The Fairfax district is going through some changes. When I was growing up, Fairfax was a largely Jewish neighborhood with a bunch of delicatessens and kosher markets….
There was the newsstand at Oakwood….
There was the Silent Movie Theatre….
There are still kosher markets and delis on Fairfax. The newsstand is hanging on somehow. And the Silent Movie Theatre seems to be going strong, though they don’t show a lot of silent movies there any more.
But the neighborhood is undergoing a rapid transformation. In the last few years, many of the buildings have changed hands. The new owners have jacked up the rent, forcing out a lot of the older businesses, in some cases businesses that had been serving the community for decades.
Let me give you a few examples. Here’s old Fairfax….
And here’s new Fairfax.
You can see the landscape is changing. Some of the older establishments are still around, like Canter’s, which is eternal.
I first started hanging out at Canter’s when I was in my teens. It was a place to go after seeing a movie or a band, because back then it was one of the few restaurants that was open twenty four hours. I didn’t know until recently that Canter’s was originally located in Boyle Heights, which was home to a large Jewish enclave in the first half of the twentieth century. After WWII, when the Jewish community started moving to the west side, the owners followed the exodus and moved the restaurant to Fairfax.
Here’s an article from the LA Times that gives more detail on the transformation that’s taking place.
Things change. Over the years I’ve seen a few places disappear from the neighborhood. I was sorry to see Largo move to La Cienega. I’m sure the new venue is great, but I still remember seeing Weba Garretson, Two-Foot Yard and Jon Brion at the old location. And it broke my heart when Eat a Pita closed.
But it’s not just that the community is changing. I don’t have a problem with Fairfax being a hangout for skateboarders and kids who are into hiphop. They’re bringing life to the neighborhood.
I do have a problem with Fairfax becoming a destination for the hip and trendy crowd who see it as just another place to shop and eat. At the rate things are going, it looks like this neighborhood, which used to have so much charm and character, will soon become as superficial and soulless as the worst parts of Melrose.
There’s nothing wrong with people doing business and making a profit, but there are different ways of going about it. There are some investors who move into a particular community not just to make money, but because they see value in being a part of the community. They’re willing to work with the residents. They’re willing to respect the history. My problem is with the people who only see profit and nothing else. They don’t see the community, they don’t see the tradition, they don’t see the culture.
All they see is money.