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UCLA Case Studies

2015 Comprehensive Project

This 2015 Comprehensive Project is part of a wider effort funded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to explore the impact of transit-oriented development (TOD) on low-income communities. The project’s client is the Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC). Financial and other support were provided by UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning, the California Endowment, the California Community Foundation, UCLA’s Center for the Study of Inequality and UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies.

The project collected primary data in six Los Angeles neighborhoods to develop a grounded understanding of how stakeholders (transit riders, small and ethnic businesses, and community institutions) and the physical environment have experienced neighborhood change. The neighborhoods are diverse in their location around Los Angeles, the duration of time since the Metrorail station opened, and their demographic profiles. All six are disadvantaged communities.

The six Metrorail station areas profiled in this study are:

  • 103rd Street/Watts Tower (Blue Line opened 1990),
  • Chinatown (Gold Line opened 2003),
  • Highland Park (Gold Line opened 2003),
  • Hollywood/Western (Red Line opened 1999),
  • Mariachi Plaza (Gold Line opened 2009), and
  • Vermont (Expo Line opened 2012).

The analyses of TOD impacts are organized in four chapters, each with a specific focus and unique methodological approach.

Download the Comprehensive Project Report View the Abridged Version

Impacts on Asian American Businesses

This series of reports provides an assessment of the impacts of transit-oriented developments (TOD) in four sites located within and in close proximity of Asian American neighborhoods in Los Angeles: Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, and Thai Town. As Los Angeles develops its rail transit system, in part to promote a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle, there has been a growing concern about the possibility of gentrification and displacement.

While there has been many previous studies on this topic, the existing literature focuses on affordable housing and on non-Asian populations. In this context, this TOD project is the first systematic effort to analyze the impacts on small and ethnic businesses in Asian American communities.

The project addresses the following questions by comparing business growth in these neighborhoods over two decades:

  1. Is overall growth in the TOD sites similar to, less than or more than LA County?
  2. Is small-business growth in the TOD sites similar to, less than or more than LA County?
  3. Is Asian-business growth in the TOD sites similar to, less than or more than LA County?
  4. Is the level of real-estate activities (construction and transactions) in the TOD sites similar to, less than or more than LA County?

Download the Overview Report

View the specific research reports on individual Asian-American neighborhoods:

Koreatown Neighborhood Report Thai Town Neighborhood Report Chinatown Neighborhood Report Little Tokyo Neighborhood Report

Wal-Mart and Starbucks Impact Study

The purpose of this research is to examine the impacts of the Walmart Neighborhood Store and Starbucks on Asian small businesses in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. The key question is whether these chain-store developments are displacing existing businesses. Moreover, large-scale development is likely to alter Chinatown’s cultural significance as a historic place where Chinese immigrated to live and work in Los Angeles. This research examines whether Walmart and Starbucks are attracting more customers for ethnic small businesses or threatening these businesses’ sustainability.

This brief explores both the Walmart and Starbucks sites because they are newly developed establishments that share very different characteristics from the rest of Chinatown’s ethnic businesses. We will be primarily analyzing the consumers of Walmart and Starbucks in regards to the reasons that they shop there, how often they shop there, and whether they shopped in Chinatown before or after the corporate businesses opened. In addition, we disaggregated some of the data for residents and non-residents of Chinatown to determine if these businesses are attracting new people to the area.

Download Big Business Impact Study Report

Skid Row, Gallery Row, Cultural Revitalization Impact Study

As a means for neighbourhood improvement, cultural urban revitalisation seeks to draw business growth and investment by attracting a creative class of young urban professionals. Though criticisms abound that these strategies benefit the wealthy and displace low-income communities, there is little research focusing on how the efforts of social actors can shape or resist this process.

The purpose of this study is to offer a micro-level look at the spatial and political contestations and negotiations that occur amongst a variety of community organisations and individuals in two adjacent neighbourhoods in downtown Los Angeles undergoing revitalisation. By approaching ‘revitalisation’ as an arena where different neighbourhood groups can compete to achieve their goals, it argues that we scrutinise prevailing notions of gentrification and seek to understand the values and actions of stakeholders involved in order to enable more equitable outcomes of urban revitalisation.

Download the Full Report