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A place of Latino pride and heritage

April 02, 2006|Helene Lesel | Special to The Times

Situated just east of downtown, across the Los Angeles River, is the century-old community of Lincoln Heights. Latino pride clearly resonates -- from the symbolic liberty bell of Mexico on display to the bustling businesses serving residents.


As residents moved in and started building homes about 100 years ago, the area evolved as one of the first suburbs east of downtown Los Angeles. The community of about 8 square miles known as East Los Angeles was renamed Lincoln Heights on March 17, 1917, by a unanimous vote of its 1,000 residents.


What it's about

Today, Lincoln Heights is more than 76% Latino, according to the 2000 U.S. census. Latino heritage and preservation for future generations are community priorities. A handsome sculpture garden honoring Mexican historical figures graces the local park, and the Cultural Center for Art and Education, a public nonprofit, offers local youth a variety of artistic activities.

Anchoring the western edge of Lincoln Park, El Parque de Mexico features an array of life-like bronze figures honoring significant heroes of Mexico's past. Each display describes, in both Spanish and English, the individual's contribution to history.

Atop a huge concrete base, the life-sized bronze of the champion of farmers' rights in Mexico, Emiliano Zapata, astride a horse, provides an impressive entry to the park. An exact replica of the bell rung to mark Mexico's independence graces the entry arch to the adjoining sculpture courtyard.

Lincoln Park is also home to Plaza de la Raza (Plaza of the People), a multi-disciplinary cultural arts center serving Latinos in Los Angeles. Founded more than 33 years ago, the plaza offers year-round programs involving 500 to 600 students weekly. A full curriculum in theater, dance, music and arts is offered. The plaza, painted in vivid hues in a colorful courtyard setting, is circled by olive trees and offers a view of the lake.

The vast lake is stocked with trout, bass and catfish and is a hook for local fishing enthusiasts, including the youth fishing club (ages 8-18). Dozens of ducks and geese glide on the lake.

"I love coming out here and feeding the birds," said Jorge Valdez, an 18-year resident. Tossing bits of tortilla to the ducks, Valdez notes, "the local bakery down the road offers free dayold tortillas just for bird feeding." The 180-acre park also has a senior center, family picnic areas, tennis courts and baseball fields.


Insiders' view

Rudy Martinez, a second-generation resident raised in Lincoln Heights, takes great pride in his community. After graduating from Lincoln High School in the late 1960s, he worked as a Lincoln Heights firefighter for 29 years. "People care about this neighborhood and still give a friendly wave," Martinez said. Now a fire inspector in the same area, Martinez is gratified to see new construction and renovation taking place.

"We have some of the oldest homes in Los Angeles, complete with old-fashioned square nails from the early 1900s," Martinez said. "It's great to see these properties being renovated and preserved."


Housing stock

Residences range from 1890s-era homes to newer hillside houses with dramatic views. Century 21 Realtor Angelina Robinson said that area prices have been rising rapidly, especially with the notable improvement of the neighborhood in the last few years. With lower prices than much of the city, Lincoln Heights offers a chance for first-time buyers to step into homeownership without the long commute to downtown Los Angeles.

A two-bedroom, one-bath cottage built in 1908 with 894 square feet is listed for $375,000, the lowest price in the neighborhood. The priciest listing, at $450,000, is a two-bedroom, one-bath cottage with 840 square feet in a secluded hillside location. In addition to the five single-family listings, new condominium homes are being constructed along 26th Avenue, close to where the 110 and 5 freeways connect.


Report card

Several elementary schools serve the area; Gates, which scored 666 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2005 Academic Performance Index; Glen Alta, 717; Hillside, 628; and Griffin, 727. Nightingale Middle school scored 617; El Sereno Middle School scored 604. Lincoln High School reached 586.


Historical values

Residential resales:

Year...Median Price







Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; California Department of Education,; Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation,

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