Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Bunker Hill, Los Angeles, California
Due to the skyscrapers built on it, the hill stands out from the rest of the L.A. basin and is synonymous with downtown as far as most people are concerned. A handful of skyscrapers have been built within the downtown area but away from Bunker Hill; examples include the SBC Tower (owned by Magic Johnson; formerly known as the Transamerica Tower) near the Santa Monica Freeway.
In 1867, a wealthy developer, Prudent Beaudry, purchased a majority of the hill's land. Because of the hill's excellent views of the Los Angeles Basin and the then-attractive Los Angeles River, he knew that it would make for an opulent subdivision. He developed the peak of Bunker Hill with lavish two-story Victorian houses that became famous as homes for the upper-class, educated residents of Los Angeles. Angels Flight, dubbed "The World's Shortest Railway", took residents from the top of the hill to the bottom of the 33% grade and thus to the main business district. Much like today's Bunker Hill, the land of the hill was zoned for dense uses, and was therefore always a very busy area.
Until the end of World War I, Bunker Hill was a wealthy area with a very low crime rate. During the 1920s and 1930s, poor people, criminals, and vandals filled the area. Anyone who could afford to leave proceeded to do so, fleeing along the new streetcar lines towards Santa Monica and east towards Pasadena and launching the sprawling expansion of the greater Los Angeles area that continues to the present day. The Victorian houses fell into disrepair and the crime rate soared.
For several decades, Bunker Hill was a popular setting for filmmakers, much like South Central Los Angeles today, and was used as a location for such film noir crime films as Kiss Me Deadly (1956) and Criss Cross (1949).
The Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project
In 1955, Los Angeles city planners decided that the pathetic state of the Bunker Hill area required dramatic change. Shortly after, the top of Bunker Hill was cleared and flattened as the first stage of the Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project, whhose primary goal was to fill Bunker Hill with modern plazas and buildings. When the height limit of buildings for Los Angeles was finally raised (previously nothing could be taller than City Hall), developers built some of the tallest skyscrapers in the region to take advantage of the area's existing dense zoning. In approving such projects, the city sought to project a modern, sophisticated image, and this is largely the impression one receives from visiting the area today.
The project is the oldest redevelopment project in Los Angeles history, and is scheduled to end in 2015. The majority of the skyscrapers on Bunker Hill were built in the 1980's, with a new skyscraper or two being finished nearly every year. However, the momentum died down in the 1990's, shortly after the US Bank Tower was finished; this was partly due to the increase of vacant office space as employers and professionals fled the city's high taxes and traffic congestion, but mainly due to the recession. In 1999, the vacancy rate for downtown commercial skyscrapers was 26% (one of the highest in the nation for that time).
Bunker Hill today
The development momentum from the 1980's is slowly returning, as of 2005. Many of the older buildings and the early high-rises are undergoing adaptive re-use from commercial to residential. This trend began in 2000, when developers realized there was a high level of pent-up demand among yuppies for living near downtown, and that they could profit by supplying upscale luxury housing (equipped with appropriate security measures) to meet such demand.
Many developers have been able to sell all the units in their new projects in a matter of hours. For example, all units in the south tower of the three-tower apartment project Elleven were sold out in 48 hours.
Because of the popularity of the New Urbanism in California, the city has required developers to build mixed-use residential buildings as much as possible. This means that the first floor of such residential developments are devoted to commercial retailers, so that residents do not have to constantly drive around for all their shopping trips and buildings present a more welcoming facade to passerby on the sidewalk.
Another factor contributing to the resurgence of development in the Bunker Hill area is the construction of high-quality public venues, such as the new Walt Disney Concert Hall and Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Planned projects include the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District on Figueroa Street and Olympic Boulevard in South Park (the southern end of the Bunker Hill area), and the $1 billion reconfiguration of Grand Avenue, which over the next 10 years starting from 2004 will bring in over 1,000 new residential units, 1 million square feet (93,000 m²) of office space, a 400 room hotel, 600,000 square feet (56,000 m²) of retail and entertainment space, and a 16 acre (65,000 m²) park. Finally, the community is eagerly anticipating the return of the Angels Flight tramway, which was shut down indefinitely after a fatal accident in 2001.
One sign of the success of the downtown renaissance is that the office vacancy rate for the fourth quarter of 2004 was 16%, compared to 19% for 2003, and 26% for 1999.
While developers are building luxury housing on Bunker Hill today, the City of Los Angeles has very strict laws, rules, and ordinances established that prevent gentrification. Some examples include incentives for the creation of affordable housing (rather than market-rate housing), the preservance of existing affordable housing, the development of affordable housing by the city itself (rather than waiting for private developers), and other things. The city has written documentation regarding the development of affordable housing, here and here.
On the topic of building affordable housing for very low-income to moderate-income, Principal City Planner Jane Blumenfeld said, "We are trying to make it attractive to build [downtown] and get this added affordable housing that we normally wouldn't have. We need an adequate amount of lower income housing so that in 20 years Downtown doesn't become an exclusive neighborhood." 
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details