Los Angeles Wrestles With Accelerating Gentrification

As Los Angeles' old neighborhoods are scrubbed clean and the city begins to embrace density, gentrification is threatening the way of life for residents in many communities.
August 24, 2006, 3pm PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"Welcome to Gentrification City, where an overheated real estate market is dramatically reshaping neighborhood after neighborhood, where no one -- from Salvadoran immigrants living in tenements to homeowners in affluent coastal neighborhoods -- is being spared by the dramatic changes wrought by a condo-fueled, property-mad economy. Tenants are appalled by rising rents, fearing the day their buildings could be demolished or cleaned out for a new class of buyer. Homeowners who have built up a ridiculous amount of equity have watched even as their communities change before their eyes. The sense of dislocation is everywhere.

For those higher up the economic food chain, the transformation wrought by gentrification can be a heady, if occasionally disorienting, experience. Homes have tripled and even quadrupled in value. Fix-'n'-flip artists are buying up cottages and adding the telltale signs of the comfortable class â€" ornamental grasses on the outside, refinished floors on the inside, earth tones throughout. Low-income neighborhoods long dominated by 99-cent stores, with their discount tube socks and corn flakes from Mexico, are suddenly sporting Zagat-worthy businesses...Those who live in comfort are happy to see Los Angeles behave like a big city â€" with big-city comforts and a steady arrival of new amenities.

For those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, the dislocation is far more precarious. Landlords, developers and even government agencies are pushing tenants out of hard-to-find rental units, sending them to the outer reaches of Los Angeles or even neighboring counties and states. With rents reaching historic highs, the departure of a single roommate can throw a household into disarray, leaving those behind to scramble for a new roommate or another scarce apartment."

A reader on the Practice of New Urbanism listserv writes: "It's interesting to me that this story in Los Angeles now is so much like the story in Boston or New York or Washington or Chicago or Seattle or Portland or San Francisco and probably a few more cities besides. As the story says 20 years ago, as those cities were all gentrifying, Los Angeles was moving the other way."

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Published on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 in LA Weekly
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