On Jan. 30, Karen Toshima was one of thousands of people who went to Westwood Village to have an enjoyable evening. Instead, she found death from a bullet fired by a member of a street gang. In her death, she joined the 60% of victims of gang murders who, like her, were innocent bystanders. Every person who was in Westwood Village on Jan. 30 can truthfully say, “But for the grace of God, it could have been me,” because Karen was not killed by a personal enemy. She was killed by our common enemy, a wantonly violent member of a street gang, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Toshima, a 27-year-old graphic designer, was celebrating a recent promotion with a night out in Westwood, according to the Daily Bruin.
That is exactly what Kim Pham was doing when she was stomped to death in Downtown Santa Ana, by a pack of vicious women and a few men too. Pham was waiting to get into a hipster nightclub, The Crosby, which has since announced that they are closing their doors.
The gentrifiers are denying that race was involved, blaming Pham for the ruckus, and saying that DTSA is safe and all is well. But the Memphis at the Santora is also closing and the owner of the Santora building has begun to evict his artists.
This all happened before, in Westwood. It was not always that way however, as disclosed by KCRW:
Westwood Village, which was first developed in the 1920s by the Janns Investment Corporation, was for decades a tasteful shopping district serving the then new UCLA campus and nearby affluent neighborhoods like Bel Air and Holmby Hills. An inviting atmosphere was created in the neighborhood through an urban design and architectural master plan, featuring Mediterranean-style buildings and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.
But in the 1960s and 70s, Westwood Village traded gentility for gloss, reinventing itself as a regional entertainment center, featuring nightclubs, restaurants, marquee stores and lots of movie theaters. People flocked to the neighborhood from across Southern California to shop, people watch and have a good time.
But Westwood Village’s glory days are long past. Since the late 1980s, Westwood has experienced a long commercial decline. The Village is far from a ghost town, but if you walk the streets of Westwood today, especially, Westwood Boulevard, you’ll pass one vacant store after another. In the evenings, streets and sidewalks that once buzzed with life can feel empty.
Within days of Toshima’s death, authorities called a “gang summit” attended by 16 local police departments, which collectively termed 1988 “The Year of the Gang.” Police patrols were tripled and 30 officers were assigned to the murder investigation. Yaroslavsky, then a city councilman whose district included Westwood, prodded the council to offer a $25,000 reward for information leading to the killer’s arrest, according to Los Angeles Tumblr.
Does all that sound familiar? Santa Ana City Council Members are offering a reward for info about Pham’s killers and they are promising more cops in DTSA. Just like what happened in Westwood.
DTSA used to cater to Mexican and Central American families. But the city stole the Yost Theater. And Irv Chase unwound Calle Cuatro. The Carousel is long gone. The first run bilingual movie theater is being replaced by an art theater. And Chase ran off most of the Latino business owners.
So what do we have in DTSA now? A nightclub/drinking culture. And another dead innocent. Westwood never recovered after Toshima was killed. And DTSA is headed for a similar fate. You know how the saying goes. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.