Roger L. Simon

The New York Times warns us: bad days ahead for La Boheme

If you want to understand the Zabar’s Zeitgeist as it drifts west to my home state, you could do worse than read When the Next Wave Wipes Out, an article on the economic decline hitting the supposedly-bohemian enclave of LA’s Eagle Rock.

Only the NYT could bemoan Eagle Rock’s downfall as if it were Paris in the Twenties. And on the front page of its website, no less. Pretty funny to those of us who’ve been around there. It does have a good pizza place though, Casa Bianca, which is far better than the conventionally-trendy little boutiques and cafes the Times seem to think are such great contributions to urban development.

The deep recession, with its lost jobs and falling home values nationwide, poses another kind of threat: to the character of neighborhoods settled by the young creative class, from the Lower East Side in Manhattan to Beacon Hill in Seattle. The tide of gentrification that transformed economically depressed enclaves is receding, leaving some communities high and dry.

For long-time residents, the return to pre-boom rents may be a blessing. But it also poses a rattling question of identity: What happens to bourgeois bohemia when the bourgeois part drops out?

And more importantly, what happens to New York Times advertising? The Times’ Scott Timberg continues:

Over the last five to six years, Eagle Rock became the glamour girl of Northeast Los Angeles, a crescent where the asphalt jungle meets the foothills. The neighborhood of 35,000 or so has attracted screenwriters and composers, Web designers and animators, who labor on their laptops in cafes, discuss film projects at Friday night wine tastings, and let their children play with the handmade wooden toys in a Scandinavian-style coffee shop, Swork.

“It is easy to sniff at such urban affectations,” adds Timberg.

Indeed it is.