Editor’s Note: No institution in Los Angeles bears more responsibility for the city we have become than the LA Times — escept for the political, business, labor and civic leadership which it has cultivated and supported for its own purposes. Columnist Hector Tobar expiates some of its institutional guilt with a great article in Friday’s newspaper acknowledging the grotesque disparity in wealth in the artificial opulence of LA Live and the poverty around it — a focus chosen because AEG’s proposed NFL stadium only adds to the disturbing contradiction with its minimum wage jobs, luxury boxes and $300 price tag for an average seat.
About a five-minute walk separates the Ritz-Carlton Hotel
in downtown L.A. from the old brick tenements on West 10th Place.
At the Ritz-Carlton, $449 plus tax will get you a room with a king-size bed and
a bathroom with Italian marble vanities. Pleasant clerks at the front desk
promise “beautiful views” of the L.A. cityscape from a room on the
22nd floor or higher.
On West 10th Place, $550 will get you a one-room
apartment for a month. The view includes rusty fire escapes on the building
across the street, discarded mattresses and the back door of a garment factory.
Approaching one of the residents, I informed him of the room rates over at the
nearby Ritz-Carlton, which loomed over us in blue and gray glass.
“Well, I guess it really is cheap here,” said Oscar Montiel, a
50-year-old scrap-metal collector and native of the Mexican state of Guerrero.
Talking to Montiel there on 10th Place, amid the still-occupied relics of
low-cost housing built in the first half of the last century, I arrived at the
sad realization that L.A. is indeed becoming a Third World city.
But it’s not the presence of so many people from tropical climes that makes
L.A. resemble the underdeveloped regions to the south. It’s our increasingly
brazen contrasts between wealth and poverty.
In L.A., as in Caracas or Rio de Janeiro, the rich can enjoy views of the poor,
puttering safely in the distance.
And we have our elected officials to thank for it.