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Mapping the Great LA Gentrification Wave of the 2000s

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Maybe it's because it has such a hard-to-pin-down definition, but "gentrification" certainly gets just about everyone riled up. Is it rich white people moving into a neighborhood and displacing the people who made it what it is? Is it higher rents and new residents willing and able to pay them? Governing magazine (via LA Observed) has come up with its own basic criteria and created an interactive map showing where it believes neighborhoods are truly gentrifying across Los Angeles (and the US). On the map, gentrification is said to have occurred in once-low-income areas where, since 2000, housing values and educational achievement have seen "significant growth."

The map color-codes US Census tracts in LA according to three groups: gentrified (dark blue), not gentrified (light blue), and not eligible to gentrify (gray).

Those considered gentrified had a median household income within the bottom fortieth percentile of all the tracts in 2000, but have seen big increases in housing values and resident education levels since then. Light blue tracts were those that were also in the bottom fortieth percentile in 2000, but haven't see big gains in home values or education levels (though they could in the future, theoretically). Gray sections are those that can't gentrify, usually because they're already solidly middle class or rich.

With all that in mind, this shot of the Westside and parts of South LA (above) shows, not surprisingly, that pretty much the entire western part of Los Angeles is already well-off and won't be able to gentrify, no matter how many Whole Foods go in or yoga studios pop up. The segment of South LA near the Westside has an island of areas that can't gentrify (again, probably because they're already home to fairly well-off, educated people) next to some that could, along with a few that have already gentrified somewhat.

Stick a fork in Downtown because it is done. The Census tract that includes segments of the Financial District, Bunker Hill, the Jewelry District, and South Park doubled in population (easy to imagine when considering all the new construction and conversions to residential since 2000), and saw a 1,365 percent increase in the median housing value since 2000. Over half of residents have Bachelor's degrees; that's up from just 7.3 percent in 2000.

After all the stories about Highland Park's wild real estate ride over the last two years, it's not surprising that a significant portion of it is considered gentrified on this map. (It's had some "help" making the switch.) But the neighborhood still has some light blue, not-gentrified sections. Montecito Heights and parts of Hermon are considered gentrified too. Most of North East LA is grayed out, suggesting that it wasn't even gentrifiable because it was already middle class or higher by 2000.

South LA, with some exceptions in north Hyde Park and Jefferson Park, has mostly not been swept up in this wave of gentrification. And it was a wave: from 1990 to 2000, out of 999 Census tracts, 10 (2.9 percent of all tracts) gentrified. Since the year 2000, 51 tracts (15.1 percent) out of those same 999 have gentrified.

This map is just part of a series on gentrification that Governing is doing. They explore not just the definition of the process, but also its undeniable effects, the staggering increase in housing prices in central areas that makes centrally-located living extremely difficult and unaffordable for most everyone who's not wealthy: "Whatever the root causes of gentrification — and whichever definition of the phenomenon you choose — it's an urban upheaval that will continue to pose challenges for local leaders in the years to come," the magazine concludes.
· Los Angeles Gentrification Maps and Data [Governing]
· What, Exactly, Is Gentrification? [Governing]