Echo Park Patch: Businessman Supports Raising Minimum Wage

Mark Lee laments the changing landscape of his neighborhood near Echo Park, where the working poor are being made invisible.

By Mirna Alfonso (Patch Staff) March 16, 2015 at 11:48am

Mark Lee, Pico Union Business Owner and Member of the Pico Union Neighborhood Council

As a small business owner in Pico Union, I’ve seen the powerful forces of development remake my neighborhood. I remember living in Koreatown when my parents and I first came to America, amongst Guatemalan and Salvadoran families.

Pico Union has always been a landing hub of immigrants first establishing their lives in Los Angeles. Though we relocated from Koreatown, it was always a beacon to which many Koreans like myself eventually returned to as home as adults.

A decade ago when I first opened my college prep business, the area had been abandoned by developers and fallen into disrepair, overrun with drug dealing and shootings.

Our community worked closely together to reverse this trend, by reducing crime and bringing together resources for families in need. Now, the beneficiaries of these improvements are no longer the original residents. There has been no shortage of news stories on the ghastly expensive rents in our neighborhood, with high rise condos selling to the tune of half a million dollars, accelerating change impacting our neighborhood.

Newer residents spilling over from Downtown LA moving into Pico Union seeking an urban lifestyle tend to be more affluent and differ culturally than the longtime families residing here.

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