Not long ago, Curbed L.A., the real estate site, published a map featuring L.A.’s “tallest towers” — the kind of thing that Curbed likes to hold up as hard proof that our city is changing for the better. That’s all nonsense, of course. In fact, the majority of the luxury skyscrapers cited by Curbed stand in, or are proposed for, Los Angeles’ most gentrified neighborhoods. Coincidence?
In an August 24 piece titled “Mapping the rise of L.A.’s tallest towers,” Curbed unveiled a list of 26 high-rises that have popped up in, or are planned for, Koreatown, Hollywood, the Westside and downtown and its environs. Taking a look at the list, we noticed these troubling facts:
- During a time when Angelenos are battling through an unforgiving, three-way crisis of unaffordable housing, destabilizing gentrification and life-altering homelessness, each and every tower is a luxury complex with upscale housing and/or a fancy hotel. The good times are coming to only those who can afford it;
- Three of the residential towers — a 52-story skyscraper, a 38-story high-rise and a 32-story and 35-story condo complex — are dangerously close to freeways. The kind of freeway-adjacent housing (known as “black lung lofts”) that USC researchers and other scientists have found to be a public health hazard for children, seniors, the infirm and pregnant women;
- Fifteen of the 26 luxury skyscrapers are located in downtown, which is now L.A.’s most gentrified community, according to the city’s Index of Neighborhood Change. To answer our above question, we don’t think that’s a coincidence at all. (The neighborhood change index was created by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Los Angeles Innovation Team (i-team). It measures gentrification citywide with categories that range from “very high change” to “high change” to “medium change” to “low change” to “no/minimal/reverse change”);
- Three luxury skyscrapers are located in “high” gentrified areas, according to the city’s data. Which means remaining lower-income residents in those communities will probably have to brace for another mean wave of gentrification;
- The rest of the skyscrapers, except for a high-rise in Brentwood, are located in “medium” or “low” gentrified neighborhoods, but are only blocks away from “very high” or “high” gentrified communities. Those luxury towers, in other words, will most probably spread the gentrification menace into neighborhoods that are just starting to feel the mean pinch of rising rents and increasing numbers of evictions.
As one can see, L.A.’s tallest towers of gentrification are no reason for celebration. But Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council, led by president Herb Wesson, keep approving them, regardless of what longtime residents and neighborhood activists say.
As Garcetti boasted to the New York Times in April, revealing his distaste for L.A.’s zoning rules that safeguard neighborhoods from runaway luxury development, “We’re writing the rules as we go… We need to get with it.” For those of us who aren’t developers seeking special favors from City Hall, it was an alarming confession.
Above Photo: The L.A. Index of Neighborhood Change map of gentrification