Neighbor of the Month: One Resident's Take on Being Engaged
February's Neighbor of the Month is Juan Davis, a resident of the California Neighborhood. Juan reveals incredible heart and thoughtfulness in the following interview. It is obvious he cares about his neighborhood, and has a lot of insight to share. Every resident has unique and critical knowledge about the neighborhood she or he lives in. At Center for Neighborhoods, we value the experience and knowledge of every resident, and look for ways to uphold this expertise in all of our planning projects.
What happens when we acknowledge - and uplift - all Louisville residents and their unique knowledge about their city?
The following conversation is abbreviated for length. Please click here to read the whole interview!
What do you love about your neighborhood, Juan? I have family members who have been a fixture in the neighborhood as homeowners for over 50 years. Although I grew up and lived most of my life in Parkland, my grandparents lived in California and I spent a lot of time there. As a result, I met people and their family members that I have known since I was a child. I spent a lot of time at California Community Center and the surrounding park, and now I use the computer lab at the CCC for online community organizing activities, and using social media to spread the word about upcoming community forums and events. I am a member of the California Neighborhood Leadership Council.
I love that California is centrally located and within walking distance to downtown Louisville, and also other nearby neighborhoods in West Louisville. Most of all I appreciate the fact that California and other neighborhoods west of 9th Street are starting to experience economic development after decades of redlining, "urban removal [sic]", and disinvestment, so I am excited to be able to be engaged, participate, and have a voice in this development.
How and why did you get involved in your community? When my father passed away, I inherited the shotgun house he inherited from his parents.... I moved in and started working to rehabilitate the house. It was livable, but I needed to ensure that there were no exterior code violations. This spring, I intend to replace the roof, run new water lines, and rewire the electrical system.
As I became aware that the Passport Headquarters Project, the new YMCA, and additional economic development was coming to West Louisville, I had concerns about gentrification and predatory investment. The LA Tenant’s Union defines gentrification as “displacement and replacement of the poor for profit." I felt that if the current residents of the areas targeted for investment weren't considered as stakeholders and owners of the community within the development, it would just be more of the same exploitation for profit by forces who live outside these neighborhoods, and the residents would just be spectators to the economic activity around them. Real estate developers profit by securing white capital investment through either enclosure (segregation and redlining) or racial banishment (gentrification/dispossession). Real estate speculators choose locations where there are huge gaps between current rents and home prices, and potential rents and home prices. Since West Louisville has experienced decades of property value declines, speculators can make obscene profits by changing the residential racial and class makeup of these neighborhoods, while also monopolizing commercial and retail opportunities.
Because I took advantage of an opportunity to participate in a community engagement session facilitated by Center For Neighborhoods at the California Community Center, I was invited to the meetings of the advisory board working on the California / Victory Park Neighborhood Plan, and I was able to provide my own input to the plan. This was a great opportunity for me because I was able to be in the room and at the table working on the plan with corporate executives from the new YMCA and Passport, along with officials from various city agencies and other members of the advisory board. Since then, I have attended the 2018 and 2019 Neighborhood Summits, and I graduated from the Spring 2019 Neighborhood Institute.
What have you been working on recently in your neighborhood? On an ongoing basis, I attend as many forums and meetings focused on West Louisville economic development, minority wealth building, and community engagement that I can and I encourage other community residents to do the same. By actually using the concept of Asset Based Community Development, I have been able to network with so many people connected to, or leading local non-profit organizations. This year, I hope to start my own non-profit, A Place To Call Home, focused on helping renters become homeowners, since home ownership is one of the first vehicles toward building multi-generational wealth. The community of West Louisville has experienced a massive transfer of wealth during my lifetime, and I hope to help our younger generation reclaim some of this wealth...
Also, I have been working with the folks at New Roots to spread the word and generate interest for a new Fresh Stop Market in California, as well as discovering ways to work with Ag In The City promoting urban agriculture in Louisville, with a primary focus in the West End. So by this coming spring, California should have additional options for fresh fruit and produce.
What are your hopes for the future of the California neighborhood? First of all, I would like to see the Passport project at 18th and Broadway get back on track. West Louisville could certainly use those corporate jobs and the wages they pay....
One of the ideas that I proposed during the community engagement sessions working on the neighborhood plan was to update the abandoned industrial property at the northeastern border of California into a distribution or fulfillment center, similar to the ones out in Riverport. I would love to see something like that. West Louisville could certainly use jobs that pay a living wage and that are right downtown and easily accessible from a 2 mile radius.
Know a great candidate for our Neighbor of the Month series? Email firstname.lastname@example.org your suggestion!