In diverse, working-class neighborhoods across Los Angeles, an unprecedented $40 billion mass transit expansion is being met with mixed emotions. But the very real prospect of displacement and gentrification looms.

ACT-LA Campaign Manager Laura Raymond writes for Truthout about the need to plan for transit-oriented development so that it doesn’t overwhelm communities that would benefit the most from it.

If it adopts a forward-thinking strategy, Los Angeles can address housing needs, link quality jobs to the transit build out, and protect existing small businesses from rising rents and competition from chain stores. These will be key factors in ensuring longtime residents are able to afford to stay living near transit and are not pushed out to the margins of the city without access to the transit system that their tax dollars funded.

Various community organizations have done extraordinary work in their neighborhoods to address the prospect of rising land values and gentrification around new transit stations. One example is the youth organizing done by the Southeast Asian Community Alliance in Chinatown, where high school students worked with policy and urban planning experts to come up with innovative new development standards. The resulting plan prioritizes low income housing for new development in a huge area that borders Chinatown’s Metro station. The students, over a three-year campaign, were able to build enough momentum for a victory at City Hall and their plan – called the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan (CASP) – was recently touted by the Los Angeles Times as “a model for LA planning.” Other community organizing around TOD projects, for example in Little Tokyo or in South LA near the Blue and Expo Lines, have resulted in strong community benefit agreements. But given the intensive resources that go into working on the project-by-project level and the sheer scale of the current transit expansion, it is clear that a citywide approach is necessary.

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