The ongoing issue of gentrification in Los Angeles is no surprise to any of its local residents. Throughout the years, residents have seen the ins and outs of this issue facing some of the most disadvantaged communities.
Whether that may be a trendy restaurant replacing a mom-and-pop shop or a shopping center displacing residents of the area, gentrification typically starts at a smaller magnitude and spreads around the community.
“It is no longer a neighborhood where you can raise a child or where they can ride a bike and do normal kid things. You don’t see people on the street, everything is more quiet. It doesn’t have soul to it anymore,” said restaurant owner Alan Herrera.
However, it may be hard to ignore a new multi-million dollar stadium a couple of yards away from your home.
For the people in the city of Inglewood, the SoFi Stadium changed their home when it opened back in September 2020. What was once a city filled with Black and Latinx culture is now filled with tourists and commotion, disturbing its local residents.
The city, which is already home to The Forum, decided to renovate Hollywood Park and give Inglewood a sense of refreshment and liveliness. It ultimately led to the creation of SoFi Stadium.
Yet, for most residents, this stadium did quite the opposite. From mobs of incoming traffic to rent doubling, locals are being driven away from the place they once called home.
The city issued protection to all residents with a limit to a 3% increase in their rents a year, according to the City of Inglewood. However, there are many loopholes around this rent cap that still jeopardize living conditions.
Oftentimes, a landlord can make adjustments and renovations to a property causing rental prices to rise and avoid this cap. This is possible because the city specifies that this is only viable for pieces of property with five or more units built before February 1, 1995. Therefore, the policy does not cover new properties.
These skyrocketed rent prices are not only affecting home renters but restaurants as well.
VegainzLA, a local vegan restaurant near SoFi Stadium, focuses on providing healthy and sustainable food options to low-income communities, something that is rarely seen in cities like these. Low-income communities are typically referred to as food deserts — places that have scarce and limited affordable healthy food options.
“We just want to make healthy food accessible to everyone and break those bad cycles,” Herrera said. “The community wants us here because there’s nothing healthy around here.”
As a business owner and a resident born and raised in Inglewood, it’s more than evident to Herrera and his community that things are changing
“I would see how in the nicer areas, they always had healthier options than they do here in the hood. They had more vegetables, fresh fruit and a lot of vegan stuff,” he said.
In August 2019, this hole-in-the-wall establishment was booming in the streets of Inglewood.
But, the opening of SoFi Stadium hurt local restaurants. The stadium paved the way for bigger corporations.
The Mayor of Inglewood, James Butt, has continually shared his excitement for SoFi and the reforming of Inglewood. He often harps on the positive economic impact it has brought to the city.
“During the Super Bowl, we probably had local businesses make tens of millions more dollars than they did on average on Super Bowl week. There are more people in town because of the Forum and because of the events at SoFi,” Butt said.
However, that was not the case for most local businesses, including Herrera.
After the construction of SoFi Stadium, local restaurants saw a surplus of people in their once beloved city yet for many, it didn’t raise business. It did quite the opposite.
“They sucked everything dry,” Herrera said.
As big food chains began developing in the area, local stores were and still are unable to compete with them.
The issue of struggling to buy establishments in the city was no longer a problem for local businesses. They had a bigger one — there was no more room to grow and expand.
“Now all these people from the outside, that have never been in Inglewood, that never grew up here, are getting food places inside the stadium and places that are around Inglewood,” Herrera said. “The city of Inglewood sold out. Everything got expensive, you can’t even live here anymore.”
Rent prices increased from an average of $1,100 to $1,750 within 5 years. This is a big jump considering the average for the city of L.A. only went up $335 in the same time span, according to the LA Times.
Herrera isn’t the only resident with strong opinions about the vast changes that have happened across Inglewood over the last couple of years. Most residents have encountered the same issues.
Vice President of Organizational Development of the Community Coalition of South LA, Leslie Cooper, believes that SoFi Stadium brought more bad than good to her city.
Growing up just a few blocks away from both The Forum and SoFi Stadium, Cooper has seen the changes it has brought to her community and people.
“With the stadium, it’s a love-hate relationship,” Cooper said. “I enjoy being there but I don’t like what it brought [and] the fact that people can’t afford to live here anymore.”
She emphasized that she considers Inglewood her home, as she’s lived there her whole life. Although she could afford to move to the outskirts of the county, she wishes not to, preferring rather to stay in the place she grew up in.
“I feel like this is my city, it is my home and I don’t want to feel like I have to leave,” Cooper said.
The rent increase has not caused her to move out, however, she knows several people who have had no other choice than to leave their homes.
Cooper moved into a small two-bedroom apartment in 2017 before the rent increase. Shortly after that, it became a common trend for landlords to refurbish the apartments and therefore increase the rents heavily.
In Cooper’s apartment complex, only two original tenants from 2017 stayed — the rest gone.
“It was sad having to see people pick up their roots and a lot of them would say they didn’t want to leave but they couldn’t afford to stay here,” Cooper said.
However, there’s more to this issue than just rent increases and residents leaving.
A feeling of intrusion comes with the rise in tourism. Both Inglewood residents mentioned the increase in new tenants made them feel like outsiders in their own city.
Not only have new people moved to Inglewood because of the entertainment opportunities, but long residents share unpleasant experiences with these new inhabitants.
“People who come see these events don’t necessarily live in these communities so they’re not treating it with respect,” Cooper said.
She also explained how a lot of these “visitors” do whatever they please in the surrounding community.
“Besides the traffic, I also don’t want to be in that element. I don’t want to take my kids to Target if there’s gonna be a truckload of drunk people next to us, which makes it feel unsafe,” Cooper said.
Butts disagrees. He doesn’t believe the influx in residents has led to traffic and disturbance to the locals.
“I think the people that say that either have short memory or they just weren’t here during the glory days of the city,” he said.
Even with all the problems residents feel the city has, leaving Inglewood isn’t an option. Despite the ups and downs of the city, the unity between residents remains stronger than ever during these hard times.
“There’s always been a real sense of community that makes it feel like home. It’s always felt like home,” Cooper said.