Artists Fear Being Priced Out of Booming LA Arts District

Los Angeles - Arts District: On the Road by Uti Crew x MTO. Photo: courtesy Flickr via Wally Gobetz

In a link to an Los Angeles Times story about the booming Arts District in Los Angeles and residents’ fears about being priced out, the Arts Journal somewhat dismissively refers to it as “an old story.” But that doesn’t make it a less pertinent one. The tale follows the typical trajectory of artists taking advantage of low-rent spaces in less desirable districts, only to be forced out eventually when gentrification results in untenable rents.

According to Marissa Gerber’s story in the Times, in the 1970s, the “streets east of Little Tokyo and west of the LA river made up a dingy district of hollowed-out warehouses that landlords rented to artists who needed a lot of space for little money.” When the city passed an ordinance a few years later that made it legal for artists to live in their studios, “it became a bohemian playground,” albeit a rough one.

A decade ago, what started with a new restaurant turned into an “avalanche” of development, with warehouses turned into condos. Now, a new coffee shop moves in every month or so and constant filming announcements are posted, including for the series New Girl starring Zooey Deschanel, according to the story.

Longtime residents say the community vibe is disappearing just as fast as the formerly plentiful street parking. The story includes detailed (and telling) interviews with residents, such as sculptor Heath Satow, who pays $3,900 a month for a roughly 5,700-square foot warehouse space at the edge of the neighborhood. “…[B]ut he knows that a gallery up the street pays three times as much.” When he gets priced out, a fact that he seems to accept as inevitable, he’ll “probably move somewhere with lots of cheap warehouse space, like Vernon.”

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