Welcome to Gentrification City 

Teardowns. Evictions. Investment. Rebirth. And the significance of that new gelato stand. The perils and pleasures of gentrification

Wednesday, Aug 23 2006
Comments (1)

Page 2 of 11

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 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. Can you believe there’s a terrific wine bar on Spring Street? It’s practically in Skid Row! Did you see that gelato place on Sunset? Finally, a place I can take my kids! Those who live in comfort are happy to see Los Angeles behave like a big city 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.

Everyone wants to talk about gentrification unless, of course, that conversation is on the record, printable in a newspaper. A shopkeeper on the Eastside did not want to be named as she voiced fears that one day her neighborhood could lose its Mexican-American residents. A contractor, rehabbing a house in South Los Angeles, would not produce a business card after he explained how he had cleaned out a house once occupied by prostitutes and addicts. In other words, the conversation gets uncomfortable once the topic shifts from real estate to class, or race. Yet shouldn’t the neighborhood rejoice that a drug house has disappeared? And why can’t we talk openly about a whole class of people moving out?

Related Stories

  • Following Shark Attack, Should L.A. Pier Fishing Be Banned? 23

    Animal rights group PETA is asking Manhattan Beach officials to make their temporary pier fishing ban permanent. Amen. The temporary ban was enacted following Saturday's shark attack on a swimmer. The shark had been on a fisherman's hook for as many as 40 minutes and was likely agitated as a...
  • Best Live Music in L.A. 7

    Los Angeles has some of the best live music venues in the city. Take these, for example.  But what if one prefers to enjoy bands in the cozier settings of a bar or restaurant?  Here, then, are the 10 best L.A. bars and restaurants with live music.  10. Casey's Irish Pub...
  • Hipster Lakes Battle 9

    Whether you wish to join their ranks or avoid the nuisance, the precise location and behavior of the phenomenon known as "hipster" seems to be a matter of dire importance to all Angelenos. These gentrifying, culture-conscious creatures can be found preying on vintage purses, foraging for craft beers, avoiding basic bitches and...
  • Shark Attack 3

    A swimmer was bitten by a 7- to 8-foot great white shark off Manhattan Beach today, and a stand-up paddleboarder says he captured the creature on video (on the next page) after the attack. The 40-year-old male victim who was in the water with a group of other swimmers near...
  • Silver Lake Murder 4

    A man was fatally shot at a Silver Lake Del Taco today, police said. The attack on a busy stretch of Sunset Boulevard near Hollywood was reported at 10:55 a.m., Los Angeles Police Department Det. Meghan Aguilar told us. The killer was described as a teenage boy, not older than...

And that, in a nutshell, is the most maddening thing about gentrification its very duality, the way in which it simultaneously delivers pleasure and pain, miraculous benefits and terrible consequences. As middle-income residents move in, neighborhoods that once heard low-flying helicopters and automatic-weapons fire have found a greater measure of peace. Working-class families who scraped together the money to buy homes in the mid-1990s have happily cashed out, making hundreds of thousands of dollars en route to a five-bedroom home in Fontana, Las Vegas or Phoenix. Those who stay behind, however, frequently find themselves in a neighborhood they don’t recognize. And those who rent in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood discover that they gained physical security while losing economic security, with rents rising steadily and the inventory of reasonably priced homes shrinking.

“If you’re a long-term tenant with low rent, you are walking around these days with a bullseye target on your back,” said Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, which has been pushing a legislative package to counter mass evictions. “Because that landlord is going to do whatever they can to get you out and raise the rent.”

The Anxiety

The nine architects, academics and land-use experts who serve on the L.A. City Planning Commission got one glimpse of the out-of-control real estate market last March, sitting patiently through a three-hour study session devoted to the balance between jobs and housing. The marble-lined chambers were packed with lobbyists and land-use lawyers, many of them representing real estate developers like Trammell Crow and the Kor Group. But on that day, a small band of critics also emerged, stepping forward to issue dire warnings about a city hellbent on creating new upscale housing.

One speaker warned that loft and condo dwellers too often move in with a sense of entitlement, then try to push out anyone who is loud, messy or beneath their aesthetic standards. A second accused the city of engaging in “spot zoning,” putting high-density condo projects in places where they would not normally be permitted. A third, an angry woman from the Westside, voiced her fear of condo developers like Miami-based Lennar Corp., then implored the commission to protect her “pristine” section of West Los Angeles.

The thing is, these critics weren’t from homeowner associations looking to block high-density housing, or tenants’ rights groups trying to protect renters. They were the owners of industrial property, manufacturing businesses that need vast amounts of space, like cold-storage companies and food-processing plants. Like Giannotti, they weighed the prospect of being priced out or pushed out, as the city decides whether to turn manufacturing zones in Hollywood, West L.A. and downtown Los Angeles into the latest loft hub.

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Scenes from the O.J. Simpson Circus
    In the months after O.J. Simpson's arrest for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in the summer of 1994, the drama inside the courthouse riveted the masses. But almost as much mayhem was happening right outside the building, as well as near Simpson's Brentwood home. Dissenters and supporters alike showed up to showcase art inspired by the case, sell merchandise, and either rally for, or against, the accused football star. Here is a gallery of the madness, captured by a photojournalist who saw it all. All photos by Ted Soqui.