by Ariane Resnick, C.N.C.
Is This Even a Thing Here?
Where there was once a mom & pop convenience store now stands a yoga studio. In the space of a former taqueria sits a “coffee 3.0” (AKA “third wave”) coffee shop. And that building where you used to grab a drink at a dive bar after dropping off your jeans to get hemmed? That's gone entirely now, replaced with luxury condos above and a farm-to-table restaurant at street level.
Gentrification has occurred in many areas of Los Angeles—mostly on the East Side and most famously in Silver Lake, Highland Park and Echo Park—and it continues to create major changes for LA residents new and old. Living in Downtown LA in the Arts District, I reside in a neighborhood full of multi-million dollars lofts that were previously abandoned factories, mere steps from Skid Row.
The gentrification of the Arts District happened before I arrived, but I often wonder if that relieves me from being complicit; it's a complex topic with no simple answer. When did LA gentrification happen, how does it affect people’s lives, and is there anything you can do about it?
The official map of Los Angeles gentrification only shows changes between 1990 and 2000, but progress has continued since then with more recent areas like Boyle Heights experiencing higher rents, home sale prices increasing over 100% and mariachis leaving as art galleries are erected and high income, mostly white professionals move in.
A SoCal native and long-term LA resident whose mother emigrated from Colombia at age 28, 31-year-old communications and social media manager Jessica Jewell Lanier has witnessed the changes firsthand. She says of the timeline, “About 10 years ago, Echo Park was on the front lines of gentrification. Nearby Silverlake had nearly completed its metamorphosis and the process bled into Echo Park. The neighborhood had its quirky coffee shops and weird boutiques, but there was still a large presence of Latinx people. You could walk into a little tienda and grab some tchotchkes (think prayer candles and other ephemera) next to a grimy dive. The lake hadn't been redeveloped and rents hadn't yet reached the $2,000/1 bedroom mark. That has long since changed, with whole blocks being leveled.”
Who Is Impacted?
There are some claims that gentrification doesn't drive small family businesses out. For example, one study showed that small businesses were only at an increased risk of displacement if located in an area experiencing a heavily increased demand for retail space. But increased demand for space is exactly what happens when gentrification occurs.
From Lincoln Heights to Chinatown, the influx of young professionals with advanced degrees displaces lower-income residents. These residents are often immigrants and minorities who have not had access to higher education, and without affordable housing, they can be forced into homelessness.
On the Plus Side
It's generally perceived as bad even by many of us who are a part of it, but are there any pros of gentrification in Los Angeles? Some possible benefits of gentrification include the following:
- Increased public transit: By making gentrified areas more accessible via transit, lower-income individuals without cars benefit from easier mobility.
- The trendy places: If a small business owned by a resident of the community takes off with the wealthy crowd that moves in, that business can thrive in larger ways than it had previously.
- New opportunities: Venues such as the Grand Central Market in Downtown LA help bring an audience to local, independent vendors. Even that is problematic, however, because when the GCM transformed into a more upscale establishment, immigrant vendors were forced out.
What Can You Do?
If you live in a part of LA where previous residents have been pushed out due to increased rent, and especially if your neighborhood is now full of pressed juice and organic coffee, you're a part of LA's gentrification. How can you make sure you aren't causing more issues to natives?
Jewell has great suggestions. She says, “While I may be a tool for all things sustainable and hip, I also will never flip homes in South Central or open a painfully expensive boutique curating four nondescript items that may or may not be an end table or macrame installation...I do my best to give my business to POC, not take up too much space in communities of color, not appropriate or fetishize and to consistently check my privilege. “
We can't stop gentrification in LA, but we can be fastidious about where our money goes and how we engage with others who are less privileged. I've found that volunteering my time (I give nutrition workshops at an afterschool program, for example) also helps me feel less complicit. Whatever action you take to decrease your impact, this topic is worth keeping in your consciousness.
Ariane Resnick is a special diet chef, certified nutritionist, and bestselling author. She has been featured in media such as Forbes, CBS’s “The Doctors,” and Huffington Post, and her private clientele includes celebrities such as P!nk.