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Photo by Alyssa Bruell.

As a child, Steven Meeks spent hours riding his bike around the neighborhood of West Adams. He cycled past quaint A-Frame style homes with small green yards, familiar faces smiling and waving hello as he cruised by. The narrow streets, which are lined with old Magnolia trees, bring neighbors closer together. Meeks can recall times when he would babysit his neighbor’s children, and they would occasionally use his oven and give him copies of National Geographic for Christmas. A few decades later, he’s living in the same house he grew up in — with a red shingled roof, a yard full of succulents and a cumquat tree — but things are different. Kids don’t play on the block like they used to, and he’s friendly with some neighbors, but not all. While the quaint South Los Angeles neighborhood of West Adams will always be his home, he is actively searching for ways to keep its sense of community alive.

West Adams has gained traction in the Los Angeles real estate market, as prospective homeowners and renters priced out of the Westside are attracted to the neighborhood’s competitive prices, access to transit and proximity to Downtown Los Angeles. Developers are also gravitating to the area, flipping homes and overseeing construction of high rises. While a number of homeowners in West Adams see it as a revitalization ultimately increasing home value, others worry it will change the character of the neighborhood.

Meeks, President of the West Adams Neighborhood Council (WANC), is a longtime resident. He has had a firsthand glimpse into the neighborhood’s growing changes, as a wave of new faces make their way into West Adams.

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Real Estate on the Rise

“The thing that I always hear, and I heard it today, is that if you buy a small home this size, or even smaller going west — in Culver City or Santa Monica — forget it. If you are over in the Fairfax area, homes are a million dollars plus, and are not even this big,” Meeks explained while sitting in his eclectic living room, full of art collected from around the world. “To me personally, I think all of them are overpriced. Rents and everything are out of control. People cannot even afford just a basic, two bedroom home.”

Los Angeles market values increased by 7.5 percent in 2016. Areas like West Adams have also grown in price and population. In 2016, Redfin, a real estate company and database, rated West Adams the 9th most competitive city to live in the United States. Shortly after, it was written about on blogs like Curbed LA, which calls itself the “number one destination for affluent urbanites,” further increasing interest among middle and high income buyers.

As buzz about an area grows, so do the cost of homes.

According to real estate appraiser Richard Lopez, “the market value of a property is the amount a buyer is willing to pay, not the value placed on the property by the seller. For example, a seller might list a property for $250,000, but if buyers are willing to pay $300,000, then the market value is $300,000.”

Redfin Communications Specialist Jeffery Marino explained that in 2017, the average price of a home or condominium for sale in West Adams is $580,000, and in the month of January alone, there were 30 homes sold in the area. Since 2016, the median house price has increased by 18.4 percent.

At a recent open house, individuals of all kinds — families, young couples and elderly folks — looked at a ranch style home on Harcourt Avenue in West Adams. The 1,352 square foot house, with a limited front yard but spacious backyard, garnered much attention. Real estate agent Isabel Valez shared that the first day, she already had “a few offers already over asking price.” The home sold for $765,000.

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The backyard of the open house on Harcourt Ave. Photo by Amanda Lopez.