hood Turns 30

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.

Podcast: Embedded Planning in the Plains of Id

Excerpt of South Central LA Thick Map for “Flatlands: We Cannot Pod From Our Desks”

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.”

Listen to my podcast interview and view the companion Thick Map of South Central LA — portion of it is this post’s image. Check out all project podcasts and infographics.

Thank you to Samantha Solis, Miranda Hirujo-Rincon, Carrie Gammell, and Celia Sanchez Zelaya.

Interviewed for book set during 1992 LA Uprising

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

Medina Family ADU talk returns to UC Irvine Urban Planning

Medina Family ADU talk at UCI, May 31, 2019

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.

Public talk on Embedded Planning, Informal Housing, & the Medina Family ADU Story at Stanford Engineering

Stanford SUS
We brought the Medina Family ADU Story to Stanford Engineering on November 15, 2018. The Medina Family experience happens across all spaces, places, geographies, and jurisdictions. We need new audiences and new advocates. Photo courtesy of Derek Ouyang at Stanford SUS.

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.

Public talk on Embedded Planning, Informal Housing, & the Medina Family ADU Story at the SF Urban Film Fest

SFUFF-Medina ADU Talk-SPUR
Janelle represents the future of Los Angeles. This effort is for her. Photo courtesy of Amy Thomson at SPUR

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.

#EmbeddedPlanning

Public talk on Embedded Planning, Informal Housing, & the Medina Family ADU Story at UC Irvine School of Social Ecology

A Matter of Necessity-Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning-UCI Urban Planning and Public Policy-25Oct2018
“A Matter of Necessity”: Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning at UCI School of Social Ecology, Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy, 25 October 2018

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.

The 1992 Los Angeles Uprising began 25 years ago today

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising.

I urge everyone to experience the immersive exhibits “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992” and “Trouble Every Day: LA 1965/1992” at the California African American Museum.

The exhibits took me back to 1992, seeing the smoke plumes and ash from mom’s house in Montebello, thinking NWA had warned us this was coming again.

Today, some things are better in South Central L.A. Our SCLA unincorporated communities are rising through strong partnerships and civic engagement. But far too many structural inequalities throughout South Central remain.

Will history repeat a third time in L.A.?

South Central Los Angeles: History and meaning in the historically proper place name

By: Jonathan P. Bell, @c1typlann3r

Decades ago the @latimes uncritically accepted L.A. City’s “South LA” rebranding. Recall that L.A. City’s elected officials wanted to sanitize images of “unrest” that they claimed were associated with “South Central.” So they dropped “Central”… brilliant 🙄. The L.A. Times went along with it wholesale.

We hadn’t seen “South Central L.A.” in an L.A. Times headline for many years until Angel Jennings’s Nov. 22nd story on #TheReef. While it’s in reference to the Historic South-Central district within L.A. City, seeing the historically proper place name was still exciting for many South Central Los Angeles advocates. It was one long overdue step away from revisionist history.

#SouthCentral #LosAngeles #OccasionalCritique #InstaEssay#MicroEssay

downtown-development-boom-in-south-central-la-la-times-11-22-16

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNh-XSihMg7/?taken-by=c1typlann3r

South Central Los Angeles: Embrace, don’t erase, local history

south-central-los-angeles-slauson-at-hooper
Graffiti writers at Slauson and Hooper Aves remind us that this geography is still called South Central Los Angeles. Photo by Jonathan P. Bell, @c1typlann3r

By: Jonathan P. Bell, @c1typlann3r

Remember that this geography is still, and will always be, South Central Los Angeles. The “South LA” rebranding was City of LA’s attempt at revisionist history after the 1992 Uprising (much like the City’s embarrassing 2014 “SOLA” proposal that’s thankfully fizzled).

Invest in place erasure and hope the world forgets: that went nowhere. Stakeholders young and older still call it South Central LA. History matters.

And, for the record, none of the City’s revisionism ever applied in the unincorporated communities: Florence-Firestone, Willowbrook, East Rancho Dominguez, West Rancho Dominguez, West Athens, and Lennox.

💛✊🏽 [Location: Slauson Av @ Hooper Av]

#SouthCentral #LosAngeles #OccasionalCritique #InstaEssay #MicroEssay

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNZ1EhbhQi-/