Coalition to Preserve LA Westlake

Will City Commission Approve a Luxury Tower for Gentrifying Westlake?

In Central L.A., Downtown, Gentrification, News by Patrick Range McDonald

On Thursday, the City Planning Commission will consider the approval of a 41-story luxury skyscraper in Westlake — one of L.A.’s most gentrified neighborhoods, according to the city’s Index of Neighborhood Change. Known as “Lake on Wilshire,” the proposed tower sits just east of MacArthur Park.

At 1930 Wilshire Boulevard, the upscale mega-project would be yet another luxury development proposed for Westlake, a heavily Latino neighborhood that’s the third most gentrified community in L.A., according to city data. Longtime residents are also facing “very high” displacement pressure, according to the city’s Index of Displacement Pressure. Downtown’s luxury skyscraper boom has been steadily moving eastward into Westlake, causing an unfolding gentrification-and-displacement crisis there.

The proposed skyscraper is located in City Council District 1, represented by Gil Cedillo. The Walter and Aeshea Jayasinghe Family Trust is the developer, which is seeking a spot-zoning change in the form of a General Plan amendment. The City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti must sign off.

Following a technique long used by developers to win City Hall favors, Walter Jayasinghe, a doctor who’s president and CEO of the Los Angeles Medical Center, has routinely shelled out campaign contributions and other money to L.A. politicians — $5,350 between 2000 and 2016.

In 2015, Jayasinghe gave $750 to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s officeholder account, a kind of slush fund that city politicians use for travel, dining and other expenses. The doctor and his wife, Aeshea, also gave $1,400 in campaign contributions to Cedillo.

In 2016, Walter Jayasinghe doled out a $700 campaign contribution to Council member Curren Price and a $700 check to Council member Jose Huizar’s officeholder account. Huizar and Price are members of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which recommends to the City Council whether or not to approve a project.

Westlake residents and community activists Manny and Gustavo Flores, brothers who founded Westlake Advocacy, say that luxury towers such as the Lake on Wilshire are only exacerbating an affordable housing crisis in their neighborhood.

“Apartment rents are increasing rapidly due to luxury housing buildings such as the Wilshire Valencia and other factors,” the Flores brother recently explained to the Coalition to Preserve L.A., “and the state law known as the Ellis Act is used as a weapon by developers to wipe out affordable housing in Westlake. All of it leaves us with nothing but a bitter experience.”

And without a home.

Want to be heard on this issue? Contact Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson.

Above Photo: Lake on Wilshire from L.A. Planning Department staff report