Cumulus project in South Los Angeles

Metro Transit-Oriented Projects Cause Displacement and Gentrification, UCLA Study Says

In Archive by Patrick Range McDonald

UCLA researchers released eye-popping findings this week that community activists have known for years — Metro-promoted development near transit stations in Los Angeles causes displacement of lower-income residents and brings about gentrification.

UCLA noted that the “upscaling” of L.A. neighborhoods through development near transit stations can lead to lower-income, disadvantaged residents being pushed out of communities. The majority of new development in L.A. features luxury housing for affluent professionals.

Paul Ong, director of UCLA Luskin’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge and a professor of Urban Planning, said in a statement:

Sometimes, landlords aggressively — and perhaps illegally — force them out. Higher rents make it difficult for low-income households to move into the neighborhood, so we see a net decline in their numbers. They are replaced by those who can afford the higher housing cost — people referred to as ‘gentrifiers.’

Community activists who have been fighting luxury mega-projects across Los Angeles know that all too well. But City Hall politicians and bureaucrats have done little, if anything, to address displacement and gentrification.

Instead, the City Council and mayor have consistently ignored lower-income residents’ concerns, ignored existing zoning rules that protect neighborhoods from luxury overdevelopment and granted developers special “spot-zoning” favors such as a General Plan amendment or zone change so they can build 30-story skyscrapers with luxury housing and make millions in profits.

L.A.’s planning and land-use system has become so broken and rigged that even the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti rolled out a so-called “reform” plan in April. The politicians, however, have yet to follow through with any substantive action.

In the meantime, city politicians and bureaucrats continue to support such transit-oriented, luxury mega-projects as Cumulus with a 30-story residential skyscraper on La Cienega and Jefferson boulevards in South Los Angeles and the upscale SoLA Village, known as The Reef, in Historic South Central. Both projects need the City Council and mayor to sign off on special spot-zoning favors.

The Reef -- image from draft EIR

The Reef in Historic South Central — image from draft EIR

UCLA provides an interactive map for residents to see which neighborhoods have been hit by gentrification caused by Metro-promoted development — and released these key findings:

  • Areas around transit stations are changing and many of the changes are in the direction of neighborhood upscaling and gentrification.
  • Examining changes relative to areas not near light-rail or subway projects from 2000 to 2013, neighborhoods near those forms of transit are more associated with increases in white, college-educated, higher-income households and greater increases in the cost of rents. Conversely, neighborhoods near rail development are associated with greater losses in disadvantaged populations, including individuals with less than a high school diploma and lower-income households
  • The impacts vary across locations, but the biggest impacts seem to be around the downtown areas where transit-oriented developments interact with other interventions aiming to physically revitalize those neighborhoods.

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, however, proposes real reforms for L.A.’s broken and rigged planning and land-use system — and it’s received citywide backing from Angelenos.

Last week, the Coalition to Preserve L.A., a grassroots movement that’s sponsoring the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, completed a successful petition drive and delivered 104,000 citizen signatures to City Hall. With that strong community support, the initiative will likely be placed on the March 2017 ballot.

Unsurprisingly, wealthy developers and L.A. politicians, who have received $6 million in campaign contributions from the real estate industry, are opposed to the citizen-driven reform initiative — developers and their well-heeled allies recently spent $722,335 to defeat the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.

Join our citywide movement by clicking here right now to donate any amount you wish, and follow and cheer our efforts on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You can also send us an email at [email protected] for more information.