The Great Hipster Movement of L.A.

They're crossing the Arroyo!

Hipsters are moving across Los Angeles from West to East, and along with it brings a new wave of residents, new local businesses, and tremendously increasing home values. Despite what most people say, it's much more than just "gentrification": it's a brand new way of looking at the entire city of Los Angeles. Also, this general movement in L.A. from West to East isn't just hipsters.

It's everyone. It’s a simple “High Pressure/Low Pressure” system which originates with high prices on the West Side and lower prices on the East Side, and what has happened as a result of this stark price difference is incredibly fascinating.

This general movement in L.A. from West to East isn't just hipsters. It's everyone!

To eliminate any confusion, I consider anything east of the L.A. River, the East Side. And, while we’re on the subject, anything NORTH of the L.A. River is The Valley.

Even though this movement is multi-faceted and complex, today we are going to talk about one specific migration pattern, The Hipsters. Because for starters, it's fun to talk about! Where did they come from? Where are they going?

As I mentioned in my last article, "God Bless the Hipsters", the word is actually Yiddish for “Opportunist”. This means they are always looking for the bigger better deal. Speaking of, I’m still not sure why I haven’t heard “Have Cheap Rent, Will Travel” being played by a guitarist outside the coffee shops in Highland Park yet. Why is that? They've already moved on to cheaper rent. Well, some of the hipsters have. The “first mover” hipsters have moved on from neighborhoods like Highland Park in search of cheap rent across the Arroyo Seco.

Once upon a time, the hipsters mostly kept to themselves in Hollywood. But once rent prices started to rise, they left in search of more affordable housing. They found it in neighborhoods like Echo Park and Silver Lake. Some of them have been in these areas since the '80s. Over time, these neighborhoods became trendy.

Little coffee shops popped up, records stores opened, beautiful graffiti murals appeared, and flannel shirts flooded the streets. Not really, but this was the first benchmark of the Great Hipster Migration. Today, you can’t find anything in Silver Lake under $700,000, and there are now million dollar properties in Highland Park. Who would have thought?

Fun Fact: If you've owned your home for longer than 15 years in these neighborhoods, you're probably sitting on top of a gold mine!

Despite what most people say, it's much more than just "gentrification": it's a brand new way of looking at the entire city of Los Angeles.

But before the days where a one-bedroom condo went for a million dollars, right around the turn of the millennium, the prices in Silver Lake and Echo Park began to take off. During that migration, two things happened:

  • First, “Bandwagoner Hipster” flocked to the area.

  • Second, “First-Mover Hipster” left the area (or passed over the area completely) in search of cheaper real estate further East.

Where did these First-Movers go? Most of them moved to Highland Park. While the Bandwagoners were in a feeding frenzy in Silver Lake and Echo Park, the First-Movers (as well as "long-time residents") were reaping the benefits of setting the trends instead of following them. A few years after the crash, right around 2011, the First-Movers had popularized Highland Park, and the frenzy for property deeper into Northeast L.A. (NELA) begun.

This was because everyone was anxious to buy property after the bubble popped, so the epidemic spread to the surrounding areas like Eagle Rock, Mt. Washington, and Glassell Park. In fact, most of Eagle Rock was in relatively good condition compared to other neighborhoods like Highland Park, so the result was even more dramatic.

For that reason, Eagle Rock was the #2 most popular neighborhood in the entire country in 2014 according to Redfin. Around the same time the housing frenzy was taking place in NELA, the First-Movers ventured further east across the Arroyo into neighborhoods like Montecito Heights, Lincoln Heights, and El Sereno.

And now, every time the Fast-Movers pivot to a new area, the Bandwagoners pick up a little more ground and close the gap. It took 10 years for Silver Lake and Echo Park to get as popular as it is today, and only took 5 years in NELA.

It will take even less time in the next area. In fact, the frenzy has already started in El Sereno, and there are already bidding wars on properties. However, the real commercial development doesn’t happen until the Bandwagoners move in. Here’s the progression:

  1. Fast-Movers attract new business

  2. This attracts Bandwagoners

  3. Which attracts even more new businesses.

Take Highland Park for example. Right around 2003 and 2004, the Fast-Movers began to leave Echo Park & Silver Lake, and move into Highland Park. A few years later around 2007 and 2008, popular restaurants like The York and Café de Leche opened up on York & Ave 50 (the epicenter of HP) which then attracted the Bandwagoners. Now, in 2015, we are about to see the first real restaurant open up on the block, Recess, which will open the flood gates for many more new businesses.

Recess will be to York Blvd in Highland Park the way Mi Piace was to Colorado Blvd in Old Town Pasadena during its own Renaissance in the ‘90s. It’s very exciting to see what happens next.

Now that the market and the Hipsters are starting to wrap their arms around El Sereno and Lincoln Heights, the First-Movers are already setting their sights even further east… Boyle Heights in East L.A. The epicenter? Mariachi Plaza.

Take the Gold Line two stops past Little Tokyo and see for yourself. I recommend stopping by La Serenata which has some of the best Chili Colorado in all of L.A. You won’t be disappointed. Mariachi Plaza is the perfect place for the next Hipster destination because it's very similar to Old Town Pasadena with its beautiful storefronts, history, great architecture, public transportation, you name it.


Buying property soon and want to live in the hottest up and coming area? Ask yourself WWHD? "What Would a Hipster Do?"