Since 1990, L.A. has seen its rail network go from 0 to 100 miles of coverage. Not only has the boom changed traveling patterns in the County, it’s also affected land use. Metro also actively works to develop parcels they own near rail stations, hoping to make some green from developers and encourage dense, mixed-use projects near their stations, which ostensibly boost ridership. Twenty-six years after rail arrived in modern L.A., transit-oriented development has been a very mixed bag—neighborhoods and cities like Hollywood and Culver City have blossomed, but South L.A. and Boyle Heights have seen nominal growth near their stations. Let’s focus on the successes:
Gold Line, Del Mar station
The Gold Line is a lovely way to access Pasadena, and the Del Mar station is one of the light rail’s nicest stops. Since opening in 2003, the Del Mar station has seen apartments, restaurants, and plazas sprout around it, and a historic train depot was restored and now houses an eatery. The Del Mar station transit village—designed by Moule & Polyzoides—holds nearly 350 apartments, and 15% are affordable units.
Red Line, Hollywood/Vine
The most famous intersection in the world was pretty sad when the Red Line opened for business in 1999; the seedy corner abruptly ended east of Vine Street, with parking lots and blighted buildings greeting already-disappointed tourists. The area has changed completely since then, especially after the opening of the W Hotel and Residences in 2010. Mixed-use apartments and offices have opened or under construction on Vine Street, and the Eastown complex on Hollywood Blvd. (currently building out its second phase, just east of the subway station) has moved the pedestrian momentum further east. A Kimpton Hotel and Dream Hotel are also going up near the stop, though additional development may be hindered by traffic-averse locals.
Red/Purple lines, Wilshire/Vermont This station in the heart of Koreatown was still recovering from the 1992 riots when this station opened up four years later. It took awhile, but the station has helped transform this spot into a bustling urban hub. The striking Wilshire Vermont apartments opened up on top of the stop last decade, housing apartments and numerous shops for locals and commuters. Across the street, The Vermont—two of Ktown’s tallest towers—opened last year. More plans are in the works to transform Vermont Avenue, which has had a distinctly suburban feel for much of its life.
Red Line, North Hollywood
NoHo benefits from not only being the terminus of the Red Line subway, but also the popular Orange Line busway. Before the subway arrived in 2000, this spot was seen as somewhat rough-and-tumble, now it’s a desirable residence for young professionals; especially since a movie theater, restaurants, and apartments have all opened nearby. The 121-year-old Lankershim train depot was gorgeously restored and will soon house a coffee shop. The changes currently seen are just scratching the surface: Metro plans to bring housing, retail, offices, and a pedestrian promenade to 16 acres surrounding the station.
Expo Line, Culver City This corner of Culver City at National and Washington boulevards was seriously forlorn before the Expo Line arrived in 2012. Since then, a mixed-use apartment building was built, as well as the handsome PLATFORM hipster mall. Numerous other developments are in the pipeline, and the area is now a bridge between the Helms district and downtown Culver City.
In the future:
Gold Line, Mariachi Plaza
Locals are rightfully concerned about gentrification here, but some new housing is already going up near this underground light rail station. Expect small—three- to four-story projects—to open nearby in the next decade.
Expo Line, Downtown Santa Monica Two hotels are finishing up work near Expo’s western terminus and new apartment buildings are in the planning stages. Space is at a minimum, and locals are very development-averse, but this area will likely grow more dense in the next years.
Gold Line, Monrovia
Of all the San Gabriel Valley cities the Gold Line runs through, none are trying to activate their station more than Monrovia. Projects like Station Square have already opened—creating a lovely plaza and park-like setting—and new apartments have broken ground.
Crenshaw Line, Downtown Inglewood This stop is close to Inglewood’s depressed, but lovely, downtown area. There’s much opportunity there, including a giant parcel right across the stop at Florence and La Brea.
Purple Line, Wilshire/La Brea
We’re still about seven years away from this station opening, but you know developers are going to hop on this Miracle Mile locale. While Wilshire is already pretty packed with buildings, and La Brea north of Wilshire has already evolved as of late, look for big changes on La Brea south of the intersection.