Bring your latte and join us in the 'hood

In response to Matthew DeBord's Nov. Nov. 16 Op-Ed article on moving to Glassell Park, "The gang’s all here,” I'd like to say to him: Yes! The gang is all here! So far, DeBord and his family have had the luxury, but perhaps lonely experience, of dealing with the conditions of Glassell Park only with humor.

For his information, Glassell Park has a very progressive group of community activists, and we hope he will join us. We are extremely grateful for the law enforcement effort that has reduced the influence of the particular gang members who were actively fomenting violence in our neighborhood. We in Glassell Park and our neighbors in Cypress Park also recognize that gang violence is a consequence of economic suppression.

The gangs, however, are here to stay.

With our neighbors in Cypress Park and the rest of the City of Los Angeles, we have been engaged for many years to bring about improvements that benefit the community at large, and not just the venti soy latte drinkers. I was at an exciting event recently at Washington Irving Middle School that was hosted by City Council President Eric Garcetti's office. Among the participants was the Aztec Fire Crew, a local gang intervention program started by a Cypress Park gang member that is helpful not only in Glassell Park but also beyond our state's borders. At the forum, the kids stated time and time again that they want to feel safe. All of us deserve to feel safe in our homes and on our streets, not just those fleeing the prices of homes on the Westside.

Our community activists have advocated for improvements that will encourage a thriving community for all who live here, not just for a "gentrified" future for some with no room for our gang members, many of whose families have lived here for generations. We seem to be doing well: Aside from the Fresh and Easy grocery store that recently opened, we are also home to a Super King Market and a Super A Foods grocery store. We have grocery stores that appeal to a wide range of cultures and economic abilities.

We have been fighting developers who want to build McMansions in our hills, which would ruin the visual contact with nature that all of us enjoy. The L.A. City Planning Commission recently authorized a Community Design Overlay for Cypress Park and Glassell Park, which provides guidance and direction in the design and exterior remodeling for both commercial and residential development. This is the first CDO in the City of Los Angeles to apply to both commercial and residential buildings and something we have been supporting for years as a way to promote thoughtful and inclusive development.

We have engaged the Los Angeles Unified School District in a legal battle against a developer to bring a new high school to the Taylor Yard near the Los Angeles River. The school would benefit the whole Northeast L.A. region. And we will soon be home to L.A. Unified's first joint-venture project, a facility that will contain both affordable housing units and an early childhood education center.

DeBord should know that social and economic problems are not solved by a quick wit; they are solved with perseverance (yes, tempered with humor is very helpful, especially at long meetings). I am very proud to live in Glassell Park because of the members of our community -- which, to me, includes all the people.

Welcome to the 'hood.

Alisa Smith, a resident of Glassell Park since 2001 who served on its Neighborhood Council from 2002-06, is a member of the Glassell Park Improvement Assn.

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