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SCAG Region: Compass Blueprint Case Study Koreatown

This case study examines how the neighborhood is both intensifying and expanding, fueled by a building boom and large-scale public investment.

Koreatown

Koreatown is a culturally vibrant neighborhood in the Wilshire area of the City of Los Angeles, bookended by Downtown Los Angeles on the east and Hollywood on the north. This case study examines how the neighborhood is both intensifying and expanding, fueled by a building boom and large-scale public investment.

Local Context

Koreatown is one of the most diverse and densely populated neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Although the neighborhood is still primarily associated with Koreans and Korean Americans, Koreatown is home to concentrations of other ethnicities as well, including Hispanics, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and other Asian Americans (Figure 1). The neighborhood’s population density is said to be second only to Manhattan15 and the employment density is one of the highest in the SCAG region (Figure 3). Koreatown’s diverse population and density support not only Korean restaurants, stores and cultural facilities, but also everything from taquerias to karaoke bars with songs in English, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog and Spanish. The neighborhood serves as a cultural center for Koreans, Korean-Americans, and Hispanics in particular, and attracts diners and tourists from all over the region.

The neighborhood’s prime location and excellent transit connectivity also contribute to its vibrancy. Koreatown’s central location in Los Angeles is reinforced by its major throughways and centrality within the Metro rail and rapid bus systems (Figure 2). Wilshire Boulevard, which runs through the northern part of the neighborhood, is one of the most heavily traveled east-west arterials in Los Angeles. In Koreatown, Wilshire is densely developed with high-rise office buildings and, increasingly, luxury condominiums. Olympic Boulevard, another of the region’s principal arterials, forms the backbone of the Korean community in the southern part of the neighborhood. Rapid bus routes and three subway stops also connect Koreatown to regional destinations.

Koreatown’s residents have historically had lower incomes compared with the rest of Los Angeles – in 2000, the neighborhood’s median income was approximately $16,200, compared with $42,000 in Los Angeles County as a whole – but low housing and transportation costs have sustained low income populations. Recently, however, Koreatown has begun to change, fueled by a massive influx of both private and public investment. New development in the neighborhood is attracting wealthier residents and increasing population densities, while the area’s cultural influence is spreading east to west from the historic core. As Koreatown evolves, its residents are both welcoming the new development and creating new mechanisms to strengthen their unique community.