Sunday, January 30, 2011

Don't Trash Affordable Housing in the Name of TOD

Southeast corner of Wilshire and Vermont, site for the proposed development. Note the two apartment buildings and all of the empty space. (Google Maps)

Via the LA Times and Curbed LA, a developer has proposed a 464-unit apartment complex for the southeast corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Vermont Ave in the City of Los Angeles (click those links for renderings). The site is currently mostly a large vacant lot, with a couple of four-story apartment buildings from the 1920s.

This is near and dear to my heart, because that's my former neighborhood (Koreatwon) and because I've been using the building on the opposite (northeast) corner of that intersection, Wilshire-Vermont Station, as the icon for my comments on this blog. It's supposed to represent the potential for transit oriented development (TOD): dense, mixed-use buildings close to and supporting good transit, with less emphasis on cars (and a cool design, I think).

This intersection is a junction point for LA's only heavy rail subway line. Wilshire and Vermont is where the Red Line branches north to North Hollywood and the Purple Line branches west to terminate prematurely at Wilshire and Western 1.6 km to the west. LA Metro's signature transit project for the next three decades will extend that subway 14 km west of there to the VA Hospital in West LA, thus fulfilling the dreams of many an LA transit advocate, including myself, and many a real estate developer.

In short, this is one of the best places in Los Angeles to build high-density housing.

I have a comment though and I think it's very important. It's not just about how the City of LA should remove it's minimum off-street parking requirements here to support transit and avoid excessive traffic and environmental damage (it should). This development could easily lead to the demolition of the two pre-existing buildings on the site. That would be a terrible mistake. These buildings are filled with relatively low-rent apartments. They are occupied by-and-large by people of modest means, who often overcrowd themselves into the tiny units because they have to. They also have no parking spaces (unlike the development that might replace them). The buildings are four stories, but they are denser than they look because people pack themselves in and the units are small. That won't be the case with the new one- and two-bedroom apartments, which will rent for between $1,800 and $3,000 a month according to Curbed.

Demolishing these old buildings means the people in them will be out of luck, out of their community, and severely set back in their quest for a better life. The relatively more affluent people that replace them will have a higher per capita rate of car use and more parking space at their disposal (sadly). There is plenty of vacant land on the site to build on, and hopefully the developer will follow that path. Don't trash the affordable housing! Yuppies and others can coexist! Cities need mixtures of newer and older buildings!

The person to contact with your views on this is LA City Councilmember Herb Wesson (District 10), especially if you live in his district.


  1. Demolishing Old buildings and constructing New does not help either the city or its people.

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