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Home Inclusiveness Dennis Arguelles Interview
Interview with Dennis Arguelles, Los Angeles Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association; Former Director of Programs for Search To Involve Pilipino Americans
Dennis G. Arguelles is currently the Los Angeles Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. He most recently served as the Director of Programs for Search To Involve Pilipino Americans, a social service agency serving the Historic Filipinotown community of Los Angeles and Filipino Americans throughout Los Angeles County. He is the former President and Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), a federation of more than 35 community-based organizations in the greater Los Angeles area. He previously served as the Assistant Director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and is the co-author/editor of numerous essays, articles and texts, including one of the first in-depth studies of poverty in Los Angeles’ Asian communities. In 2007, he was appointed to the City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Review Commission by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and in 2011 he was appointed to the Los Angeles County Consumer Affairs Advisory Commission by Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas. He received his B.A. in Political Science and M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA.
What led you to the preservation field?
Do you think preservation education matters? If so, why?
I don’t think formal education in historic preservation is an absolute requirement to work in the field, but I do think it matters. Ultimately professional and often specialized expertise is needed in the historic preservation process, whether in the areas of research and documentation or the actual declaration and restoration of specific sites. Having a background in the field definitely makes one a valuable asset to the local communities and institutions looking to do the work.
What courses do you recommend for students interested in this field?
I’m a numbers cruncher and pretty hands on person, so for me courses that covered market research, financial analysis, site planning, and other quantitative topics were especially helpful. Of course, historic preservation is about much more than just the numbers, but it’s important to have a rudimentary understanding of them no matter what role you play in bringing a project to fruition.
Do you have a favorite preservation project? What about it made it special?
Do you have advice for novice preservationists?
It’s important to not look a historic preservation in a vacuum. Ultimately, it takes resources to make a preservation project work, so finding the broadest base of supporters, allies, and contributors will always be important. This means finding common ground with folks with different priorities but who would also benefit from the project. In Historic Filipinotown, this has meant working with coalitions ranging from community improvement and public safety groups to researchers and academics to business owners, landlords, developers, and corporate interests and of course, other ethnic and minority communities. It means being flexible and not letting what you believe is “right” become the enemy of what is “best” for the community. Collaboration is key.
The ACHP’s mission is “preserving America’s heritage;” how is your community preserving their heritage?
Los Angeles’ Historic Filipinotown is somewhat unique in that traditional historic preservation models, such as getting structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are not completely adequate for preserving the community’s significance. As a portal for numerous immigrant groups, the neighborhood has been in constant transition, and thus few historic structures exist. Instead, our focus has been to name and label significant intersections, create signage and interpretive stations that discuss the area’s past, and have events and activities that recognize its heritage and legacy.