The Next Target for Gentrification in Los Angeles

Echo Park is long gone. Highland Park: halfway over. So which neighborhood will be Los Angeles' next target for gentrification? That would be Boyle Heights. This historically Latin American neighborhood has begun to face massive change, and activists worry that the seeds of gentrification have already taken root.

Classic Boyle Heights

Boyle Heights is a sizeable neighborhood just east of downtown Los Angeles. The hilly neighborhood has more than 100,000 residents, and twenty public schools. In the 1950s, Boyle Heights was a racially diverse area made up of Jewish, Latino, and Eastern European immigrants. Over time, Boyle Heights' Jewish population moved to other areas of the city and the Latin American population continued to grow. By 2000, Boyle Heights was 94% Latino, a percentage that increased to 95% by 2011. Today the vast majority of residents in the neighborhood are of either Mexican or Central American heritage. Boyle Heights has the fifth highest percentage of Latino residents of any neighborhood in Los Angeles.

The average household income of Boyle Heights is $33,325 per year, $22,000 less than the average household income for Los Angeles as a whole, which is $55,909. Age wise, Boyle Heights skews young. The median age for the neighborhood is 25 years old. 33% of Boyle Heights residents live in poverty, 89% are renters, 95% do not have a four-year college degree, and 17% are undocumented immigrants, according to a Newsweek article.

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Boyle Heights is the cheapest neighborhood in an increasingly expensive city. As of September 2017, the average rent for an apartment in Los Angeles, CA is $2524 per month. One-bedroom apartments average $2218 per month and two-bedroom apartments cost $2947 per month on average.

Rents in Boyle Heights go for less than half of that price. The average rent in Boyle Heights is $1069 per month, which is more than $1400 less than the average rent across the city. One bedrooms go for $965 per month on average, and two bedrooms average $1183 per month. However, activists are worried that this all may change if the neighborhood becomes gentrified.

The Artwashing of a Neighborhood

The eastside neighborhood was shaken up several years back after being targeted by the LA art community. Pushed out of downtown Los Angeles by rising rent prices, several art galleries set up shop in the nearby Boyle Heights. With them came a flock of young artists setting up studios in the neighborhood, drawn to the area by affordable rents and its central location. Ten contemporary art galleries have made themselves at home on South Anderson Street, a former industrial area of Boyle Heights.

Defend Boyle Heights, a grassroots anti-gentrification group, has taken on the art world. They claim that the art galleries are a front for moneyed west side corporate interests. Activists argue that once the galleries take root, hipster coffee shops and yuppie bars will follow, and with that, will come luxury real estate developments that will displace Boyle Heights' families from their homes.

The artists argue that they are trying to build a new art community in Boyle Heights, that they are there because they too cannot afford gentrified neighborhoods such as Silverlake and Echo Park. But activists claim that artists are tacitly complicit in gentrification, and that their presence will eventually displace longtime Boyle Heights residents.

Tensions Rise

In summer of 2017, local activists began protesting Boyle Heights businesses that they believe to be gentrifying the area. Activists picketed outside of Weird Wave Coffee, a minimalist, hipster style coffee shop that had recently opened. Protesters distributed fliers that read "White Wave Coffee" across town, and heckled customers as they entered the coffee shop.

Weird Wave, which is co-owned by two white men and one El Salvadorian, says that they understand the neighborhood's frustration but they are upset that Defend Boyle Heights doesn't seem open to dialogue.

The anti-gentrifiers have faced criticism for having unreasonable demands and inciting violence. Over the summer, protesters shot a potato gun at a crowd of people attending an art opening at one of the Boyle Heights galleries.

The activists have had some victories. PSSST, one of the galleries on South Anderson Street, has shut down. However, the tide of gentrification is already taking a toll on the east LA neighborhood. Carnitas Michoacan, #3 a 33-year-old Mexican restaurant beloved by locals, also shut down this year.

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Rising Tensions, Rising Rents

The art galleries and hip businesses are already having an effect on Boyle Heights. In the past year, rent for a one bedroom apartment in Boyle Heights has increased by 45.0% and average rent for two bedrooms is up 53.9%. In contrast, citywide, rents in Los Angeles have actually dropped 3.57% in the past year.

Check out our rental listings for Boyle Heights to learn more about how gentrification is affecting housing in the Los Angeles neighborhood.

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