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LA Times Asks Why Boyle Heights Coffee Protesters Don’t Also Boycott Starbucks

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Another chapter in a growing debate about change in the East LA neighborhood

Weird Wave Coffee, Boyle Heights
Farley Elliott

Weeks after crowds of protesters first formed in front of Weird Wave Coffee in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles’s newspaper of record has now come in with its own perspective. In a new piece penned yesterday, the Los Angeles Times discusses hot-button issues like displacement, neighborhood activism, self-described gentrification, and whether or not a local Starbucks is also deserving of some public shame.

To be clear, the LA Times has been covering the issues of Boyle Heights change for a while now, but not often from the food and beverage side. Most of its ink has been spilled on the art galleries and non-profits often facing backlash, but now with the rise of Weird Wave as a cultural flashpoint within the community, some of that conversation is shifting.

As previously discussed, there are few moderate stances to be had when it comes to Weird Wave Coffee. Some on the protest side say the shop is part of a larger effort, however directly or indirectly coordinated, to “whitewash” one of LA’s most important and long-held Mexican-American neighborhoods. Others quoted by LA Weekly in a prior story say that Weird Wave may be little more than a cultural scapegoat, a distillation of many other issues that are much more pressing, like urban development. Locals themselves feel the split, with many wary of what a hip new coffee shop might mean for already rising rents, and others happy to support a new, local business that fills a perceived need.

As the Times piece notes, Weird Wave is far from the first change the neighborhood has seen when it comes to restaurants and coffee shops. Local legend La Serenata de Garibaldi shuttered in January after 32 years, while new locals like Indie Brewing have faced backlash from activists and community boards themselves. However, a Starbucks that started up in 2014 is not being protested, because — at least according to one protester — the business is “post-gentrification,” and “no longer poses a threat,” says the Times. As for Weird Wave, the Times asked one protestor about shutting down the new coffee shop and was told: “That’s our mission — for them to get out of the neighborhood.”

So what does the future hold for Boyle Heights, particularly with big development and increased interest in the Gold Line public transit system that cuts through the neighborhood? It’s still too early to say, but protests have waned at Weird Wave, and La Serenata has found a new, local tenant. Change at many levels, it seems, is happening already.

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