Koreatown is already the densest neighborhood in Los Angeles. More people live there, per square mile, than in any other area in the city or county. You have to be Indiana Jones to find a parking spot. And it's about to get even denser.
There are no fewer than 30 new buildings proposed for Koreatown, according to CurbedLA, most of which are between 10 and 30 stories tall. Nearly all will include at least some housing. Not every project will get built, but many will, further burnishing K-town's reputation as the hub of a walkable, transit-oriented Los Angeles.
"It really is the center of the city, in many ways," says Jamie Lee, CEO of Jamison Realty; that's the leasing and brokerage arm of Jamison Properties, the largest developer in Koreatown. "It’s kind of a natural place for more development to flow."
Not only is Koreatown proximate to three major freeways and to downtown, it's also served by both the Red Line and the Purple Line, the latter of which soon will extend to the Westside.
"I’m heartened that that amount of development is coming near transit," says Renee Dake Wilson, vice president of the City Planning Commission, "which is what we hoped for in a city with a huge housing shortage."
The proposed new developments include 3700 Wilshire, a 36-story tower that would bring 506 one- and two-bedroom apartment units and might wipe out a small makeshift park; a pair of towers at 3545 Wilshire, one 32 stories and the other 14 stories, to provide 428 units; and the recently approved Wilshire Galleria development, a 35-story tower that will include about 500 condos and a hotel.
It's likely that an influx of thousands of housing units could hit the market in the next five years or so. Could this new Koreatown be at odds with the Koreatown of today, a millennial-minded and (mostly) affordable enclave known for its oddball bars and secret back rooms?
Some residents of Koreatown, including Grace Yoo, an attorney and longtime community activist, have expressed concern that the new developments will displace current residents, many of whom are low-income and Latino. Koreatown's median income lags behind much of the rest of the city; as of 2008, its median income ranked below that of Boyle Heights and Jefferson Park.
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Unless residents are living in units covered under the city's rent stabilization ordinance, Yoo says, "They will have to move — because even the non–luxury units are going up in price."
Lee disagrees with this characterization. "I don’t think it's displacing existing residents," she says of the incoming development. "It’s more new residents coming into the area."
She adds that developers are simply trying to keep up with demand — and that in the absence of new development, existing residents would be at greater risk of displacement. "We have a severe housing shortage in L.A.," she says.
Correction: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect photo; that photo was of New York's Koreatown.