Study Shows Major Changes in the Composition of WeHo’s Eastside

The Lot
The Lot

A study of West Hollywood’s Eastside shows a rapidly changing neighborhood where property values are rising, the elderly Russian-speaking population is being replaced by younger and more affluent residents and the retail and food-service economy doesn’t generate sufficient income for workers to afford to live in the new housing being built there.

The Eastside, defined as those blocks north and south of Santa Monica Boulevard from Hayworth on the west to La Brea on the east, once was widely viewed as a rundown area with an inordinate amount of crime and dilapidated buildings. But a study by the Rosenow Spevacek Group (RSG), commissioned by the City of West Hollywood, indicates it has caught the eye of commercial developers, with over 54 percent of the commercial property there sold in the past 10 years. Another measure of the Eastside’s attraction to developers is that property there had an assessed value of more than $1 billion as of 2012, a 181 percent increase in 15 years. With the end of the Great Recession, new construction has taken off. Major projects include expansion of offices and studios at The Lot, construction of the Huxley and Dylan apartment buildings on La Brea Avenue and apartment and retail projects now under construction at Movietown Plaza and the former Faith Plating site, all of which are estimated to be worth $400 million. All in all, about 900 new apartments either have or soon will be built in the area.

The Huxley apartment building
The Huxley apartment building

The study, presented to the West Hollywood City Council last night, also shows a major decline in the Russian-speaking population in the area. While in 2000 Eastern European immigrants made up 42 percent of the Eastside’s population, that percentage declined to 28 percent in 2012. The area was a major refuge for Jews from the former Soviet Union when it collapsed in 1991 and its restrictions on emigration ended. According to the study, many Eastern Europeans in recent years have moved from West Hollywood to the less expensive San Fernando Valley. That largely older population is being replaced by younger and more affluent people. The study shows that 23.4 percent of the Eastside’s population was 65 years old or older in 2000. By 2014 that percentage had declined to 19.8 percent. Residents 25 to 44 years of age increased from a total of 38 percent in 2000 to 42.4 percent in 2014.

Median household income on the Eastside ($30,196) is markedly lower than that of West Hollywood as a whole ($53,223) according to data from 2012. When those who are retired are factored out, the median is $36,293 for the Eastside compared to $57,841 for all of West Hollywood. That is a major issue because of the higher rents of new properties there. Asking rents at new developments are $2,300-$2,950 for studio apartments, $2,500-$3,400 for one-bedroom apartments and $3,650 to $5,370 for two-bedroom apartments. That compares to average asking rents for existing non-rent controlled units of $1,900 for studio, $2,150 for a one-bedroom and $3,220 for a two bedroom unit. Newly available rent-controlled units in 2014 were going for an average of $1,297 for a studio, $1,570 for a one-bedroom and $2,125 for a two-bedroom unit. Housing costs traditionally are estimated at 30 percent of one’s income, which would require an annual income of $80,000 to afford a $2,000 monthly rent. Despite the relatively high rents, vacancy rates are low.

The study also found that 94 percent of those who live on the Eastside do not work there, and 94 percent of those who work there do not live there. That reflects the fact that those who work on the Eastside, whose economy is dominated by retail and service businesses, don’t make enough money to afford the rents. For example, retail stores employ about 10 percent of Eastside residents while they provide 25 percent of the area’s jobs. That twice-daily influx of workers and outflux of residents also is a likely contributor to the traffic in the area. The different daytime and nighttime populations on the Eastside also pose a challenge to local businesses that want to cater both to lower-wage daytime workers and more affluent and young local residents.

When it comes to sales tax revenue from Eastside businesses, the Gateway Center, home to Target, Best Buy and other businesses, is the largest contributor, generating $1.7 million a year. All other businesses in the area generate a total of $1 million.


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Christopher Roth
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Christopher Roth

OK be kind to me please! I have lived on the eastide for 3 years now. I have to tell you I feel much safer with the large numbers of new residents moving in. More people out on the streets more eyes hopefully less crime. But here is my issue. Does the City have a Master Plan for the next 50 years? Every city I have ever lived in has. If it is important to retain some of the mom and pop charm of the ethnic businesses on Santa Monica, they should just establish a district. Change the zoning laws… Read more »

Lynn
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Lynn

Good comment Christopher. Of major concern: does Community Development/City Planning have the sensitivity to preserve and refurbish residential and commercial neighborhoods or is the solution primarily the eraser theory solely in the hands of the developer? While it is always easy to start with demolition and a blank canvas, it takes sensitivity, imagination and expertise to rejuvenate an area without destroying its “sense of place”. Whether folks are conscious of it or not, a sense of place is the underlying aspect upon which our comfort and eventual choices are largely based. Any area can evolve without destroying the meaningful threads… Read more »

Greedy bar owners
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Greedy bar owners

Drinks are so expensive. A cocktail shouldn’t cost more than 6$ in weho

Greedy bar owners
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Greedy bar owners

The city should.mandate that my employer pay me a higher salary so I can afford to go out to the bars during the week

SE
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SE

@CHRISSANGER – I agree with what you are saying, but I think most of the sentiment comes from the fact that West Hollywood was very much established by the Gay & Lesbian community and the Russian community as safe havens for both. With all this inevitable progress, I do believe the city needs to respect its history and I think many residents are concerned because the change is happening so swiftly. This doesn’t mean it shouldn’t continue growing and developing, but I think @TOMSMART is right to suggest some sort of guidelines so these communities and their legacies aren’t erased… Read more »

Chris Sanger
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Chris Sanger

Much much different circumstances Tom, and I assume you are smart enough to know that. The problem with WeHo is the stuff that gets prioritized from saving (the Long Hall, to some people now The Factory, couple years ago Tower Records) are of dubious value and/or their preservation would prevent improvements. Sure we could zone to some extent, but it likely (if we become a less built up community) INCREASE property values, and we’d be back to the same issues of WeHo becoming overpriced for many current residents. That’s reality. Too many people here do not live in a reality… Read more »

Tom Smart
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Tom Smart

Districts CAN be preserved. It’s called zoning and the weho council let their developer cronies dictate what they wanted and they followed suit. Thankfully places like Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Pasadena, 3rd Street Los Angeles and others know some of their assets so don’t demolish the charm and uniqueness like we are doing.

Chris Sanger
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Chris Sanger

I am amazed by the either naivete and/or disingenuity of many of these comments. The city doesn’t have the power to much to stem the inevitable transformation of this city. Hello, people – the location at the epicenter of LA metro, our neighbors, the attractiveness of our features of course are going to attract a wealthier level of resident. And thus housing becomes more expensive.The city can do little to change it, even if they should. Yes, we lose a lot (and I am someone who might suffer from this), but tough life, that’s how our system works. You can’t… Read more »

Lynn
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Lynn

“the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those in the twilight of life, the elderly’ those who are in the shadows of life, the sink, the needy and the handicapped”. Hubert H. Humphrey “A nation’s greatness is measures by how it treats its weakest members.” Mahatma Ghandi “Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless member”. Pearl S. Buck,… Read more »

SE
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SE

If only, RICK WATTS! It’s pretty apparent from the direction West Hollywood is heading that the city government is working very hard to make this city inhospitable to those who have been here since its inception. They will keep Boys Town because it brings in huge revenue, but they won’t make it affordable for young gays to live here. And they will continue driving out small businesses – particularly the Russian ones – so they can move that population out as well. I’m just astounded at the amount of people who can afford $2500-$3500 a month for rent. At least… Read more »

Rick Watts
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Rick Watts

James, I think you just distilled the whole matter into looking tone key term: “resident retention.” THAT’S what city govt should be trying to foster.

James Francis
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James Francis

SE I could not have said it any better! With rent controlled low income demographic disabled will only be displaced and even section 8 and rent control will slow the process to protect sudden changes bur landlords are trying to find loopholes. That’s why the city trust was put into effect but that only allows a lottery and you are placed in income categories to qualify. I live in a rent controlled building but without the new ordinance if last summer rents could gone up 200-300 by landlords wanting to charge. It seems that west Hollywood is becoming an exclusive… Read more »

SE
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SE

It’s bittersweet when the honeymoon period is over. I moved to WeHo in 1993 and paid $471 for a large 1-bedroom with pool, parking, dishwasher, laundry, and A/C. But I always knew I was getting away with something because West Hollywood is geographically one of the most desirable parts of L.A. – halfway between Downtown and the beach – and it was only a matter of time before rent control was abolished and developers caught on. We’ve had a great ride and have been very fortunate, but Los Angeles has outgrown itself and we now need to accept being a… Read more »