Post-Riot Flight From L.A. Seen
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Lou Favreau sent his wife and kids packing to Las Vegas as Los Angeles burned. Now, the family’s moving for good.
″I’m not knocking the area at all. I had a good time here,″ said Favreau, 48, a 15-year resident of the area. ″But things have degenerated. I don’t know of any other large city that’s doing well. That’s cities today, I guess.″
For Favreau and his wife, Mary Kate, the riots that killed 53 people last spring helped them make up their minds about something they had been pondering for months: They’re moving to a quieter life in Eugene, Ore.
Experts say the riots eventually could prod thousands of others to move out, joining the stream of those fed up with the city’s smog, crime, jammed freeways, congested neighborhoods and underfunded schools.
″The civil disturbances of the 1960s shook people’s confidence in their cities to the very core,″ said Mark Baldassare, a demographer at the University of California at Irvine. ″Over time, they also began to symbolize the fears of the middle-class population: crime, violence, government’s lack of ability to provide a safe environment.″
He added, ″All these elements can be seen today in Los Angeles.″
Unlike the white flight that followed the 1965 Watts riots, a 1990s exodus from Los Angeles will cross racial lines, Baldassare said. ″I think you’ll see the same forces propel whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics out of L.A.,″ he said.
Many Korean-American merchants whose stores were ransacked during the riots are ready to leave, said David Kim, president of the Southern California chapter of the Korean American Grocers Association.
Kim said members of his organization are tired of inner-city crime and sometimes violent disputes with blacks. They’re waiting to see if insurance payouts and government rebuilding help will allow them to move.
With or without that help, new city ordinances to curb reconstruction of South Central liquor stores and swap meets will force some Korean merchants to move, Kim said. About 2,400 of the area’s 3,600 Korean-owned stores were damaged or destroyed in the riots.
″Personally I recommend looking for another place. You may make less profits, but you’ll be doing better in the long term,″ he said.
Asian-Americans have been settling in suburban Los Angeles for some time. Orange County’s Asian population has doubled over the past decade, to 250,000.
Middle- and upper-class blacks, too, were abandoning the inner city long before the verdict in the Rodney King beating touched off the riots April 29.
Between 1980 and 1990, South Los Angeles’ black population dropped 20 percent as about 75,000 moved out. At the same time, the black population in suburban San Bernardino and Riverside counties more than doubled, to about 170,000.
Still, evidence of a riot-spurred exodus from Los Angeles is largely anecdotal.
Mayflower Transit Inc. moved 1,380 households out of Los Angeles the first six months of this year. In June, it sent nearly 290 empty vans back to California to meet demand. It is more efficient for vans to return full, but there just weren’t enough customers moving west.
″California has been shifting to an outbound state for us,″ said Beth Copeland, a Mayflower spokeswoman.
Bill Seavey, director of the Greener Pastures Institute, a business that counsels people who want to move, reported an increase this year in clients - nearly all of them white - seeking advice on where and how to move.
″A lot of people are headed to the Pacific Northwest, the Rocky Mountain states, places where there is less racial disharmony - and, I would have to say, less multiculturalism, less diversity,″ he said.
Southern California’s flat real estate market may be slowing the migration. Many want to leave but can’t sell their homes, realtors report. Favreau had to knock $100,000 off the price of his Santa Monica home to sell it.
Baldassare said it may take a decade to trace a population trend linked to the riots.
City Councilwoman Patricia Moore of inner-city Compton isn’t waiting. She personally lobbies people she learns are planning to leave the community, urging them to await the results of the rebuilding efforts.
Favreau, a consultant on housing development and restoration projects, isn’t waiting, even though he and his wife, a voice-over actress, have yet to find jobs in Eugene.
″I like L.A.,″ he said, ″but it’s just better to raise two kids in an atmosphere that isn’t as hectic. If we didn’t have kids we’d probably still be here.″