Will New Train Lines Bring Gentrification to Van Nuys?

Van Nuys BoulevardEXPAND
Van Nuys Boulevard
Gene Maddaus

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced its new transit plan on Friday, and the big winner is the San Fernando Valley. The spending plan includes a rail tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass, connecting the Valley to the Westside, plus a new transit line along Van Nuys Boulevard, all the way up to Sylmar.

That raises a serious question: Is Van Nuys about to gentrify? Should you be looking at houses in Van Nuys right now, before it's all gobbled up by investors?

OK, maybe it's a little early. First, the MTA has to convince two-thirds of the electorate to support a new half-cent sales tax in November. Second, they haven't even figured out officially if the line will be a bus rapid transit or a train, which does make a difference. (Everybody wants it to be a train.) Third, you'll probably want to know where the stations are going to be before you buy anything. And fourth, even if everything goes right, it'll be 2027 before the line opens.

But consider this. The Crenshaw area is already seeing skyrocketing housing prices, and its train isn't set to open until 2019, or maybe 2020. Van Nuys is only seven years behind that.

And once the Sepulveda Pass project opens, perhaps by 2033, then it will be extremely easy to get from Van Nuys to the Westside.

"Think what that would do to values in Van Nuys," says L.A. Councilman Paul Krekorian. "If you could take a 15-minute train ride and get from Van Nuys to UCLA ... it’s a no-brainer."

Van Nuys is about 60 percent Latino, and almost three quarters of the households rent their homes. Van Nuys Boulevard has a lot of pawn shops, cellphone stores and check-cashing businesses.

While real estate prices in the rest of L.A. have shot up dramatically in recent years, in the Valley prices are only now reaching their 2007 peak, says Syd Leibovitch, owner of Rodeo Realty, the Valley's biggest real estate firm. In large part, he says, that's because the 405 commute is worse than ever.

"It's getting so hard to get down there," he says. "Where it was a half-hour drive five years ago, it’s closer to an hour now."

A new transit line would change prices dramatically, he says.

"If they drill a tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass, I think the whole Valley would go up," Leibovitch says. "It would be a great thing."

Empty commercial space on Van Nuys BoulevardEXPAND
Empty commercial space on Van Nuys Boulevard
Gene Maddaus

Jim Link, CEO of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors, said he hadn't yet had a chance to study the new lines but concurred that transit is generally good for home prices. He said the Orange Line bus rapid transit route has already boosted values in Warner Center.

"I'm for the train," said Wendy Cox, manager of the Studio City office of Rodeo Realty. "Everybody's building condos. I would hate to think what the traffic is gonna be if they don't build a transit line."

And if Van Nuys gets too expensive, there's always Panorama City and Pacoima.

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