A while ago I was riding the bus down La Brea and I was surprised to see a number of projects under construction. There seems to be a small explosion of residential and retail going up. Here are a few photos….
For a really thorough overview of this mini-building boom, check out this article by Daniel Safarik for The Faster Times. He gives an excellent breakdown of each project and talks about what all this development could mean for the community. Safarik points out that large stretches of La Brea have fallen into decline, and that it makes sense to replace vacant, decaying buildings with new structures that will contribute something to the neighborhood. And I’m certainly in favor of development, as long as it responds to an actual need.
And that’s the tricky part. What does this community actually need? And in a larger context, what does the city of LA actually need?
Not too long after my trip down La Brea, I was walking along Franklin and I noticed a number of apartment buildings sporting brightly colored banners to let people know they had vacant units. Here’s a selection….
These are just half of the pictures I took. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the area, La Brea intersects Franklin at the foot of the Hollywood Hills. All of the signs I photographed are on buildings within a mile of that intersection. I didn’t have to look for them. All I did was walk along Franklin to Wilcox, where I made a right. I’m willing to bet there are many more buildings with vacancies on the streets between Franklin and Hollywood Boulevard.
Sure, I understand that all apartment complexes are going to have vacant units at times, and the larger ones will always have a higher turnover. But ten years ago I wasn’t seeing green and red banners shouting “NOW RENTING” at passersby. Ten years ago apartments were in demand, and landlords didn’t have to worry about luring tenants.
So I guess I’m skeptical about the necessity of building over a thousand new units on La Brea. If there’s that much demand, why are there so many empty apartments just blocks away? It’s true that vacancy rates can vary widely from one neighborhood to another. But it’s interesting that of all the buildings going up on La Brea, only one is going to provide affordable housing. The rest are all geared for the upscale crowd. I’m assuming prices will be in the same range as The Avenue, a recently completed complex near Hollywood and La Brea where rents start at $2,350 a month.
I’ve heard so much about how LA needs to accept high-density housing, that there’s no other solution for the city’s future. But LA is not growing the way it used to. Census data shows that the city’s population increased just 2.65 percent between 2000 and 2010. In the Hollywood area the population actually shrank by more than 12,000.
So are we building all these units because people can’t find housing? Or are we building them because developers stand to make a lot of money?