Gentrification Pushes Artists out of LA's Arts District

The arts district in downtown Los Angeles is transforming its industrial buildings into trendy boutiques, restaurants and hotels. The concern is that gentrification will drive out low-paid artists who can no longer afford to live there.
January 23, 2013, 10am PST | Jessica Hsu
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"It was far more exciting for me to be in a place that wasn't already 'there,' so to speak," said Yassmin Sarmadi, who began building her restaurant Church & State seven years ago. She not only works, but also lives, in the arts district. Of gentrification, she said, "I think it's inevitable. It brings a tear to my eye, but it's also progress." Scott Johnson, an architect who also lives in the art district, appreciates the neighborhood's "roughness most suburbanites would find off-putting" in a time when "we're getting bombarded with fake stuff." Los Angeles's arts district has drawn comparisons to New York's meatpacking district and will likely face the same fate of gentrification from its industrial past, "[b]ut for now, the arts district is in a sweet spot of transition for many," writes Roger Vincent.

"When the arts district loft conversion trend took off in the mid-2000s, landlords realized they could get more rent from tech and design companies than they could from warehouse and manufacturing businesses," says Vincent. He adds, "With so many prosperous newcomers making the neighborhood into an urban frontier with hip amenities, some residents are laboring to keep art in the arts district." Commercial rents in the arts district can top $2 per square foot per month, more than prices paid for nearby high-rises.

"It's already too pricey for the majority of artists," said Daniel Lahoda, owner of Lala Gallery. "We will endure the increases as long as we can because we love the neighborhood so much."

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Published on Saturday, January 19, 2013 in The Los Angeles Times
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