Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs is buying a house in the Black South LA area

Erika D. Smith

Michael Tubbs spent years making his mark as the first black mayor of Stockton, developing a guaranteed income program and making it a model for other cities and one day for the nation as a whole.

It’s been quite a run. But after Tubbs and his wife Anna lost a run for reelection last year, they considered their next chapter.

They knew that they wanted one thing above all – to live in a strong black community. And so they did what a growing number of black families couldn’t do as the cost of housing in South LA continued to rise – they bought a house in the historically black neighborhood of Hyde Park.

“It just made sense,” Tubbs told me one morning. “We know there is a chance that our children will be educated in a predominantly white environment. So we figured we don’t want her experience to always be “the only one” or “one of the few”. We want them to see themselves reflected in others around them. “

But he admitted, with homes now costing a million dollars, “even moving to Hyde Park was a bit of a chore for us.”

It’s a crazy thing to think about: redlining and restrictive agreements created the black neighborhoods of South LA, and now most blacks can’t afford to buy – or even rent – there.

Go to an open house in South LA and black homebuyers are few and far between.

Yet it was only a generation ago that black parents dragged their children from South LA to the San Fernando Valley for a better life, as my colleague Sandy Banks said in a recent column. Never mind that these neighborhoods were notorious only for whites for decades.

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I grew up in Ohio, but I was also dragged from a black-majority suburb to a white-majority suburb to have a better life. Everything is a cycle, I suppose.

Now, with the demographic shift being driven by gentrification, everyone just wants to talk about the influx of white neighbors and the risk of losing South LA as a mecca of black culture.

I recently had such a conversation with Stacy Lewis, the director of the Leimert Park Neighborhood Association. I asked if he knew of many black families other than his own who had recently bought houses south of Freeway 10. He just stared at me in confusion and shook his head.

“No, only white people,” he said flatly.

As if on cue, a white woman in yoga pants strolled past our table in front of Harun Coffee.

But it turns out there are some black people who can and, more importantly, are willing to give up the staggering down payments and accept the exorbitant mortgages that have become the norm of home buying in South LA

Exactly how many families are is unclear. But they exist.

Many made their living in the technology and entertainment industries. There are the Issa Raes and Tiffany Haddishs, of course, but also showrunners and writers and executives with names that few know.

Pam Lumpkin, with her husband Emmanuel Baffo and their daughter Maddison Baffo on the porch of their house in View Park on October 15, 2021.

In the past few years, Pam Lumpkin, a Compass Real Estate real estate agent, said she had sold a number of homes in South LA to black professionals, both single adults and young couples looking to raise families.

Lumpkin said many go specifically because they could, say, live in Hollywood or Studio City but want to live in a black neighborhood.

“I feel like there is some kind of awakening in my community,” she told me, “not just in my neighborhood, but also in my African American community. We want to get back what we had before. We don’t want to lose that. “

Some have told her that last year’s race reckoning and the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department have changed them. Others say they are simply exhausted from the years of overt racism under the Trump administration.

The blackness of South LA. maintain

Our children go to these schools where no one looks like them. Teachers, administrators, all of that, ”said Lumpkin, who lives in View Park. “The feeling of security in the neighborhood is nice. You just feel safe when you see other people who look like you. “

This is a good thing for those interested in preserving the blackness of South LA. Because the future of these neighborhoods depends on two things. First, whether the majority of long-time black residents choose to keep their homes instead of selling them to runabouts or property developers. Second, do black families who can afford to live anywhere are choosing to buy houses in South LA?

And when they buy in South LA, whether they act like gentrifiers or like community stakeholders. It is the difference between economic gentrification, which now seems inevitable, and cultural gentrification, which it is not.

Tubbs and his wife struggled with these questions. The former mayor said he went so far as to ask local black elected officials if his family were viewed as gentrifiers and if doing so would undermine their efforts to curb the displacement.

“You said it was important that people had a sense of ownership,” he said, noting that he is already involved in several grassroots local initiatives. “So it buys property and owns land. I think they also appreciated that me and my wife are and that we look like the community. “

Despite all the fear of gentrification, Lumpkin is confident that more black families who can afford to buy homes in South LA will eventually.

“Why take your money and buy where you need to worry about who your neighbor is, worry about whether or not he will do the right thing?” She asked. “Bring your money here and invest it here and let’s build our community.”

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