The Plant Chica’s Eviction in South LA Raises Gentrification Concerns Among Businesses
A small business in South Los Angeles is scrambling to find a new home after a large development firm served them a 90-day notice to vacate their current space.
With plans to exit on June 30, husband-and-wife owners, Sandra Mejia and Bantalem Adis, are looking for a new space while continuing to advocate for community spaces and the people that occupy them.
Sandra Mejia announced the news on social media
Mejia opened the plant store with her husband in 2018 after selling them on street corners throughout the city. After an exhaustive search, Mejia and Adis secured a location — a shuttered auto shop — to create what they thought would be a permanent home.
The shop, or greenhouse as they call it, immediately began to thrive, partially because Mejia opened the space to community organizers all over South LA.
“So many different organizations [and] so many different people depend on us,” Mejia said to the LA Times. “They host events every month at our shop, and so it’s like, ‘Oh my God. Where are they going to go?’ I worry about that.”
Although the 90-day notice came weeks before she announced it on social media, Mejia waited a while to let her customers and supporters know about the unfortunate development.
In the video, Mejia says she was not ready to “share the news because I felt like I was letting [people] down.” However, in the LA Times interview, she adds that another community garden, Compton Community Garden, received a similar notice on their door around the same time.
Not wanting to take attention away from the other garden’s fight to stay open, including a GoFundMe campaign that raised half a million dollars, Mejia waited until after Compton Community Garden ultimately secured its current location on May 17 to address her followers.
In her announcement video, Mejia says she still hopes the community will come through for The Plant Chica and help the owners find a permanent home. Even if they can’t keep their current space, Mejia thinks the future of The Plant Chica is bright regardless of where in South LA they set up shop.
Their eviction opens up a larger conversation about gentrification in Los Angeles
Although spaces like Compton Community Garden can rally enough community support, the ongoing battle against developers only worsens over time.
“My issue is the fact that there’s bigger developers that own so much land on Jefferson [Boulevard] and it’s sitting empty,” she said in the interview. “And when we call, no one answers, and then when someone does answer, they say it’s not available, but they have a ‘for lease’ sign.”
Mejia feels like the system is rigged against small business owners like her and her husband. Additionally, the big developers in LA are trying to push people out of the community by making spaces more inaccessible in ways similar to what Mejia describes.
Currently, Mejia and Adis are asking the community for help through a GoFundMe page. There are nearly $40,000 in donations, with a goal of $100,000 to give them room to find and establish a new space elsewhere in the community.
Although one of the landowners reached out to Mejia expressing an interest in coming to some agreement, Mejia doesn’t want to fight for that particular space. Especially since it would involve vacating the space for two years during the development process.
Instead, she wants to go somewhere she and her husband can own their land and establish a permanent greenhouse.
Other business owners in the area are feeling similarly rejected by developers
Gentrification in South LA is nothing new. In fact, a 2022 report from Bloomberg revealed real estate magnate Shaul Kuba’s plans to purchase and flip an entire neighborhood.
According to a 2018 study by the Urban Displacement Project, 10% of census tracts in Los Angeles County are experiencing some stage of gentrification.
As Mejia and Adis struggle to find a new space, so are their neighbors. Some are following in The Plant Chica’s footsteps and looking for a new space, while others are collaborating with developers to maintain the spaces they have.
Mel’s Fish Shack owner Georgette Powell also fell victim to the development. However, she opted to work with one of the owners, Romie Chaudhari, to make her business part of the development plan starting in 2024.
Although Powell is a fan of The Plant Chica, she describes Chaudhari as “really easy to deal with.” She added, “I’ve ran into trouble and they’ve been understanding, and they worked with me.” For his part, Chaudhari said, “I want them to understand that they have an ally in me and not an adversary.”
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