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The Pinkberry Effect: Are Our Neighborhoods Changing for the Better?

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An opinion piece in today's LA Times raises the issue of what seems to be the rampant Pinkberry-fication of many of our local neighborhoods, using recent food and retail closings and openings in the popular Larchmont Village as an example of how major-chain development affects the unique vibe of a given area.

Larchmont Village, which is the bustling strip of shops located on Larchmont Boulevard between Beverly Boulevard and 1st Street, is starting to experience the closing of once-stalwart mom-and-pop institutions, like Larchmont Hardware (opened in 1925 and recently shut down), at a more rapid pace, with the vacancies swiftly replaced with outposts of recognizable (and questionably uber-trendy) chains, like the ubiquitious fro-yo mecca Pinkberry. Developer Albert Mizrahi, who owns four buildings on the Boulevard and may be looking to buy more, is quoted in the Times as equating "quality retail" with "quality community."

If Mizrahi is right, then, that where you can spend your bucks in your borough determines the area's appeal, does this mean that chain retail and restaurants are the only merchants able to supply the quality we're looking for? Other areas in Los Angeles are undergoing the same kind of development pains, and many parts of town known for their place in history, like Little Tokyo, for example, are trying to ascertain how they can retain their identity in the face of commercial-space "improvement." Many neighborhoods fight hard to keep the "big-box" or big name chains out, like Glassell Park's battle to keep Home Depot away, but oftentimes landlords, lured by the major-chain's cashflow, drive out small, independent retailers by jacking up the rent higher and higher, thereby making the choice for the neighborhood's residents by removing the choice altogether.