South Central residents worry about displacement as Metro line construction continues
Rabin Woods has seen his community change over the last few years. Neighbors have left their homes as rent continues to climb. Black property owners have sold their buildings for profit as housing prices in South Central Los Angeles rise.
“For the people that move out — if they ever move out — they probably won’t be able to move back in,” said Woods, 56, of Leimert Park. “Prices of the rent are going up. What was $1,300 is going to probably be like $2,000 or $1,800.”
As construction of LA Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX line moves forward, the value of surrounding properties keeps rising. The rail line, which began construction in 2014, is expected to open in the summer of 2020. Of its eight stops, four will run through Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw and Hyde Park — all South L.A. neighborhoods that activists say are encountering issues of displacement.
Though some residents are excited for the renovations, many are concerned about how these changes will impact the communities they grew up in.
Since 2018, home values in Leimert Park, Crenshaw and Baldwin Hills have increased by 4 percent, according to the real estate company Zillow. Values have risen by 2.3 percent in Hyde Park.
“Like with any change, there’s the positive and the negative,” said Marsha Perry, a resident of Hyde Park. “As far as the negative, a lot of minorities are being pretty much pushed out.”
Although transit isn’t the only contributing factor of gentrification, it does appear to be a trend, said UCLA urban planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. She found that neighborhoods with Metro stations were more prone to gentrification, though the stations were not necessarily the cause of it.
“Comparing neighborhoods with stations versus neighborhood without stations, neighborhoods with stations had more possibilities of gentrification.”
Mariachi Plaza, a low-income area near the gold line in Boyle Heights, has been particularly vulnerable, she said. The area drew attention in 2017 when an apartment complex was threatened with eviction.
However, other areas, like low-income communities along the blue line, have not exhibited such significant signs of gentrification as a result of transit, according to a study Loukaitou-Sideris conducted in 2015.
According to Zillow, the median listing price is $389,000 in Watts, which resides along the blue line. This is $57,000 less than that of Boyle Heights.
Metro said it has worked to address gentrification concerns. To combat rising housing prices, Metro is dedicating a portion of its land in Crenshaw to a mix of market rate and affordable housing units. Of the units being built, 20 percent are expected to fall at 60 percent of the median income or below, said Jenna Hornstock, the executive officer for transit oriented communities.
The Metro Affordable Transit Connected Housing Program is also working with for-profit and nonprofit developers to provide loans to support properties that keep low rents without federal subsidy.
“Eventually, the idea is that they identify and build more housing and permanent affordable housing,” Hornstock said. “So, it’s trying to be an innovative approach to stabilizing and doubling density for existing units.”
For businesses in the area, Metro is running a pilot project called the Business Interruption Fund, which provides financial support to small businesses affected by construction of its projects. Currently, 188 small businesses along the Crenshaw/LAX line have received aid totaling $11 million in grants, Metro spokesperson Jose Ubaldo said.
However, for some, this financial support is not enough.
Ibrahima Fall, owner of African Family Fashions in Leimert Park, said he received $10,000 from the fund three years ago when construction and closures along Crenshaw Boulevard began affecting his business. He has not been able to get more funding since then, which has made paying rent difficult, he said.
“They give you money looking at what you made before, [not] looking at what you make now,” Fall said. “[But] the money finishes … You pay your rent here — $1,000 or something like that … If you move, you have to pay the moving.”
Residents in the neighborhoods along the Crenshaw/LAX line, like Alicia Rhoden of Baldwin Hills, are watching their communities shift as new places open and old ones close.
“I’ve seen buildings changing and closing up in my area,” said Rhoden, who is also helping develop a local chapter of the L.A. Tenants Union. “I’ve seen where people couldn’t get low-income housing anymore in my area … that is an issue because [for] a lot of people. Yeah we’ll have a train, but if you’re not welcomed on it and it’s pushing out a business, what is it going to do?”