Since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began construction on the Crenshaw Line in January 2014, the highest rate of increase in home values citywide has occurred in areas of South L.A. immediately adjacent to the light-rail line, according to data compiled by the real estate website Trulia.
Between January 2014 and April of this year, three of the fastest-rising home values anywhere in L.A. were in Baldwin Village/Crenshaw (No. 1), Leimert Park (No. 3) and Hyde Park (No. 4). What do all three neighborhoods have in common? They're historically African-American, historically in the lower 20 percent of average income brackets and, perhaps most important, will be home to stations on the Crenshaw/LAX Line when it opens in two years.
The Crenshaw Line will extend south from the Metro Exposition Line at Crenshaw and Exposition boulevards and connect with the Green Line in the South Bay. According to a map on the Metro website, the first, second and third stops on the Crenshaw Line will be located in Baldwin Village/Crenshaw, Leimert Park and Hyde Park.
In those three neighborhoods, near Crenshaw Boulevard south of I-10, median home values have exceeded the 29.5 percent growth that Los Angeles County as a whole has seen during the same period.
Residents and city officials say they are concerned the rise in home values will lead to displacement of lower-income black residents from the area.
Damien Goodmon, founder of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, a nonprofit that has been critical of the Crenshaw Rail Project and the revitalization process on Crenshaw Boulevard, says the new data on home values in the area is consistent with what he and other community activists have been seeing. "This area is being made completely unaffordable to the families of longtime residents who seek to return," says Goodmon, who lives in Leimert Park. "The speculative real estate market has run amok."
Goodmon adds: "The greatest concern is the drastic increase in renter prices. Renters are extremely vulnerable."
Numerous studies have established that the construction of subways, light rail, buses and other forms of urban mass transit are the largest and most important factors in the gentrification of low-income neighborhoods. The Federal Reserve of San Francisco published a study in 2015 suggesting that a substantial investment in transit — such as the $2 billion Crenshaw Line — draws more privileged and affluent people to the area, attracted by the likely prospect of long-term investment and upgrades.
Economist and urbanist Richard Florida writes:
Of course, the real issue here is not mass transit per se but the scarcity of it. Such aggressive clustering around subway and rail stops is a function of out-of-control congestion and not nearly enough transit infrastructure to compensate and serve all who need it. The result is the extreme bidding up of scarce locations near transit, especially in dense, congested cities and metro areas.
The Crenshaw District of South L.A. continues to have one of the highest concentrations of African-Americans in the city — 71 percent in Baldwin Village/Crenshaw, 79 percent in Leimert Park, 66 percent in Hyde Park — according to mapping data from the L.A. Times. The data show that the white population in all of them does not exceed 3 percent, though residents say the overwhelming majority of new arrivals are white.
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Author and activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a resident of the Crenshaw District who says the sharp rise in property values and rents could price out many younger, lower-income African-Americans.
"Gentrification is a major issue," Hutchinson wrote in an email. "That is, whites not only buying in these neighborhoods and sharply raising home values to the possible detriment of blacks but also changing the cultural and social ambiance of the area."
"We've heard widespread concern from our constituents about displacement," says Joanne Kim, an aide to Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, whose district includes Hyde Park. "We've heard widespread concern as to what extent African-Americans get to stay and thrive in the city of L.A."
The urban revitalization of the Crenshaw District took another important step this week when the Los Angeles City Planning Commission voted unanimously to back a massive, upscale expansion of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall, adding more than 900 market-rate apartments and condominiums. The shopping center is located alongside the Baldwin Village/Crenshaw Metro station that's under construction.