Sunday, November 20, 2005
I first heard about Chavez Ravine when the NY Times ran a positive review of the Ry Cooder album of the same name. Little did I know that Chavez Ravine is the site of Dodger Stadium or, more accurately, the name of the Mexican village that lies beneath the stadium.
I drive by Dodger Stadium on my way to work every day. It's a few miles from downtown, off Sunset Boulevard. For decades, Chavez Ravine was a self-sufficient Mexican community, until the 1950's when the city marked the area for redevelopment and used the power of eminent domain to push the residents out of their homes. The city tried to entice residents by offering them new digs once the massive housing project, to be called Elysian Park Heights, was completed. The project would include high rise apartment buildings, schools and playgrounds. Some residents resisted, but eventually gave in, some receiving little or no money for their property.
What followed was a protracted battle between city supporters of the project and its opponents, which included corporate interests and anti-commies who saw the project as a socialist scheme. Ultimately, city officials decided that a fast-growing LA needed its own sports team and struck a deal to bring the Brooklyn Dodgers to LA. As Frank Wilkinson, an official in the LA City Housing Authority and a supporter of Elysian Park Heights, said, “We’d spent millions of dollars getting ready for it, and the Dodgers picked it up for just a fraction of that. It was just a tragedy for the people, and from the city it was the most hypocritical thing that could possibly happen.” The construction of Dodger Stadium continued to be a major controversy, with accusations of public bribes and betrayal, but it finally opened in 1962.