Ethnic groups wrangle over Koreatown boundaries

New signs prepared for installation within the boundaries of L.A.'s Koreatown.
New signs prepared for installation within the boundaries of L.A.'s Koreatown.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

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Months of friction about a seemingly innocent Los Angeles ethnic neighborhood designation came to a head at L.A. City Hall today.

A group of Latino activists is opposed to the expansion of Koreatown’s boundaries. Under a one year-old proposal, several blocks south of Olympic Boulevard and west of Vermont Avenue would become Koreatown.

Salvadoran activist Isabel Cardenas said almost everyone who lives in that area speaks Spanish. "We have 76 percent Latinos. We have Anglos, we have the Mayan people, Guatemalans, Costa Ricans, Salvadorans."

Cardenas said that changing the area’s name would hasten its gentrification. She and other neighborhood leaders showed up to protest the plan, they said, because nobody’s included them in the decision-making process.

Korean business owners are promoting a $6 million beautification project along that stretch of Olympic Boulevard. The city council’s neighborhood and education committee, chaired by L.A. Councilman Paul Krekorian, tabled for two months a recommendation for this and another neighborhood designation.

That delay frustrated Brad Lee, a member of the Wilshire Center-Koreatown neighborhood council. "The city council members, they like to please all the community and they’d like to do the best for every community. But this has been dragging for 15 months," Lee said.

Some people who live or own businesses near Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue also left the meeting frustrated. They want the L.A. City Council to designate their neighborhood — now within Koreatown — as Little Bangladesh.