Part 2: The destruction of a way of life
The wholesale destruction of the way of life of multiple, entire communities is one thing, and that is bad enough; but the forcible eviction and physical destruction of their homes, often before their very eyes and the eyes of their family and children, is another thing altogether, and is worthy of our disgust.
At left is a copy of the eviction notice that was presented to the residents of la Loma, Palo Verde, and Bishop by officers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department beginning July 26, 1950. Where possible, it was handed directly to the residents by the officers; if there were no one at home, it was affixed to the house where it would be seen when the residents returned.
The eviction notice that residents received or found attached to their homes was merely the first salvo in a battle that some of the residents of Chavez Ravine thought they might have been able ultimately to win; but it was only the first of many such battles, and even though the most determined of them, perhaps exemplified by the family of Manuel and Abrana Aréchiga, who lived at 1771 Malvina Street in Palo Verde, fought this battle — and all the others as well — for nearly nine years, winning some while losing others, taken together it was a larger war that they simply had no chance of winning from the outset. So by their responding to the eviction notice by saying they would not move under any circumstance, they set themselves on a path that was at once both courageous and pathetic. They were doomed to lose, and lose they did, right down to the last eviction, of the Aréchigas, nearly ten years later, on May 9, 1959.
But one step at a time ...
The eviction notice notified residents that a low-income public housing development was going to be built on their property. It stated explicitly that inspectors would assess the value of their homes fairly, which implied that they would be paid fair market value for their respective properties. The notice further offered them assistance in finding temporary housing while the public housing project was being built, and to give them the first opportunity to move into that housing. There is a legitimate argument to be made that, in the end, everything that was promised turned out to be untrue.
Why did the promises made in the eviction notice of 1950 turn out to be largely untrue? That is a matter of speculation, and there has been no limit to that speculation. Much academic research has been conducted in an attempt to document the timeline and posit the reasons for what happened. Was it simply the end result of a rapidly-shifting public opinion that swayed the intentions of the City Council? Was it the rapidly-increasing fear of Communism and the label of 'creeping Socialism', exemplified by construction of low-income public housing, that was fed by the political hysteria of the early 1950s? Had someone thought, 'Let's not build low-income housing for all these slum-dwelling minorities who live in shacks in the hills'? Did some forward-thinker say, "Look, if we condemn these properties and clear the land, we can sell it to Walter O'Malley for $1, build a new baseball stadium, and bring the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles"? In fact, irrespective of why 1,100 families were displaced, the land was sold to Walter O'Malley for $1, a new baseball stadium was built on the land, and the Brooklyn Dodgers were brought to Los Angeles. The last family was evicted from Chavez Ravine on May 9, 1959 and ground was broken for construction of Dodger Stadium 141 days later, on September 17, 1959.
All of these scenarios, and more, have been argued and discussed endlessly since the 1950s. For all we know for certain, the truth may lie in an amalgam of some, or all, of them. It is not the purpose of this blog to determine which of the theories of malintent or conspiracy is true, if any; rather, this is intended as a chronicle of the suffering and horror that was experienced by those Chavez Ravine residents who were determined to retain and preserve their property.
Next: Part 3: Where, exactly, were the three Chavez Ravine communities?
About the Author
Bouett is a retired research scientist and registered professional
engineer who now conducts historical and genealogical research
full-time. A ninth-generation Californian, he is particularly interested in the displacement of the nearly 1,100 families that lived in the Chavez Ravine communities of la Loma, Palo Verde, and Bishop to make way, ultimately, for the construction of Dodger Stadium. His ancestors arrived in California with Portolá in 1769 and came to Los Angeles with the founders on September 4, 1781.
"Thank you for such an informative site which highlights the plight of those relocated from Chavez Ravine. My stepfather was a happy child growing up in the Palo Verde area. He had many stories about living in the area and working at the [Ayala] store."