Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Video: Boyle Heights' Wyvernwood apartments

The Los Angeles Conservancy has produced a video that tells the story of Boyle Heights' historic and unusual Wyvernwood Garden Apartments, a sprawling 70-acre complex built in the late 1930s where generations of immigrants have raised generations of Angelenos.

The complex, which I visited a while back, is unique in that its buildings are set among vast grassy fields, giving the place a sense of space and breathability while housing about 6,000 residents. It's an anomaly in Los Angeles, especially in this dense part of the city.

Regrettably, the complex faces the wrecking ball. The Florida-based investment company that owns it announced plans in 2008 for a $2 billion redevelopment in that would replace its 1,187 existing units with 4,400 condominiums and apartments, including high-rises, and retail space. The developer has said that demolition is not imminent, but residents have mounted a resistance.

One neat aside is the back-and-forth on a Facebook page set up by residents, where former residents trade stories of growing up there. Some say they still steer clear after gang violence hit the complex hard in the 1990s; current residents, pointing out that the violence has diminished, urge them to come back and visit. It's an interesting conversation.

Wyvernwood residents provided most of the footage for the video through a multimedia project last year that was funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, working with the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Los Angeles Media Collective.

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