Panel following the screening of CITY RISING features KCET's SoCal

By Katlyn Valdez

Boyle Heights Beat

Guests at the Q&A session following the premiere screening of  “City Rising”.

Is affordable housing a human right? That was one of the key questions discussed at a community forum this month at the California Endowment’s downtown headquarters, following the premiere of the KCET documentary “City Rising.”

People of all ages and ethnicities came together on Thursday, Sept. 14, to hear and learn about affordable housing, the effects of gentrification, and ways it can be addressed by the community. Val Zavala, anchor of KCET’s Socal Connected & Town Hall was the evening’s moderator.

Nearly 800 people packed an auditorium and an overflow room to watch “City Rising”.  The documentary examines gentrification on many historical, economic, and social platforms, but also allowed the audience to grasp at a new perspective on this increasingly important topic.

Val Zavala (left) and Isela Gracián.

Isela Gracián, President of the East LA Community Corporation (ELACC) explained that cooperative housing and housing trusts are some of the ways that her organization is addressing gentrification and the housing crisis in Boyle Heights. Similarly Robin Hughes, President and CEO of Abode Communities, said that engaging in public policy was important when addressing these issues.

When Zavala asked “How does a housing trust get land at an affordable price?,” Hughes voiced that nonprofits have to go out and compete in the real estate market like everyone else and Gracián added: “there is no free market.” She also mentioned that talking to property owners helps when trying to attain land.

Juan Devis, KCETLink Media Group’s Chief Creative Officer, speaks before screening.

Property owners were addressed again when Zavala asked a question submitted by the audience, about how landlords themselves can be more responsible. Hughes was quick to respond, adding that landlords should be more open minded and “not put a stigma on Section 8,” a federal program that subsidizes housing for low income people.

At one point the conversation shifted to the effectiveness of rent control, a program in some jurisdictions that caps yearly increases by landlords. “It protects [tenants] from having no cause eviction,” said Tram Nguyen, from the Alameda County Public Health Department.

The live audience enjoyed a “director’s cut” 90-minute version of “City Rising,” which was produced by KCET with funding from The California Endowment.

A one-hour version of  the documentary aired on KCET and Link TV, and “City Rising” is also available digitally as six 15-minute webisodes that stream independently on-demand.

All photos Photos by Rafael Cardenas courtesy of The California Endowment.

Here’s a screener:

Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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