Several decades have passed since the phenomenon of gentrification was first observed in various areas in the United States, and debate has swung from what causes it to what its effects are. The effects of gentrification, in particular, continue to be disputed, with some views emphasizing the positives: building improvements, eradication of gang violence, strengthening of the local economy, and others the negatives: displacement of low-income households and social homogenization. Not surprisingly, perspectives on appropriate policy responses are shaped by viewpoints on the effects. What is often not put into perspective is that gentrification plays out differently in different places and that the process is deeply affected by local context. This essay examines the economic effects of gentrification in Los Angeles, how it is not good for a neighborhood in Los Angeles, and how Angelenos (residents of Los Angeles) who live a gentrified neighborhood are affected.
For someone who grew up in Los Angeles, such as Marina Bellizzi, walking down the streets of Los Angeles today brings a different picture of the neighborhood compared to how it used to be about a decade or so ago. Most of the Spanish Colonial buildings that characterized a majority of neighborhoods in Los Angeles are nowadays nowhere to be seen because of gentrification. Lots of new businesses have sprung up in the city, replacing the colonial buildings and old architecture that were once an essential part of the city. Moreover, new kinds of residential homes have come up in various neighborhoods in Los Angeles, replacing the old rental houses that the Angelenos were accustomed to. Marina Bellizzi states, “Now I see it differently, like the neighborhood’s changing and it’s being perceived as this positive place but for me to readjust what my preconceived notions were would be difficult” (The Wealth & Poverty Desk 1). From the personal experience of Bellizini, we see that gentrification has resulted in an entirely different neighborhood that has left residents of Los Angeles profoundly threatened.
Proponents of gentrification in Los Angeles point out that the process results in regional economic development. According to them, the transformation of the City of Angels leads to an increase in investment activities, which, in turn, results in decreased poverty among residents of Los Angeles. They also make reference to the many job opportunities that renovations bring to Los Angeles to support gentrification in the city (Simpson, & Tavana 1). However, they forget to mention how gentrification in LA results in economic disparities, where we have poor people at the extreme end and rich people at the safe end. It results in a classist neighborhood and city, where economic scales and scales of justice favor the rich more than they do the poor. The personal experience of Jackie Martinez when she was outbid by a wealthy businessman when trying to purchase a house in LA is perfect example of how gentrification in Los Angeles has resulted in a classist neighborhood and city, where economic scales favor the rich (The Wealth & Poverty Desk 1).
Gentrification is bad because it causes an increase in rents for businesses and residential areas. Due to renovations in Los Angeles, greedy landlords have raised the rent to a level where low-income earners are finding it difficult to afford local rents. Moreover, gentrification in LA has caused a situation in which low-income renters are battling with wealthy homeowners. Due to refurbishments in the city and its neighborhood, landlords are trying to drive out rental apartments and establish homes which are affordable only to the wealthy. Jackie Martinez, a resident of Los Angeles who has lived in Highland Park since she was a child, says, “People around here, growing up, can’t do that [afford expensive homes]” (The Wealth & Poverty Desk 1). Jackie’s personal experience serves as a good example that demosntrates the situation created by gentrification in LA, which has caused many residents of Los Angeles to lose the opportunity to own a home to wealthy real estate investors.
Gentrification is also not good because it displaces the residents of a redeveloped neighborhood. The results of a gentrified Los Angeles is that homes have become too expensive for the residents to afford. Consequently, the residents end up losing their homes to foreclosure and being displaced from a neighborhood that they have lived all their lives calling home. Hundreds of low-income earners residing in LA are currently on the brink of being intentionally displaced due to gentrification in the area. General Jeff, a researcher of the gentrification process in LA, says, “Folks on the streets of Boyle Heights who have lived there forever [but] developers are coming in. They look at it as a blank canvas” (Simpson, & Tavana 1). And it is not that displacement is an unintended consequence of gentrification, but gentrifiers are well aware that redevelopment activities will displace poor people and low-income earners, yet they do nothing about it.
Gentrification has proven to be the leading strategy of the government and private property owners in urban restructuring, such as the reorganization of LA. The aim of this paper was to explore the economic effects of gentrification in Los Angeles, how it is bad for neighborhoods in LA, and how LA residents residing in a gentrified neighborhood are affected. Redevelopment activities in the city and its environs have resulted in completely different neighborhoods that have left a majority of LA residents to feel threatened. This is because redevelopment activities in the region have resulted in economic disparities, where the rich are favored over low-income earners. Antique buildings that once characterized a majority of neighborhoods in Los Angeles are nowadays nowhere to be seen. Moreover, rents have skyrocketed, and home ownership has become too expensive for the locals to afford. This has resulted in a majority of the low-income earners and the poor residents of Los Angeles being displaced, a situation that has forced some of the locals to go as far as living in the streets. Certainly, the government needs to look into the plight of LA residents, whose very livelihood is threatened by gentrification activities in the region.
Simpson, Isaac, and Art Tavana. “Is Gentrification Ruining Los Angeles, or Saving It? Pick a Side.” LA WEEKLY. LA Weekly, LP, 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.
The Wealth & Poverty Desk. “Gentrifiers.” YORK & FIG. York & Fig.com, 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.