All Posts By

Caroline Orija

All you can eat.

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There was a time when I could purchase groceries and it could be a mindless effort, now that has changed. Now many thoughts run through my head for example, will I consume this before it expires, is this company that treats their employees with dignity , and am I buying local.


I will begin with how I buy my produce. I always knew it was from their farm way over there to my table here. I never thought about where my produce was from or and what policies are in place so I can have strawberries year round. This changed last year when I learned about my carbon footprint. The stores I normally patronize are Hollywood Farmers market, Whole Foods and Costco, Costco, which is now the leader in organic groceries. I always tried to purchase organic products because of the quality and provisos the manufactures must maintain. When a farm is USDA certified organic, which means they are required to do more than not use sprays or chemicals. The rules are far reaching, a farmer must maintain and better soil, protect neighboring waterways, and animal habitats. After learning my carbon footprint I was able to better research the food I consume, I also learn the story of the production behind it. Everything from where is transported from to whom is picking it. I am now able to make better decisions.


Recently for our Urban Infrastructure class we read about neoliberalism, NAFTA and growing produce in Mexico. Looking at Mexico’s farming history juxtapose with neoliberal policies that were adopted, tells the story of the demand for food and the crippling effect on farming communities. One aspect of these policies is equal access to water. Neoliberal polices have played a role in dismantling tradition farming methods by expanding globalization and free trade. These policies also facilitated market-driven economy. Meaning, as demand grew in newly open markets credit to NAFTA, wages began to fall, and no real change to the local economies, revenue not trickling down. Creating a race to the bottom culture. Not only is this taxing on the residents but also the land. The on the ground reality is that the new farming techniques and competition puts more strain on the laborer, soil, and growing demand for water. As stated in La Via Campesina… “Tracing the roots of the recurring agricultural crisis back to over four decades of neoliberal policies that had fostered a market-based, technologically-driven, environmentally devastating global food system.” Makes me question…do I really need strawberries year round?” Farming demands and water conflicts are nothing new and goes on in happen in California and Mexico is no different. There is always a way to find fresh water for hydraulic fracturing and growing produce, but drinking water for residents is not always a top priority.



I am writing this post as Ramadan is coming to an end. For Muslims around the world Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, prayer, charity, and reflection. One practice during Ramadan is giving food to those that do not have as much. Fasting is common practice in many religions around the world. Fasting is done to express ones commitment to which they serve. What if we put religion aside and fasted for the benefit of the planet? Or conserve to help those without as much. It has been said if we stop eating meat; we can save so many gallons of water. Or…do you know how many gallons of water it takes for 1 hamburger patty? I am not saying we all go vegan or vegetarian. I am advocating conservation. In America we produce plenty and still have food insecurity, something is not connecting.

During World War I, US Food Administrator Herbert Hoover championed a campaign that tasked US citizens to cut back on meat, fat, sugar and wheat and to participate in Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays. This campaign was done with conservation in mind, stating food is needed overseas. Citizens, restaurants and hotels made conservation efforts. Long to short in America, we can conserve it is in our history. From the readings it is clear that in the united States alone we produce plenty, but do we really need to produce and export that much, of course not. We are the consumers we have buying power to change. What I do to cut down on my meat consumption is have a vegan days twice a week.









Hoover Food Campaign (This is a campaign I would not mind bring back)



Prison Food (With all that we produce export and waste, we can do better than this)



Americans Try Peruvian Food For The First Time (Just because I like to compare popular American food to others)


California Drought and Meat consumption.


Currently boycotting Driscoll berries.


Gimmie Shelter

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“If I don’t get some shelter

Lord, I’m going to fade away “

The Rolling Stones. “Gimmie Shelter” Let It Bleed Decca Records, 1969 Album


When Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote Gimmie Shelter I do not think they where thinking about Southern California’s housing issues. But the lyrics I posted are fitting to the importance of having basic shelter. Somewhere stable to eat, clean, and sleep, but housing insecurity is more than that. Many employers will not hire a homeless people or people without a residential address. Some employers have a stigma to hiring someone homeless they assume hiring homeless people are a risk. Potential employers worry if they will be able to shower or consistently show up to work. Another set back to no having permanent shelter is without a permanent physical residential address cannot open a bank account. Housing insecurities can be crippling to individuals that are have a rough time, and makes it next to impossible to improve ones condition. Without shelter one just might fade away as outlined in Rise of the Renter Nation.


I grew up in Los Angeles., my family and I have lived in South Central LA, City of LA (Filipinotown) Hollywood and Glendale. The major factor in looking for housing was how safe is the neighborhood. Many building were rent controlled and had long waiting list. In the 1990s there would be  a new  housing development,  maybe once every three years, which is in stark contrast to what is going on today. These developments are going up with little to no affordable housing allotment. According to the Housing Authority of Los Angeles website they manage 14 properties about 6500 units , although the population in the city of Los Angeles is 3.93 million. These figures speak to the real scarcity of affordable housing units. As stated in Rise of the Corporate Landlord “intensifying housing cost-burden for renters and surging post-crisis rental demand, which together have brought chronic housing insecurity for low-income renters to crisis proportions.” There are ordinances stating that certain developments have to have a percentage of affordable units. Developers have managed to get around the rule by modifying their plans and have challenging the rule in court. The current mayor Eric Garcetti has made housing one of his priorities addressed in his pLAn as out lined on the website ‘The availability and affordability of housing are among the most visible and important economic issues facing Angelenos today. They’re also critical elements to a strong and thriving Los Angeles. The pLAn and its strategic initiatives aim to ease housing costs, lower utility bills, promote appropriate development, encourage housing around transit hubs, and increase the production and preservation of affordable housing”


These days I do not recognize LA anymore. Small multi unit apartments have been demolished and replaced with brand new apartments or condos that line up and down Sunset and Hollywood Blvd. The city has lost some of its character. Do I say Gentrification? Gentrification is not only about who is moving in, but who is being priced out.


In 1970 the publisher of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, coined the term “Manhattanization” his name is Bruce B. Brugmann. I say this is what is going on in Los Angeles a Manhattanization. What Brugmann was naming is the “vertical urbanism, where city serves as a bedroom for a dominant urban core that is chock-full of cultural attractions. Density is a premium value in a successfully Manhattanized city, producing economies of scale, extraordinary concentrations of skills and an entertaining street scene. Human activities are more important than sunlight, nature or individual privacy.”

An example is Downtown LA; Downtown L.A., which used to be dead after 6 pm, is now a bustling hub for entertainment, sports, dining and housing. In Downtown LA many abandoned high-rise office building have been turned into polished lofts for rent and sale for example the Pacific Electric Loft apartments. I will add my definition to Manhattanization; where cities not just Los Angeles, are not just building high, they are building and pricing higher. Today when I drive through any city all I see are multi story apartment buildings. Brand new and stunning, but only if you can afford it. Nothing reflects the disparity between the new and old downtown like the stimulating L.A. Live district and it is aging neighbor, Pico Union district, which could use some attention.  This  begs me to ask building for whom? And many of these new developments are under occupied, and this does not stop new plans from construction.

Many of these housing issues can only be solved with the input of non-profit grassroots organizations. This is not an issue throwing money at can solve.



BTW: Many of the reading brought out a range of emotions.







I just make amends

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Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a [House]?
My friends all [have houses], I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a [House] ? Janis Joplin


I just wanted to share a radio interview with a home builder in Echo Park.

The builders thoughts on gentrification I thought were most convenient.


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What stands out to me primarily is that there is still a need for Affirmative Action programs in todays “post racial society”. Judging by the recent decisions from the majority of the Supreme Court justice’s is that racism and discriminatory practices are over. Their opinions are expressed through their recent decisions up holding Affirmative Action bans and removing a key provision in the Voting Rights Act designed to prevent racial discrimination in certain voting laws. Hearing the co-directors of the Black Workers center compels my argument. Such a small goal of 10% Black representation in Los Angeles construction projects would have a major ripple effect in our communities. Some people like to make negative statements about affirmative action programs. I would like to remind some of the cynics that affirmative action just gets you through the door or glass celling, it is skills and talent that keeps the job. For real sustainability there has to be equality.  Increasing economic growth has always been a conduit to improving the living conditions of lower socioeconomic communities. When a group has to constantly stop and fight for representation, it takes away from the growth of that group.  In underrepresented communities sustainability matters are not on the forefront; instead, getting and maintaining livable wage are. The BWC focus is not on Green jobs, just a job and a good paying job.  It is a challenge to sustainability when people have to keep trying to level the playing field.

The readings and reader reminded of how far the United States has come and how much further the US still needs to go. Access to capital (jobs, loans, home ownership) is great having financial education is better. Knowing what is in all that fine print is where the savings and danger lurks. Lack or limited financial education is a costly shortcoming. I would like to see myself as financial educator. I spent a great deal of time working in and around financial industry. I began in retail this where and this is where I was introduced to credit cards. I who used the and how much people charged. When working in retail, no one walks in wanting a credit card, however this is something that is offered and entice to shoppers. This is where I learned   how easy it is to get into debt. When I worked in real estate during the high times (not a drug reference), I saw how mortgage bankers, realtors, and lenders would pedal home ownership to anyone with a pulse. When it came to subprime home loans there is no redlining, everyone got the same crappy loan with a prepayment penalty and a balloon payment at the end of the loan.

Here was the process

buy a house/ 1st mortgage +home equity line-àrefinance in 6 months with prepayment penalty= new home loan 2x the mortgage payment.

The ability to buy a home is sold as the American Dream and I see it is a path to financial freedom, when done right. My years in retail, real estate and banking I learned that non-secured debt does not discriminate and is a hindrance to financial freedom. I also saw the need for community based banking. This is available to the mega rich. For the mega rich they do often have accounts at a private bank (Example: First Republic Bank) “alternative institutions” where specialized financing regularly happens for luxury items such as a private jet. Why not have the same institution on a smaller scale. For instance, in areas that has a large immigrant community. Often times do not have access to traditional banking methods. Meaning no bank account just the ability to cash a check.

My ideal immigrant community based bank

  • Not FDIC back (meaning no Patriot Act regulations/No ICE snitching)
  • Micro/Low or No interest Leading
  • Community based board of Directors/Trustees
  • Financial Education
  • Promotes Local Businesses
  • Low fee remittance

My financial role model is Chilean activist who goes by the name Papas Fritas. Francisco Tapia, known as Francisco “Papas Fritas,”allegedly” burned $500 million worth of debt papers from the private Universidad del Mar in Chile.