12 local communities before and after transit

Santa Monica Expo Line train crossing. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro

Railroad crossing sign outside of a new residential complex near the future Expo Line in Santa Monica. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

Metro this year is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Metro Rail, which began in 1990 with the opening of the Blue Line between Los Angeles and Long Beach.

It’s fair to say Los Angeles has come a long way since and some neighborhoods near Metro stations have changed considerably. The maps below help show the places where that is happening.

The maps were produced using Google Earth (via Landsat) historic satellite imagery from 1989 and 1994 and in the present day. As you will soon see, we selected neighborhoods changes easiest to see on a satellite photo. Some of these projects were a product of Metro’s joint development program (a full list of those projects is here) and others through private developers. The maps and highlighted projects below are not all inclusive — the yellow shows the most obvious changes.

(You can click here to jump ahead to the maps.)

In the past decade, 2,017 housing units have been built in joint developments on Metro-owned properties; another 570 units are either under construction or in the negotiating phase. These developments typically take place on parcels that Metro purchased for transit construction.

Of course, not every change in these communities happened because of a new transit station. As with any city, there are a variety of factors at play, including the local real estate market, the perception and reality of public schools and crime, restrictive zoning laws and the willingness of developers to invest in particular communities. And, as we’ve said before, some communities with transit stations haven’t changed much at all.

One of the challenges of development in urban areas is affordability — a lot of the developments below are market rate, meaning they’re pricey. The Metro Board of Directors in March passed a motion stating it’s the agency’s goal to set aside 35 percent of the housing on Metro joint developments as affordable units (31 percent of the units built thus far qualify as affordable).

More recently, Metro CEO Phil Washington expressed his concerns about gentrification near transit. Metro is also starting a Transit Oriented Communities demonstration program to promote a more holistic approach “to integrating transit into communities.”

On privately owned parcels, the affordability requirement often doesn’t exist. It’s up to local cities. Santa Monica, for example, has a requirement for affordable units. Other cities use different tools, such as allowing more units to be built in exchange for some qualifying as affordable.

The maps below only concentrate on neighborhoods within a half-mile or so of transit. They provide the big view, not the nitty gritty specifics of exactly how many units have been built, how many are affordable, what kind of retail has been built and those type of questions. We don’t have that kind of data.







The most prominent addition to the area surrounding Hollywood/Highland is the Hollywood/Highland Center and the infill of residential units in the surrounding blocks. To our eye, there are certainly fewer surface parking lots near the station.






Though unsightly parking lots still exist to the east of the Hollywood/Vine Red Line Station, the area has seen its fair share of development over the years, perhaps most notably the opening of the W Hollywood Hotel directly over the Metro Red Line station in 2010 through Metro’s joint development program.

Since then, more residential developments have been built to the south and northeast of the station and are visible in the 2015 image. Even more developments are planned, including the Millennium Hollywood Towers and others south of Sunset Boulevard (the horizontal-running street near the bottom of the map).







North Hollywood, specifically the NoHo Arts District, has also undergone a transformation the past two decades. More than a handful of transit-oriented development projects have popped up between now and the time the Metro Red Line was completed in 2000.

Prior to the subway, much of the neighborhood was filled with auto repair shops and other light industry. Metro also is working to develop four parcels it owns near the Red Line station that totals 15 acres.Early estimates are that the sites could contain 750 to 1,500 residential units along with commercial and/or office space. What you don’t see in this photo is a revitalized Lankershim Boulevard that is south of the Red Line Station.

Bottom line: this area will likely look pretty different in 25 years. And something else to chew on: Metro is in the early stages of studying a bus rapid transit project to connect the Orange Line to Burbank, Glendale and the Gold Line in Pasadena. That is also a project that has been talked about as part of the agency’s ongoing long-range plan update and potential ballot measure to fund projects.







Wilshire/Vermont is another example of transit-oriented development atop a subway station. An apartment complex with ground-floor retail and a new middle school were built there as part of Metro’s joint development program. As for the area around the station, there’s still a lot of parking in the area, but not quite as much as pre-subway.







Other than the joint development directly above the Wilshire/Western Station in Koreatown, the neighborhood around the current terminus for the Purple Line has seen limited development. It’s worth noting that the Koreatown neighborhood is already the most dense neighborhood in Los Angeles.







It’s tough to spot the differences in the blocks surrounding the Memorial Park Station as most of the development since the Gold Line was built in 2005 is southwest of the station or closer to the Del Mar Station (see below!). Some of the changes you might notice aren’t highlighted because they’re developments that were completed prior to the Gold Line opening in 2003, such as Paseo Colorado near the bottom right. A new development is under construction on the northwest corner of Fair Oaks and Walnut.

For those curious: the Holly Street apartments that are literally above the Memorial Park Station were completed when the Gold Line was still being designed. There was a rail right-of-way below the apartments that had been used by freight railroads.







With a residential complex built directly adjacent to and literally over the station, the Del Mar Station is a picture perfect representation of transit oriented development. There are also many new residences west of the station — a former light industrial district — and new buildings just east of the station at Arroyo Parkway and Cordova Avenue.







This is the area surrounding the current last stop on the Pasadena leg of the Gold Line, the Sierra Madre Villa Station. This is the suburbs and has been — and continues to be — very car-oriented. That said, a TOD was developed next to the station on Foothill Boulevard and a second phase is now under construction. There are also some new developments underway to the west near the Gold Line’s Allen and Lake stations.

Sierra Madre Villa Station. Photo: (Steve Hymon/Metro)

Sierra Madre Villa Station transit oriented development–the new project, the old project and the parking garage.








Little Tokyo and the adjacent Arts District have gone through significant changes since the satellite photo in 1994. This was a sea of parking lots in the early 1990s. While many of the new spaces in the Arts District are light industrial warehouses converted to lofts, there are also entirely housing projects too, like the recently completed One Sante Fe near the Metro Red and Purple Line maintenance yard. That project was part of Metro’s joint development program.

In Little Tokyo, closer to the Gold Line’s Little Tokyo Station, new residential complexes have popped up in the past decade. A very noticeable recent development is on 2nd Street, where an entire city block devoted to parking has now become a large mixed-use residential complex.

A few other noticeable changes on the map that are interesting but we didn’t highlight are the new Japanese American National Museum pavilion, the Caltrans building and the new LAPD headquarters. It’s also worth noting that Metro’s Regional Connector project will put the current Little Tokyo Station underground. The land directly above and the big parking lot east of the current train platform will likely be ripe for development.







Admittedly, transit access is only one of the many influences responsible for the renaissance in downtown Los Angeles in the past two decades. As the Census Bureau has noted, many downtowns across the U.S. have seen a rising population as some people seek to be closer to urban centers.

We focused on downtown’s South Park because it has very visibly changed over the past two decades. Yes, other areas of downtown such as the Historic Core have exploded in the past decade too, but much of that has come through the restoration and repurposing of existing historic buildings. South Park’s change is striking from above because the new developments are being built over what used to be blocks and blocks of surface parking lots.

South Park residents have some of the best transit accessibility in L.A. County, so from a transit perspective it sounds great. But that doesn’t mean the parking lots are gone for good. Many of the developments provide underground or parking on the first few levels of their buildings. The cost to live at many of the new developments also skews toward the luxury end of the market.

Other prominent areas highlighted that were built between 1989 and 2015 are the L.A. Convention Center, L.A. Live, Staples Center, and Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.







There’s undoubtedly been revitalization in downtown Long Beach since 1994 although it’s hard to see from a satellite — with many buildings in the core being rehabbed. There appears to be fewer parking lots today and more and larger buildings in the core of DTLB.

The most active area visually in the comparison is along Ocean Boulevard where high-rise condos and hotels were built, as well as the entertainment and retail center The Pike — though calling it transit oriented development might be a stretch. Another noticeable change is the transformation of the City Place Shopping Center near the 5th Street Blue Line Station, which converted the Long Beach Plaza Mall into a mixed-use outdoor shopping area (more renovation plans were announced earlier this month).





dtsm-2015 copy



Santa Monica has undergone a building boom in recent years as well. Anticipation of the opening of the Metro Expo Line extension to Santa Monica at 4th and Colorado is one probable factor. Unlike the mega projects in downtown L.A., much of the action has involved development on smaller parcels. Instead of replacing parking lots, many are being built to replace older and smaller, single level or smaller apartments. But like the developments in downtown L.A., many of the units built  can hardly be called affordable.

A few final words. In the time since the Blue Line opened, Metro Rail has grown to 83 miles and 80 stations in addition to the 18 stations along the Orange Line busway and the Silver Line between El Monte Station and Harbor Gateway Transit Center. Thirteen more Metro Rail stations will open in 2016 with the debut of the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa.

The Expo Line Station opened in Culver City in 2012. At that time, downtown Culver City had already been revitalized and the Helms Bakery complex was already pretty popular. But changes are afoot with some new developments rising on Washington Boulevard on the eastern end of the station (see below). We look forward to documenting the changes in Culver City and other cities the next time we do a big TOD roundup.

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro

In another 25 years, what do you think the above maps will look like? How do you want them to look?

Joe is on Twitter @joseph_lem

17 replies

  1. A special mention should also go to Aviation/LAX where there’s a residential development going on right now where the old Wild Goose night club used to be.

    If the price is right and affordable, I may just move there as it’s close to LAX and will be a hub as a transfer point between the Green Line and the Crenshaw Line.

  2. Joint development has been a huge success as far as I’m concerned. Most I believe have affordable housing. Three Red Line stations where there should be a joint development are Mac Arthur Park, Vermont and Beverly. A bit small lot but something with housing is still possible and lastly Vermont and Santa Monica. A rather large lot that could also include an extension to the LACC campus. I’m sure Children’s Hospital would be interested in developing the Vermont and Sunset property. With this influx of money perhaps a tax increase could be avoided.

    • Yes! The Gooose! Also near Mariposa Station west: Health South, The Hotel, Soccer Pitch, and the current office park at Nash and I think Walnut. I remember when none of that was there and it was just fields and Aerospace. A Bussy of mine actually lived where that development is. I think its 118th St. I could be mistaken though.

  3. With the exception of the Green Line Aviation Station and the area where the maintenance facility is in Hawthorne with the hotels over there. Most of the Green Line stations have not led to much improvement along the Green Line. Many of the areas that it passes through still looks like an eye score. Also, most of the stations west and south of the Aviation station do not have many bus connections to bring passengers in to the Green Line Metrorail stations. This is something that I think Metro needs to address.

    • The Municipalities in that area could care less and have actually cut service. In 1999, the 439 used to go through Aviation Station and down to Redondo and was cut, the 124 used to run down El Segundo Blvd to terminate in the city and was cut, and the 125 used to also terminate in the city of El Segundo but was cut. There is the 126 that is a ghost ship from Redondo Beach station, I think only 4 of those run a day. Its a combination of demand, and people really not wanting Metro buses coming in. I’ve heard conversations. There is BCT (Beach Cities Transit) and the 232, but service is horrid. Not many residents complain, since not many residents ride. If you in the area west of Sepulveda from Imperial South after 10 oclock, good luck getting out. I agree that Metro needs to work on it, but at the same time its always failed because of what seems like lack of demand. I avoid the 232 when necessary.

      • “If you in the area west of Sepulveda from Imperial South after 10 oclock, good luck getting out. I agree that Metro needs to work on it, but at the same time its always failed because of what seems like lack of demand. I avoid the 232 when necessary.”

        Today there’s Uber and Lyft to take care of that problem. It’s not in Metro’s best interest to keep servicing areas with low demand. If there’s low demand, the private sector (Uber and Lyft) can take care of that with their 24/7 ride share services.

      • El Segundo is a mini-Vernon. Collect tons of money from big businesses, have few residents, and spend the money on excessive numbers and salaries of government employees, far more than neighboring wealthier cities like Manhattan and Hermosa.

        That’s why El Segundo would never allow housing in its commercial area. Residents have things like children, which cost cities lots of money.

        El Segundo between Nash and Sepulveda could become a thriving city in its own right (lots of jobs, lots of surface parking available for conversion), but that would take allowing housing, cutting parking requirements, and shrinking the streets. All of that would make a ton of money, but it would threaten the people benefitting from the status quo.

  4. Luckily for us, LA has Hollywood so many areas have been shot on film back then.

    For those who are too young to remember what Wilshire/Western used to look like before there was a Metro station and Solair there, there’s a scene in the film “Lethal Weapon” where Danny Glover and Mel Gibson eat a hot dog at the SW corner of Wilshire/Western, and you can just see what the NE corner used to be back then (a Thrifty’s Drug Store).


    Lucky for us we can still eat those famed Thrifty’s ice cream at any Rite Aid store, at six times the price as it used to be back then (was 25 cents for a single scoop back in the early 1980s).

  5. Excellent post! I think Metro is on the right track by trying to develop near the stations without forgetting that affordable housing is going to be more of a benefit to the transit system than market-rate housing, given that richer people are less likely to ride. Anyway, this is really exciting, and I look forward to a lot more parking lots getting developed in the future. Walkable urban places are a natural compliment to transit service. If we start building our cities more like the above, we’ll be well on our way to solving the affordable housing problem and the need to reduce our environmental impacts. Don’t forget, transit oriented development doesn’t require rail stations. This can also work near bus lines.

  6. […] Twelve communities in L.A. County before and after transit: “Metro this year is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Metro Rail, which began in 1990 with the opening of the Blue Line between Los Angeles and Long Beach. It’s fair to say Los Angeles has come a long way since and some neighborhoods near Metro stations have changed considerably. The maps below help show the places where that is happening.” […]

  7. “Today there’s Uber and Lyft to take care of that problem. It’s not in Metro’s best interest to keep servicing areas with low demand. If there’s low demand, the private sector (Uber and Lyft) can take care of that with their 24/7 ride share services.”

    Problem I’ve come across is my monthly pass is not covered by those services, the price of Uber & Lyft is not fixed, and its exponentially more expensive to travel 10-15 miles. While I agree there is low demand, there should at least be a bus once an hour on every major blvd in South Bay between the hours of 10 and 4 am. It doesn’t seem like too (many buses) much to ask for.

    I also come from a time when those services did not exist. It was yellow, or walk.

    • “price of Uber & Lyft is not fixed, and its exponentially more expensive to travel 10-15 miles.”

      The price of Uber and Lyft is not exponential, it is linear as it has a fixed rate per mile ($1 per mile in the LA area).

      Linear vs Exponential

      The rate of an UberX trip is calculated as [ (distance) x ($1 per mile) x (surge factor, if any)] + [ (number of minutes for the trip) x ($0.18 per minute) ] + $1.65 safe rides fee

      It’s more linear. If it were exponential, the rate per mile won’t be fixed, it would increase as it goes farther.

    • “I also come from a time when those services did not exist. It was yellow, or walk.”

      I’m sure that you go back two or three generations ago, you’ll end up with the similar sounding tone of voices by folks who might have said “you young ingrates with your fancy asphalt pavements, dedicated pedestrian sidewalks, rubber soled shoes and horseless carriage doo-hickeys and contraptions have it too easy! Why, back in my day, it was walking in the open dirt or riding a horse!”

      Los Angeles 1870s:

  8. While there have definitely been positive changes around some transit centers, others have seen negative impacts. Certainly North Hollywood and Little Tokyo/Arts District have changed for the better. Wilshire/Vermont, though, seems to have sparked a developer feeding frenzy. Projects like The Vermont really only benefit developers, and there are more like it on the way. I doubt the wealthy tenants in these buildings will ride the Red Line much. And in Hollywood, the vaunted benefits of transit-oriented density have not materialized. According to people posting on Yelp!, The Rubix and Eastown are not only pricey, but poorly run, with short-term rental companies using them as illegal hotels. Some tenants have said that the STR clients have caused serious security and safety concerns. This is the result of sloppy planning and poor vetting of projects. Our elected officials are so blindly pro-development that they push projects forward even when it’s clear that the developers are only interested in profit, and do not care about the long-term health of the community.

    I was very glad to hear Phil Washington speak out about displacement, and I’m glad he’s pushing MTA to think harder about the impacts of new transit construction. The Mayor and the City Council need to make a similar commitment to create affordable housing near transit centers. Just building a skyscraper on top of a subway stop doesn’t make it. We need a more thoughtful, nuanced approach to planning that will benefit middle- and low-income citizens.