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"Dream Street" Discussion

“Dream Street” Author to Visit UC Riverside on Oct. 6

Douglas McCulloh and creative writing professor Mike Davis will discuss issues raised about the homebuilding industry.

(October 1, 2009)

Douglas McCullohEnlarge

Douglas McCulloh

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Author Douglas McCulloh, whose book “Dream Street” chronicles the lives and struggles of construction workers and homebuyers in an Ontario development, and Mike Davis, UCR distinguished professor of creative writing, will discuss McCulloh’s book and the issues it raises on Tuesday, Oct. 6, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the University of California, Riverside. The event, “‘Dream Street’ and the Inland Empire’s Ruthless Homebuilding Industry,” will be held in Humanities 1500.

“Dream Street” (Heyday Books, June 2009) documents the development of Dream Street, a neighborhood in Ontario, Calif. McCulloh focuses on the struggles of construction workers who built the houses and first-time homebuyers, many of whom lost their houses to foreclosure when the economy soured in 2008.

McCulloh said he began the book project when he won the right to name a street at a charity event.

“That chance circumstance launched me into an obsessive, multi-year relationship with a 40-acre strawberry field being turned into 134 houses. I spent many hundreds of hours there with a camera and tape recorder,” he said. “Everyone was willing to talk about it – piecework and struggles, construction and sales, dreams and disasters. They were surprised anyone was there to listen. What I found strange was beyond reckoning, a slow-motion smash-up of lowered expectations and even lower wages. ‘It's like falling off a cliff,’ one worker said to me, and I think he was right.”

Davis, author of “City of Quartz,” called “Dream Street” a “disturbing yet moving portrait of lives indentured to that ruthless outdoor sweatshop known as the home construction industry. McCulloh confronts us with the exploitation and downward mobility that manufactures the mirage of suburban affluence.”

McCulloh holds bachelor’s degrees in Renaissance history and sociology of collective behavior from UC Santa Barbara and a Master of Fine Arts in photography and digital media from Claremont Graduate University. His photography has been exhibited in the United States, Europe, China and Mexico. Davis was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1998 and has written more than 20 books, including “Prisoners of the American Dream.” He is doing research on suburban development.

The event is funded by the UC Miguel Contreras Labor Studies Development Fund and an Office of Instructional Development Instructional Innovation and Excellence Grant. It is co-sponsored by the UCR departments of Art and Creative Writing, and Labor Studies, Media and Cultural Studies; the UCR Edward J. Blakely Center for Sustainable Suburban Development and the Public Policy Initiative; and the Inland Valley Labor Action Network.

Representatives from the LIUNA (Laborers’ International Union of North America) Homebuilding Campaign will speak about their efforts to reform the homebuilding industry. The campaign unites workers and homeowners to raise wages, benefits and training for residential construction workers; to ensure that homebuyers have access to affordable and sustainable mortgages; to improve the quality of new homes; and to insist that corporate homebuilders develop communities with the public interest and responsible development practices in mind.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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