Gentrification Is Failing in Los Angeles

Compared to other more traditional cities, such as New York or Chicago, multi-polar L.A.’s gentrification reflects less organic development than massive real estate speculation, supported by public dollars and policy. In a new report on gentrification nationwide co-authored with Karla Lopez del Rio and Chapman University researcher Kenneth Murphy, released by the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, barely 1 percent of the city of Los Angeles has gentrified, mostly around downtown.

L.A. gentrification has been driven by changes in zoning, public infrastructure including the rail system, laws promoting density and support for facilities such as the Convention Center as well as Staples Center. The city has lured large developers in some key areas, including Hollywood. The L.A. area ranked as the No. 1 choice in North America in a survey of global commercial real estate investors, who had a combined total of $1.7 trillion to spend on property in 2017.

Yet this investment has not created the kind of job growth we see in Chicago’s Loop, Manhattan or San Francisco. There may be more life and housing in downtown, but downtown’s share of total employment so far has not grown since 2010.

Neither downtown revitalization nor policies to boost density have made the city richer. New sports stadia have created many lower-wage jobs, but overall L.A. has lost jobs that pay more than $75,000 annually over the past decade. It may have enriched some luxury high-rise developers, but gentrification has not improved life for most. From 2000-12, median rents increased by 25 percent in L.A. County while income declined 9 percent.

. . . Other city-sanctioned high-density developments have had unintended results. Efforts to densify areas around transit stops have boosted prices and rents, but have replaced mostly poor transit riders, who are now compelled to purchase cars, with affluent residents who already drive, notes a recent University of California study.

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