How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Shared memories of Boyle Heights' Wyvernwood

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A post from earlier this week featured a video produced by the Los Angeles Conservancy telling the story of the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments, a unique 70-acre Boyle Heights complex built in 1939 that, for much of its existence, has been home to generations of immigrants and their Los Angeles-raised families. Much of the footage was contributed by residents who are trying to save the complex, eventually scheduled to become the site of a new condo, apartment and retail development.

In passing, I mentioned a fascinating Facebook page on which former residents, some of whom were raised amidst Wyvernwood's sprawling grassy lawns and winding paths, share memories of growing up there. The most recent entries are a few months old, but they provide such a rich slice of Eastside life, both good and bad, that they're worth sharing in detail. Here are a few, unedited.

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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.

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Dream Act: Is it still alive, or isn't it?

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, December 7, 2010

This morning, when the Senate voted to table action on the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would grant legal status to certain undocumented college students and military hopefuls, a group of students and other supporters of the bill who watched the vote take place on C-SPAN in downtown Los Angeles breathed a sigh of relief.

As they saw it, the Senate's move to shelve its version of the bill, and vote at a later date on the version approved last night in the House, would perhaps give them more time to call legislators and drum up support.

But there are different interpretations of what occurred today. Some news reports have characterized the Senate's move as essentially leaving the bill to die a slow death. One NPR piece described the bill as having "very likely died" today.

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'Live to die another day:' With Senate Dream Act vote tabled, students go back to the phones

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

UCLA graduate student Carlos Amador addresses media at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles following the Senate's vote to table to Dream Act until next week, December 9, 2010

The Senate's decision this morning to table a vote on the Dream Act was greeted with optimism and a bit of relief by Los Angeles students and graduates who celebrated the bill's victory in the House last night, after a long day of making calls to legislators for support. Now, they go back to the phones.

"Last night's vote in the House was an historic vote," said Carlos Amador, 27, an undocumented UCLA graduate student and one of the leaders among the local students pushing for the bill. As for the Senate, "we know it's a tough battle, but we know that we can make it."

Amador, along with other college students, graduates and Dream Act supporters, spoke to reporters at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, where dozens spent yesterday calling legislators from a makeshift phone bank.

Several of the students gathered again today to make more calls before the anticipated Senate vote. While a decisive vote was expected today, the Senate voted to table the measure until later this month, possibly next week.

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Joy and tears as Dream Act clears House

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Students in Los Angeles react to news of the Dream Act victory in the House, December 8, 2010

Jubilant students in downtown Los Angeles reacted with joyful shouts and tears as they watched a C-SPAN broadcast with the results of the Dream Act vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, which just approved the measure.

A Senate vote is expected tomorrow. If the bill clears both chambers of Congress, the legislation will provide conditional legal status for undocumented youths who arrived here before age 16, provided they attend college or enlist in the military and that they meet strict criteria.

Dozens of students, many of them undocumented, manned the phones all day at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center next to McArthur Park, calling legislators for their support. Tonight, as the vote count was reported, excited students cheered, cried and hugged one another.

It's a tentative victory for them, and they are cautiously optimistic. So far, there has not been sufficient Republican support in the Senate for the bill to pass. The students will return to the center tomorrow at 7 a.m. to await the Senate vote, expected to take place in the morning.

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