Stephen Oduntan, Staff

We’ve seen this movie before.

Back in April, when CIM Group announced it had signed a purchase and sale agreement to acquire the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza community residents thwarted the proposed plans to turn the shopping center into a massive luxury mixed-use complex.

Now there’s a sequel of sorts to these events nearly six months after Crenshaw Subway Coalition launched an online petition calling on the community to halt the sale of the retail shopping mall to the Mid-Wilshire-based CIM Group.

Earlier this month, the current owners of the mall selected New York real estate companies LIVWRK and DFH Partners to acquire the 40-acre property. And a response was swift. The Crenshaw Subway Coalition launched another online petition calling on the community to stop the sale of the retail shopping mall to the developers with ties to Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who specializes in high-end commercial real estate.

“We don’t need a bunch of Trump towers on Crenshaw. It’s more expensive to build developments over six stories with a concrete base which ultimately means the less affordable those properties become,” said Damien Goodman, founder of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.

Asher Abehsera, the founder of LIVWRK, said he will talk to local residents before deciding on a makeover plan. “A project of this scale affords a mix of uses,” he says.

Nonetheless, opponents say that a large-scale real estate development of this magnitude increasingly result in longtime resident migration and gentrified induced-displacement. But this reflects national trends, says Goodman, and these kinds of aggressive methods have been used to displace poorer tenants in Black and Hispanic Los Angeles communities. He pointed to how developers erected the Cumulus Skyscraper at the corner of La Cienega and Jefferson Boulevard. 

“We challenged that project,” he said.

 “But now the project has gone up and it’s not yet occupied we learned that the rates for that tower is $5,300 a month which is like three mortgages in our community. We know these rent prices are an intentional effort to price those of us who’ve held down South Central, South Los Angeles, Baldwin Hills, and the Crenshaw area for such a long time.”

Displacement of long-time residents has “created a musical chair effect where low-income tenants get displaced at the convenience of the rich folks,” said Jose Lopez, an anti-displacement activist who lives in the surrounding community directly adjacent to the Cumulus Skyscraper. “I don’t want to have to go live all the way in Lancaster.”

Abehsera said he named his company LIVWRK, a shortening of “live-work,” because he believes neighborhoods thrive best when they are home to commercial and residential uses that engage people day and night. His comments have done little to convince president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Southern California, Pastor K.W. Tulloss who said, “CIM Group put their costumes on early before Halloween and came in as LIVWRK.”

The real estate developer critics say that minority teams that submitted bids for the Baldwin Hills project offered more money to build the mall but were rejected in favor of LIVWRK who offered significantly less.

“We’ve been told to pull ourself up by our bootstraps. Well we’ve got some boots and we’re willing to pull ourselves up. We want to make it abundantly clear and let them know that we have one position, one voice, and one message, and that is: ‘No, don’t sell the mall,” said Baba Akili of Black Lives Matter and one of many activists who’ve teamed up with Goodman’s Crenshaw Subway Coalition.

The sale is expected to close before the end of the year.