A significant amount of investment and accompanying interest has focused across the section of the Los Angeles River located north of Downtown Los Angeles. Some of that attention has been directed toward Long Beach where the LA River empties into the Pacific Ocean, but very little public awareness exists about the sections located between the cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which include Cudahy [KUD-ə-hay],  Maywood, and South Gate.

AHBE Lab wanted to find out more about these stretches of communities following the river. Jiani Shen, a masters student at LSU, and Estevan Castenada, a bachelor’s student from Cal Poly Pomona, are both AHBE summer interns. They’ve been both tasked to gather information about this section along the Los Angeles River, asked to research upon open space recommendations, as well as report about connections to the adjoining communities. Both summer interns will share their observations about living within the Los Angeles landscape, with a first post from Estevan:

Graphic by Estevan Castaneda

Is there a link between housing values and the geographic elevation levels across Los Angeles?

The answer to this question may not have a direct answer. From personal experience, I’ve associated houses on higher elevations with a higher value because of the seclusion from noise and their inclusion of beautiful views. But this is not always the case. When does elevation become a valuable feature and when does it devalue a location?

Downtown Los Angeles from behind the Hollywood Sign” by James Gubera. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

My theory is that a combination of components come into play: the neighborhood’s average income, the availability of transportation, and the elevation of one’s home. Income level would likely play a role in the possibility of the home occupants owning a car. If a family can buy a car, their need for public transportation diminishes. But when families cannot afford a car, then access to public transportation becomes a top priority.

This ties closely with the availability, or lack thereof, of other transportation modes. Let us consider two cities, Beverly Hills and Boyle Heights. These cities exist at the opposite levels of income and public transportation spectrum and present different values in relation to their similar elevations. In the case of Beverly Hills, where the top fifth percent earns up to $660,000 per year, public transportation options are sparse. This has little to no effect on the high-income communities in Beverly Hills, but it does affect the low-income communities that live there. Some families in Beverly Hills earn as little as $14,000, and public transportation is their only option for getting to and from their jobs.

“Hollywood and Beverly Hills” by Aito Aguirregabiria. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In the case of Boyle Heights, the public transportation system is not sparse, but the amount of high quality transportation is lacking. The highest quality mode of public transportation in Boyle Heights is the Gold Line, which opened in 2009. This neighborhood’s average income is around $33,000, while the Los Angeles County average is about $58,000. Thus, the need for proper public transportation to connect these neighborhoods to the larger city of LA exists.

“Hollywood and Beverly Hills” by Aito Aguirregabiria. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Elevation ties both factors if average income and available transportation together, creating value. Usually when homes are put on a higher elevation, they are separated from main streets and the nuisances such as noise, pollution, and trash that comes with living in close proximity of other citizens. In Beverly Hills, this results in an idealized neighborhood with a higher average housing value. But the opposite can be true when higher elevation separates people from proper public transportation. In Boyle Heights where a car is not always as readily available, this can mean a walk down or up steep slopes,which is not a desired everyday route for older and disabled citizens.

There are other variables that ultimately affect property values, but this is just my theory…

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