Reframing Community Benefits Agreements: Accelerated Gentrification, Negotiated Defeats, and Collective Resistance in Los Angeles

Samikchhya Bhusal (Urban Planning) in partnership with NOlympics LA

Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) emerged in the late 1990s as tools for communities to mitigate the impact of developments through concessions from the developer. Supporters of CBAs argue that these agreements grant community control over land use decisions and projects. Scholars have highlighted how CBAs benefit both developers and community groups. Conspicuously absent within this literature, however, is a substantive discussion of how developments covered by a CBA change adjacent neighborhoods. Additionally, few scholars have assessed the extent to which CBAs actually empower communities and residents near these developments. This report seeks to address these shortcomings in two ways: (1) Analyzing census data and the American Community Survey, I indicate accelerated gentrification in neighborhoods near CBA projects in Los Angeles. From 2000 to 2018, census tracts near CBA development recorded significant gains in income, rent, non-Hispanic white residents, and college-educated residents compared to the citywide average. (2) Centering community self-determination, this report highlights that CBAs are arrangements that sympathize developers and facilitate negotiated defeats. Finally, drawing lessons from anti-gentrification movements in Los Angeles, this report calls for efforts that fight for community veto power over development, and the right for self-determination in the face of the plans of developers.