The editors at the New York Times found space this weekend for three substantial pieces out of the Los Angeles bureau. There's something of an unintended theme of renewal to the stories. The one I noticed first, by Jennifer Medina, observes a delicate balance in the community as Boyle Heights lurches into gentrification (by any name) across the river from Downtown on LA's Eastside. Writes Medina: "The transition has provided a jolt of energy and a transfusion of money, but it has also created friction with working-class residents here. And tensions over just whom this neighborhood belongs to are a clear sign that Latinos have come of age in Los Angeles, where they are expected to become the majority this year. The changes highlight strong class divisions that continue -- or are even worsened -- among immigrants."
It's the kind of overview that is a bit easier to do when you are from out of town and not required to cover the blow-by-blow of the transformation for a local audience. Read more here. There's an online photo gallery by Monica Almeida. She also shot the art for bureau chief Adam Nagourney's visit to the under-renovation Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Second Act for the Temple of the Stars, the Times calls the story. Excerpt:
Over the last 80 years, the Wilshire Boulevard Temple has become a monument to neglect, its handsome murals cracked, the gold-painted dome blackened by soot, the sanctuary dark and grim. A foot-long chunk of plaster crashed to the ground one night.
The congregation, too, has faded; while still vibrant and active, it has grown older, showing no signs of growth. This once proud symbol of religious life in Los Angeles seemed on the brink of becoming a victim of the steady ethnic churn of the city, as its neighborhood grew increasingly Korean and Hispanic and Jews moved to the west side.
But faced with the threat of extinction that has forced synagogues in other parts of the country to close or merge, Wilshire has responded with force: a $150 million program to restore the synagogue to its former grandeur and, in fact, make it even grander — extending the campus to fill a whole block and building a school and a social services center for the community. In the process, the synagogue is looking to reclaim its prominence in the civic order here.
It is by any measure a costly gamble — Jewish leaders said the $150 million is among the highest amounts ever spent on a synagogue renovation. And the renovation is in some ways jarring, coming at a moment when cuts in education and social services have rocked this state and taking place in a community that has at times been criticized for being short on philanthropy.
Notice a certain similarity in tone in the copy desk's headline for Nagourney's check-in with Gov. Jerry Brown? Brown Cheered in Second Act, at Least So Far, is the hed.
Mr. Brown — who at 75 is the oldest governor in the nation and about to become the longest-serving governor in the history of California — is enjoying a degree of success and authority he and his opponents could scarcely have imagined when he returned to Sacramento to begin a second tour as governor in 2010.
The state’s budget problems are largely resolved, at least for the short term. Mr. Brown is the dominant figure in Sacramento, strengthened by overwhelming Democratic control of the Legislature and the decline of the Republican Party. He has pushed through major initiatives on education financing and prison reorganization. Even Republicans say his re-election next year seems considerably more than likely.
“Some people were ridiculing California, and some were calling it a failed state,” Mr. Brown, a Democrat, said in an interview. “The unemployment came down from 12.2 to 8.5. Real estate is rebounding. There’s a lot of confidence out there. That’s what happened.”
But still, Nagourney notes, Brown has "his share of problems." Overcrowded prisons, employee pension liabilities, the politics of water, and the dysfunctional government and tax structure. Former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gives Brown a solid B. Maybe a B-plus. “He’s done a good job — he doesn’t want to be great,” said Villaraigosa. "He wants to be solid. And he’s been solid.”
Cropped photo at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights by Monica Almeida/New York Times