Home on LA’s Edge | Urban Humanities Initiative

uhiOur map documents access, resources, and the maneuvering of restricted space within the William Mead Homes housing project.

We begin our journey with the two Sanborn maps which depict the housing project as it appeared in 1950. Named after real estate developer and L.A. politician William Mead who bequeathed the land, the William Mead Homes housing project was built from 1941 to 1942 and construction cost $1.2 million dollars. William Mead homes were an effort to provide affordable housing for low-income families who were both United States citizens and had lived in Los Angeles for at least one year. Despite only having these two restrictions, access to housing was limited for Black families due to the the quota maximum that prevented more than 7% of William Mead Homes residents to be Black. The restriction was removed in 1943 after much lobbying by community organizations.

The William Mead Homes were developed as garden apartments. The purpose of garden apartments was to develop modest living quarters that incorporated landscape design and created green spaces. Residents were encouraged to partake in the care of the landscape and grow their own gardens. Some of the images in this section showcase the residents working on the project’s green spaces. Residents took pride in their project community in other ways, such as the establishment of a women’s volleyball team that won the city championship in 1951.

At the same time, some of the families living in the housing project were displaced. In this image, we see the Guzman family gathered together in the living room. They were relocated to William Mead homes after they had lost their home in the fight over the Chavez Ravine.

The William Mead Homes, which are also located near the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, have been perceived as an unsafe community. Residents have experienced violence such as shootings and stabbings during the project’s 60-plus-year history. But current residents, mostly Latino low-income families, have transformed their neighborhoods into dynamic sites of unity and struggle by re-imagining their place in the city through mural art and participation in local organizations like Clean and Green, a subdivision of the L.A. Conservation Corps.

Our map foregrounds how a community like the William Mead Homes can be marginalized to the city’s edges yet find strength and resilience through the quotidian making and maintenance of their homes and their community. Through their strong sense of hope, a possible end of the racialized dispossession experienced in Los Angeles can be imagined.

Maria Daniela Jimenez (PhD student, UCLA Chicano Studies)
Nerve Macaspac (PhD candidate, UCLA Geography)
Sarah Mercurio (MA student, UCLA Urban Planning)
Josh Nelson (MA student, UCLA Architecture)
May Wang (MA student, UCLA Architecture)

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