Map Legend

Airbnb rental listing
Report of homelessness encampment
Neighborhood boundary

Homelessness in the City of Angels

Welcome to Los Angeles!

The pervasive issue of poverty and homelessness in Los Angeles

Homelessness is a chronic problem plaguing the region perched below palm-tree-lined, iridescent sunsets, bustling show biz glamour and a cultural richness reflected in its culinary offerings, thriving creative community and sprawling estates. Compared to previous years, 2019 saw a stark increase in the number of people living in tents, vehicles, and shelters in both the City and County of Los Angeles–12% and 16% respectively (LAHSA, 2019).

Encampments through 311 complaints

The city's sunny skies and spacious built environment draw over 50 million visitors a year. Considering these preferential living conditions, the city provides an ideal landscape for the houseless to build their own homes. Whereever space permits, homeless encampments rise in clusters or in isolation, deconstructing the very notion of place and home.

Fantasy vs reality: a home for who?

This data journalism project investigates the extent of homelessness at three of Los Angeles' most iconic neighborhoods. We present a dichotomy between a fantasmic, imagined Los Angeles with the reality of homelessness in order to show the pervasive extent of housing insecurity across the beautiful City of Angels that is often romanticized in pop culture. To do this, we contrast georeferenced Airbnb rentals with 311 calls of homeless encampments in 2018 to produce this interactive web story.

This perception of a La-La-Land that is often projected onto Los Angeles is illustrated with a juxtaposition of two transient communities: Airbnb renters and the homeless.

Airbnb Renters: The Transient Traveler

Airbnb listings often play off of this imagined Los Angeles. Image: Curbed LA/Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Homeless: The Transient Vagabond

Airbnb listings often play off of this imagined Los Angeles. Image: Airbnb.com

In each neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles, we plotted the density of Airbnb units against the density of homeless encampments reported from 311 calls.

Scroll to zoom in and out of the plot, and mouseover a point to see the density values.

Density is defined as 1 unit per acre.

Density of Airbnb rentals vs. homeless encampment reports

Koreatown: A Multifaceted Cultural Enclave
Koreatown is a bit of a misnomer. In truth, if we're sticking to ethnic assignations, the neighborhood should be called Korea-Mexico-town"
―Roy Choi, Chef

K-Town has the highest density of Homelessness in the City of Los Angeles. The passage of the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 resulted in a demographic shift across the country, encouraging an influx of immigrants that changed the cultural landscape of Los Angeles and catalyzed the growth of "The best Koreatown outside of Korea" (Curbed LA, 2019). Encompassing approximately 3 square miles just west of Downtown LA and south of Hollywood, the area was once the epicenter of Golden Age Hollywood, home to the Ambassador Hotel, the Cocoanut Grove and the Brown Derb. Today, Korean and Latinx populations contribute to Koreatown’s rich cultural diversity (Discover LA, 2019).

Homelessness encampments are often reported along roads.

Many of the homeless encampment reportings follow the major roads such as Wilshire Blvd. There appears to be a cluster of Airbnb listings in the southern and southeastern corners of K-town.

Hollywood: Home of the Stars
“Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.”
―Marilyn Monroe, Actress

Hollywood made the city world-famous. In the early 1900s, filmmakers began moving to the Los Angeles area to escape the rigorous rules imposed by Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company in New Jersey. The famous Hollywood sign was erected in 1923 as “Hollywoodland” to advertise for a new housing development, and the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” was built soon after in 1956. It currently has well over 2,000 names added to the star-studded sidewalk for contributing to the entertainment industry (SMExpress, 2019).

The Hollywood Walk of Fame

The main strip of Hollywood Boulevard sees a large concentration of Airbnb rentals surrounding the corridor, while there are very few homeless encampment reports. Since the Walk of Fame is a highly-trafficked tourist destination, could this void in homelessness encampments be explained by sweeps and clearings?

Venice: A creative paradise
Venice Beach is a combination of the tacky, the mindless, the ironic, and the novel.
―Freelance Dionysian (VirtualVenice)

Originally called "Venice of America," Venice was founded in 1905 by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney as a 14-mile beach resort town (LAist, 2018). Inspired by the enchantment of Venice, Italy, Kinney unveiled the resort town and amusement park to 40,000 visitors. The park featured Italian gondoliers poling their boats down fairy-lit canals, a concert orchestra supplying music that could be heard nearly all over town, camel rides, exotic hotels catering to the best tastes, and a miniature railroad circling the entire scene (LA Times, 1998). This vibrant atmosphere continues today (Venice, 2019).

Waterfront vacation spots

Venice is the neighborhood with the highest density of Airbnb rentals per acre in Los Angeles, this is clearly seen with the high concentration of Airbnb vacation rentals along the beachfront.