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South LA residents fear planned mega-development brings displacement

Construction next to the Staples Center sports arena continues, spurring a flurry of construction of high-rise loft buildings nearby in Los Angeles, California.
Construction next to the Staples Center sports arena continues, spurring a flurry of construction of high-rise loft buildings nearby in Los Angeles, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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There was a hearing at Los Angeles City Planning Commission today over the future of a proposed Mega-development in South Los Angeles. Earlier this week community members and activist groups from L.A.’s Historic South Central District protested outside 9th District Councilmember Curren Price’s office, opposing his support for the project.

Just South of downtown, the Reef development is planned for an empty parking lot at 1900 S. Broadway, only a few blocks from the Staples Center. Spreading across almost 10 acres, it would include a hotel, stores, restaurants and more than 14 hundred market rate units. 

Residents and activists are upset the mega-development’s plans don’t include any affordable housing units. Clemente Franco from the South Central Neighborhood Council wants to know why at some of the new units can’t be for the community that already lives there. 

Franco asks, “Why is the land good enough for them, but the people not good enough to be their neighbors?”

Mark Vallianatos, co-founder of Abundant Housing Los Angeles - a group that advocates for more housing in Los Angeles, says it’s unfortunate that profit-seeking developers of market-rate housing are the only way to alleviate the city’s growing housing crisis.

“Ironically putting in new housing is one of the best ways to shield existing residents from any inevitable, or upcoming, gentrification,” says Vallianatos. He suggests there’s a silver lining in this case: at least the Reef would be built on empty parking lots - a rare chance to add housing without directly displacing anyone.

The project developers continue to promote the roughly 600 new jobs it would bring to the area, plus all the construction work while they’re building. The Reef is also offering $15 million to the affordable housing fund and to supporte community organizations in the area. 

Local activists aren’t impressed. In Franco’s opinion the money being offered is “chump change” compared the the billion dollar project and the looming shadow of displacement.

Franco thinks the gentrification of other neighborhoods, like Echo Park and Atwater Village, has made South Central a last bastion for low-income residents in L.A. 

“So once you bring in these developments and you drive up the rent, where will they go?” he says. “We’re going to have a Manhattan. We’re going to have a San Francisco. And I don’t think that’s good for the city.”


Clemente Franco, treasurer of the South Central Neighborhood Council, which opposes the Reef development; he joins us from outside the LA City Planning Commission meeting

Mark Vallianatos, Co-founder of the group Abundant Housing Los Angeles; he tweets @markvalli

This story has been updated.