Sat, Apr

Will City Hall’s Obsession with Luxury Housing be Allowed to Kill Off LA’s Middle Class?


 ATTACK ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING-Nationwide, the middle class is shrinking in metropolitan areas, according to a Pew Research Center report, and that includes Los Angeles. We’re not surprised — when City Hall policies bring about the demolition of more than 20,000 rent-controlled units, you’re going to have an exodus of middle-income folks. Local politicians’ citywide template for a new, luxury LA that features high-end mega-projects for the affluent will only exacerbate the troubling trend.  

Making big headlines today, the Pew Research Center released a report titled, “America’s Shrinking Middle Class: A Close Look at Changes Within Metropolitan Areas.”  The Los Angeles Times noted: 

Many experts regard a shrinking middle class as worrisome for economic and social stability, and the issue — along with a related trend of skewed gains among the nation’s richest — is seen as a major factor in the anger and resentment displayed by voters during recent primaries that have fueled the campaigns of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, and on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders. 

In general, Pew found that areas with a larger middle class tended to have a smaller degree of income inequality. 

“The deeper root at what is driving inequality and really hollowing out the middle class — that is a pattern very strong in the metro areas,” said Rakesh Kochhar, associate director of the Pew Research Center. “It is cutting across all communities. No one seems immune to this widening inequality trend.” 

But LA is not one of those metropolitan areas with a larger middle class. The Pew Research Center reported: 

In about a quarter of the metropolitan areas in 2014, middle-class adults do not constitute a clear majority of the adult population. Notably, many of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas fall into this group, including Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA, where 47 percent of adults were middle income; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA (48 percent); New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (48 percent); Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH (49 percent); and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX (49 percent). 

In some of these metropolitan areas, such as the Boston and San Francisco regions, the relatively small share of the middle-income tier reflects the fact that the upper-income tier is larger than average. But in the Los Angeles region, the middle class is relatively small because the share of adults who are lower income is greater than average. 

But LA politicians seem to have a solution for having a greater than average number of lower-income citizens — just tear down rent-controlled units, build a luxury housing skyscraper and push them out of their neighborhoods. Voila! Problem solved. After all, that’s what’s happening, or will be soon underway, in Venice, Koreatown, Westlake and Hollywood, among other places. 

We’ve already seen an exodus in Hollywood between 2000 and 2010 of more than 12,000 Latinos, according to LA Weekly. And we’re seeing City Hall embrace, among many other projects, a 27-story luxury housing skyscraper in a working-class community in Koreatown. 

With our middle class shrinking, does LA need more luxury housing skyscrapers like this one pictured above that is proposed by developer Rick Caruso at 333 La Cienega Boulevard? 

Clearly, our middle- and working-class neighborhoods need better land-use protections, and local politicians have shown no desire to make that happen. That’s why we need the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. It will stop developer control of City Hall, which is driving the luxury housing push, and allow citizens to have more say on land-use policies in their communities. 

Right now, LA’s rigged and broken development-approval process only favors deep-pocketed developers who also want to turn LA into a luxury city. And according to the Pew Research Center and other experts, that will only cause economic and social instability — and create an LA with greater income inequality. 

Is this the kind of city that Angelenos want? 

Join the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative movement by clicking to our Act page right now, and follow and cheer our efforts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also send us an email at [email protected]

Together, we can create the change that LA needs!


(Patrick Range McDonald writes for 2PreserveLA.org.)  Photo via Rick Caruso Affiliated. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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