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A gentrification map shows the flipside of Metro expansion

As much as urban planners and commuters stuck in traffic love public transit, it can have unintended side effects. One of them is gentrification. In practical terms, that means an increase in rents — and housing displacement — along Los Angeles's newly expanded Metro line.

Researchers from the Urban Displacement project, a joint UCLA and UC Berkeley effort, recently released a gentrification map of Los Angeles.

They examined they city from 1990 to 2000 and up to 2015, focusing on neighborhoods near transit stops. The goal was to see if these areas saw higher rents and more displacement than other areas.

The answer? Yes — with some exceptions.

Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris in UCLA's Department of Urban Planning tells KPCC that according to her team's research, the most intense development in Los Angeles has occurred in communities surrounding downtown — Chinatown, Highland Park and, more recently, East L.A. She says it's also occurring in the Hollywood area, along the Red Line.

"Over a period of time, these changes mean a higher-income population moving in, higher housing costs appearing," Loukaitou-Sideris tells KPCC. "Longstanding residents of some of these neighborhoods have to leave because rents become too high or the price of goods and services become too high."

A gentrification map produced by UC Berkeley and UCLA shows areas where displacement and higher rents over tracts of time.
UCB Urban Displacement Map
A gentrification map produced by UC Berkeley and UCLA shows areas where displacement and higher rents over tracts of time.

The fancy term for the change that occurs at these hotspots is TOD, transit-oriented development (TOD). It's defined as the half-mile area around a Metro or light rail stop.

"Planners like TODs," Loukaitou-Sideris says, "So a lot of new plans in L.A. for development are to concentrate development around transit."

That means the gentrification that comes with it will also likely increase.

But not all Metro stops are created equal. But there are are also outliers, like the Blue and Green Metro lines in Los Angeles, which haven't seen the same level of gentrification.

Loukaitou-Sideris believes it's because of where these two lines run. She says that with the exception of downtown L.A. and Long Beach, they pass "through some of the back lots of communities, not their front areas, through industrial areas."

Despite the disparities and potential displacement caused by improved public transit, Loukaitou-Sideris emphasizes that this study is by no means a verdict against transit-oriented development or higher density living. 

"We think it does make sense to concentrate development around transit stops," she says. "But we have to be very careful about the side effects of this development and have policies that protect more affordable housing — rent stabilization ordinances and affordable housing policies."

She believes that can counteract the effects of gentrification.