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.
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.
You know the Dingbat apartment building even if you don’t know its history. Architecture historian Reyner Banham coined the Dingbat phrase in the 1970s. It’s that clunky stucco box with a quirky facade perched precariously above parking spaces. Maligned by some, revered by many, studied ad infinitum: the Dingbat is distinctively “L.A.”
The book’s many essays illuminate the Dingbat’s origins, meaning(s), and (possible) future(s). Pictures are plentiful. Diagrams and photo simulations abound. A newly developed Dingbat taxonomy provides a handy guidebook for spotting them in the environment. And whereas prior studies focus almost exclusively on the Dingbat’s unmistakable facade, Dingbat 2.0 ventures to step inside. Residents share what it’s like to live in this particular form of multifamily housing. This new dimension brings us closer to a “complete comprehension” of the Dingbat.
Dingbat 2.0 is a must-read for urbanists, architects, historians, housing advocates, and everyday Angelenos.
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.