Koreatown Residents Concerned About Hordes Of New Development

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Koreatown, Los Angeles. (Photo by KingoftheHill. via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)

Koreatown is Los Angeles’ most dense neighborhood. On average, the central-city neighborhood packs in more than 42,000 residents per square mile—comparably more than the average density of four of New York’s five boroughs.

At the same time, the neighborhood is growing even denser. A ride along Vermont Avenue, James M. Wood Boulevard or any number of the apartment-laden streets that compose the neighborhood’s grid, will yield views of dozens of new, large multi-family buildings flying up at breakneck pace.

Take for example a proposed 27-story luxury condominium building at Eighth Street and Catalina. Mayor Eric Garcetti personally approved the decision to build despite a recommendation from his own city-planning commission to not build. In order to build said tower, approved by the L.A. City Council last week, 14 rent-controlled apartment units will be demolished.

Or consider the piece of now construction-vehicle-laden real estate at Wilshire and Hobart Boulevards. As the L.A. Times reported Friday, the land was initially slated for a broad park-space in one of Los Angeles’ most dismally poor neighborhoods. Instead of a park, the land will be transformed into a 5-story, 346-unit luxury apartment building called The Pearl.

Groups like the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance and Protect Koreatown vocally oppose development like those above. Where Hollywood groups opposing development often decry suffocating traffic and an overburdening of municipal resources, the Koreatown groups clamor specifically for the development of more affordable housing.

While housing development in Los Angeles is sorely needed, it’s even more crucial that that development be accessible for everyone. Affordable, low income and extremely low income housing often falls to the wayside in lieu of developers’ hopes to build market-rate luxury rentals. Without development accessible for all, rents rise, and people get priced out of their neighborhoods, or even evicted.

“I genuinely believe that Koreatown is a welcoming place where everyone, even hipster dogwalkers can find a home, we just don’t want to skew our neighborhood to cater only to that population,” said Alexandra Suh, the head of the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, to KPCC.

As KPCC reports, 2,700 market-rate apartment units have been built over the past decade in Koreatown. By contrast, only 550 “affordable” and senior units have been built. That’s a ratio of nearly 5 to 1.