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New housing projects try to keep LA artists in the neighborhood

Artists say they are getting pushed out of neighborhoods they made popular. Painter Jett Jackson sits in her 275-square-foot live and work space in the Arts District in 2015. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Growing recognition of the role artists and performers play in greater Los Angeles has led to a small flurry of affordable-housing projects geared at renters struggling to make it in the arts. 

Glendale is getting a new artist colony with affordable housing. Another artist colony in San Pedro,  built by the same developer, Meta Housing Corp., is currently offering 48 apartments for artists.

Los Angeles recently approved another team to move forward with a 72-unit complex in Hollywood for artists with 60 percent of the units priced at below-market rates.

The Actors Fund is working with developer Thomas Safran & Associates on The Hollywood Arts Collective project, which will be erected on a city-owned parking lot.

"We want to be that place that welcomes artists and makes it easier for them to come in and get settled and build a creative life here," said Keith McNutt, director of the Western Region of The Actors Fund. 

The $35 million complex will also include 25,000 square feet of street-level retail, offices, space for a gallery, theater and an outdoor amphitheater.

The city will lease the land to the project team, according to L.A. City Council member Mitch O'Farrell.

"This is going to be a great addition to Hollywood Boulevard and will be near all the transit lines and be a way for us to roll out the welcome mat for creative individuals," O'Farrell said.

The city picked the pairing of the Actors Fund and Thomas Safran & Associates from among four finalists. Thomas Safran has developed housing for specific groups such as veterans and seniors before taking on artists housing, said Tyler Monroe, a vice president at the firm.

"Hollywood has seen a lot of new hotel developments, a lot of high-end, market-rate and condo and apartment development, and what it’s doing is pricing a lot of people in the community out of the  market," Monroe said.

There are a number of other residential spaces for artists, including a West Hollywood complex for artists with disabilities, also developed by The Actors Fund.

But McNutt acknowledged that what's available still falls short of demand. He said a 2012 report showed that of 1,000 people interested in affordable artist housing, more than 60 percent were financially eligible.

One area that artists say needs more affordable housing is the place whose name is inspired by them: Downtown's Arts District. Visual artist Tim Keating said rising rents are pushing out more artists than drawing them there, leaving a void downtown.

"An artistic culture that is created out of nothing creates cultural tourism," Keating said. "It creates an atmosphere of exploration that’s really necessary in an urban environment."