By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Yet while Rosendahl spelled out the number of rent-controlled units that have disappeared from his district, he had no idea how many new homes and apartments have been built since 2001, let alone the number of affordable units. In fact, none of the projects being funded by the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund have gone into Rosendahl’s coastal district.
Then there are Rosendahl’s other housing policies. Before he won his council seat last year, he campaigned aggressively against Playa Vista, the biggest initiative to bring new housing to the Westside, which added 5,800 units, with 10 percent of the condos and 15 percent of the apartments priced affordably.
Housing advocates were nevertheless cheered by Rosendahl’s proposal, saying they hope that it will spur council members in other sections of the city — West Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Studio City — to propose their own temporary ban on condo conversions. Rosendahl’s colleagues have responded much more coolly to the concept, raising questions about whether they will even allow it to come up for a vote.
“I understand the passions of all this,” said Councilman Jack Weiss, a former prosecutor who lives in Bel Air. “But underlying all this are iron laws of economics. And it sure would be helpful to see him use some nonpartisan, non-aligned, hard-nosed economists before the city starts regulating basic economic activity.”
Economics are only one aspect of gentrification, however. Swelling real estate prices also have left a mark on the region's culture, consumer centers and architecture. In Silver Lake, Highland Park, even Skid Row, a sudden surge in economic investment has left behind art galleries and boutiques, fine dining and refurbished homes. In even pricier communities, soaring real estate values can cause entire blocks to be leveled, replaced by homes that are far more extravagant than what was there before. And that phenomenon has its own psychological toll.
Manhattan Beach’s?Fading Memories
Middle-class and even wealthy communities are not immune to gentrification, although residents rarely call it by that name. In Manhattan Beach, a bedroom community of 33,000 that has reached an apex of high property values and disposable income, middle-class families are fast being replaced by the rich and even the super-rich — high-powered attorneys, entertainment-industry types, professional athletes. It’s no accident that the town’s old Metlox pottery plant, once a contaminated brownfield, is now the site of a 38-room boutique hotel and day spa.
With wealthy buyers craving space, proximity to the surf and, if possible, a view of the ocean, developers in Manhattan Beach have been willing to spend more than a million dollars to buy up bungalows and ’60s ranch houses. In just five years, from 2001 to 2005, developers systematically eradicated 881 residences — the vast majority of them single-family residences — and built 928 new homes and condos in their place. The new single-family home of Manhattan Beach is at least twice as big as the one it replaced, covers the entire lot, and will very likely have an entryway up to 20 feet high. On the hill streets, the hulking new structures can measure as much as 10,000, even 20,000 square feet in size, towering over the few postwar houses that remain.
Homeowners who bought 25 or 30 years ago in the beach cities — shorthand for the section of Los Angeles County that takes in Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo — now reside on land worth 10 or even 20 times the amount they originally paid. On the Multiple Listing Service, a Web marketplace for Los Angeles real estate, the least expensive house advertised in Manhattan Beach is currently listed for $1.4 million — and will very likely be razed and replaced. The most expensive one on the site is just under $4 million, and resembles the luxury homes that serve as the backdrop to the pampered teens of MTV’s reality show, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County.
“People who bought their homes, like my parents did in Hermosa Beach, for less than $100,000, that house is now worth millions and millions of dollars,” said Garrison Frost, who spent eight years writing for The Beach Reporter, a weekly newspaper. “And everyone who’s sitting on millions and millions of dollars thinks that they earned it somehow, and that they’re special.”
Frost, who now writes the South Bay arts blog The Aesthetic, grew up in the old Manhattan Beach, the one where children of the region’s aerospace workers bragged about their parents’ security clearances. By the time he married, Frost knew that if he ever wanted to buy a home, he would have to move inland, away from the water he had grown up near as a child. In 2003, he did just that, buying a place in Lomita. “One thing about the beach cities: It drives out its children,” he said. “I’m a classic example.”
From the inflated home values to the appearance of Humvees on city streets, Manhattan Beach’s burgeoning wealth has proved disorienting to 73-year-old Frank Matranga, who purchased a home in the coastal community for $27,500 in 1970 and never left. Matranga, a ceramics artist, reminisced about his community over the hammering and sawing of the construction of a new home next door. And though he talked gamely about adapting to change, Matranga clearly misses the smaller houses, the kinds that had front- and backyards. Even worse, he is starting to have trouble picturing the old city.
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