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Transit-Oriented Development Coming to La Cienega and Jefferson

KABC and KLOS Radio Stations | The sale of this property would be just the beginning of transit-oriented development at La Cienega/Jefferson.

KABC/KLOS Property Up For Sale
If sold, the site could be the start of a rapid level of transit-oriented development.

ABOVE: Prospects for Transit-Oriented Development in LA
This is a tool designed to analyze local markets around transit stops and their potential to support livable community development. Click on the pins and the "i" in the upper-right for more info.
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By Logan Heley

An upcoming city council vote will show just how committed Los Angeles is to developing the areas near the city’s Metro stations. The vote to revise the Community Plan by the LA City Council is expected to take place as early as next month, according to those familiar with the law, and would encourage transit-oriented development, which means allowing denser mixed-use development in areas close to public transportation hubs. Anticipating the vote, land prices near those stations are going up and land for sale signs are expected to pop up just as fast.

At the La Cienega/Jefferson Metro station, Cumulus Media Inc. of Atlanta put its 10-acre lot currently occupied partially by the KABC and KLOS radio stations on the market. Cumulus is the second largest owner of radio stations in the nation. With transit-oriented development in the near future, experts said the Cumulus lot could garner $200 per square foot, or $90 million. A 2009 survey showed 89 acres of underutilized land near the La Cienega/Jefferson station. Nearby along the Expo line there is 80 acres of underutilized land near the Jefferson/USC station and 104 acres near the Culver City station.

That’s the case with the Cumulus site, according to Tim Bower, the real estate agent in charge of selling the property. He said the site is “very underutilized” and selling it is a smart business decision for the company. He also said out of his 30-year career this sale is one of the most distinctive on which he’s worked.

“Ten acres being available anywhere on the Westside [of Los Angeles] is incredibly unique and incredibly rare,” Bower said.

Dr. Tridib Banerjee, an urban and regional planning professor at the University of Southern California said the focus on transit-oriented development accompanying the expansion of the Metro line is changing the face of Los Angeles.

“There is no question that Los Angeles’ urban form is changing,” Banerjee said. “It’s remarkable how quickly this is changing – just the last 10 or 15 years. Los Angeles used to be the poster child for urban or suburban sprawl, but that’s not the case now. Los Angeles in becoming one of the denser cities in the country.”

But with a changing face, Banerjee sees other potential problems. While he argues that focused neighborhood centers, in this case in the form of transit stops, help strengthen a neighborhood’s identity, he worries that transit-oriented development might change the face of the neighborhood too much.

“The TODs (transit-oriented developments) often have a gentrifying effect in a neighborhood,” Banerjee said. “And that means the land prices, so the people that actually originally lived there are pushed out and new people move in.”

Banerjee also said that the people needing to use public transportation, around which these TODs are centered, usually are lower income and would be pushed out of the area if land prices rise. He said the market produces very little affordable housing and in the cases of TODs the city government might need to step in with subsidies or new ordinances.

Currently there isn’t any information available to the public that lays out specific plans for the transit-oriented “village” that might be built at the intersection of La Cienega Blvd. and Jefferson Blvd. Such a “village” would mix commercial and residential space, however it’s likely that affordable housing would not be a developer’s first choice unless the city required it, according to Banerjee.

Yolanda Davis-Overstreet, a community and bike advocatewho is also a longtime resident of the area, said she’s not too worried about current residents needing to move away from the neighborhood if new developments start up. Even so, she said the city has not sent information to current residents about any potential plans for future development that might affect the neighborhood’s land values. She said the city does need to focus more resources towards outreach to educate residents about new transportation options, like the Metro and new bike lanes.

“As a resident we haven’t received any information in the mail from (the city government),” Davis-Overstreet said. “There hasn’t been anyone coming to our doors.”

With a sale of the Cumulus property not expected until after the LA City Council meets to approve the denser land use permits as early as next month, any movement towards a “transit-oriented village” at La Cienega and Jefferson could be years down the road.

Starbucks Arrives | Coffee shops set up near high-traffic areas.

Parking Available | Sometimes this lot fills up for USC football games due to Metro traffic coming from the Westside.

New Bike Paths | The Metro lines aren't just for trains, they're bike friendly too.