LA gentrification strongest near Downtown transit-oriented developments: report

Demographics near train and bus hubs have shifted toward white, educated, higher-earners

Paul Ong, Director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA and a Metro Gold Line train at the Little Tokyo/Arts District station
Paul Ong, Director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA and a Metro Gold Line train at the Little Tokyo/Arts District station

Gentrification and rising rents in Los Angeles County are most pronounced near transit stations, particularly in urban downtown areas that have seen a surge in construction.

A sweeping University of California Los Angeles study compared shifts in demographic, socioeconomic and other features from 1990-2015 in neighborhoods near transit compared to those areas farther away from the bus and train hubs.

More neighborhoods near light-rail and subways see increases in white, college-educated, higher-income households — along with rents — than neighborhoods not near transit. The study was conducted by the UCLA-UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project.

Overall, the report also showed decreases in those areas in populations with less education and lower incomes.

The impact is most pronounced in downtown areas seeing transit-oriented development and “other interventions aiming to physically revitalize those neighborhoods,” according to the study.

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L.A. has pushed for residential development near transit with its Transit-Oriented Communities program. It offers density bonuses to developers building near transit but only if they include affordable units in their projects. Most developers provide the minimum number of affordable units allowable in what are otherwise market-rate units.

Developers have utilized the program all around the city, but especially in neighborhoods already seeing more upscale development, like Koreatown, Hollywood, and Westlake.

The UCLA-UC Berkeley report was designed to help policymakers and stakeholders plan so that new development doesn’t push out existing residents.

“The challenge is ensuring that progress is fair and just,” said Paul Ong, research professor and director of UCLA’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge in the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

State lawmakers are also trying to push more development near transit. State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) created a bill last year to allow more dense development near transit statewide. The bill failed and measures were included to ease concerns about accelerating displacement of lower-income communities. A new version of Wiener’s bill will be introduced in the new year.