Why Westlake Won’t Gentrify

Westlake won’t gentrify for three reasons: the housing stock, the density of apartments and rent control.

Regarding the housing stock: Westlake is comprised mostly of apartment buildings built around 1920. Some 1920’s buildings are nice, with great lay-outs, beautiful details, and, in some case, parking.

The buildings in MacArthur Park are not those kinds of 1920’s buildings. Far from it. They are, as a rule, center hallway buildings (where all the tenants access their units through a long, shared, central hallway), full of studios (some without kitchens), with no parking. These are generally not pleasant places to live; they are run-down, smelly (due to neighbors’ cooking smells and leaky garbage bags) and inconvenient (where do you park?). So you’re not going to see organic gentrification, where adventuresome renters seeking cheap / cool places move in on their own.

Now, it’s possible to gentrify a building or neighborhood “by force” by spending a lot of time and money to make bad old buildings good again. But it’s not worth anyone’s time to do this in Westlake, because the density of apartments in the area makes it almost impossible to command the high rents necessary to justify the cost of renovating. After all, prospective tenants will be comparing the units you’re offering to the extremely cheap ones next door. The supply is just too great to have any real pricing power, even with newly renovated units.

Finally, rent control. Face it: There are some criminal elements in this neighborhood. That’s a fact of life in a lot of neighborhoods all over the country. But LA’s rent control ordinance makes it almost impossible to get rid of bad apples in a building. So once you have a concentration of them (and Westlake definitely does!), they wreck the neighborhood and there’s very little that landlords (or anyone else) can do about them.

So if you’re looking for the next Highland Park, look elsewhere. Westlake ain’t it.