As communities look for ways to build capacity for community involvement, and to increase resident engagement both with local government and with one another, much of the focus is on innovation. But a recent article on the NextCity blog reminds us not to neglect the institutions that already exist.
The El Faro Swap-Meet in South Los Angeles is a place where people desiring community can come together and reconnect and purchase much needed items for their family. It is predominantly Hispanic and provides recent immigrants a place to come together in true community in the midst of the urban sprawl that is Los Angeles. It was almost shut down during the Rodney King Riots and had a history of violent crime, but crime in the area has been improving, and many argue the swap meet has a role to play in improving the safety and vitality of this community:
Swap meets like El Faro and Alameda were once thought to be, as the L.A. Times put it in 1992, “a cause of urban blight.” Though they may seem exotic to U.S.-born citizens, they closely resemble the informal markets that exist throughout Latin America. Those markets do more than just sell goods and provide jobs — they fuse neighborhoods and populations, filling in the gaps between communities in sprawling cities like Los Angeles. Indeed, L.A. is built much like the cities many of El Faro’s vendors and shoppers come from, a relatively low-density urban plan that cries out for communal spaces to create a sense of geographic integration. . .
You can read more here.
Contributor: Elliott Parisi, Pepperdine University Master of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’15.