First Advisor

Lisa K. Bates

Term of Graduation

Fall 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Asian immigrant communities, commercial change, gentrification, Koreatown, model minority myth



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 243 pages)


This dissertation examines the nuances and complexities of gentrification in Asian immigrant communities in transit-oriented neighborhoods of Los Angeles, with a particular focus on commercial changes. Utilizing a mixed-methods approach, the study aims to clarify how gentrification uniquely affects these communities, both in terms of residential and commercial aspects. The primary question of this research is: How do gentrification dynamics and consequences manifest uniquely in Asian immigrant communities?

The research unfolds in two stages. First, the study begins with a comprehensive analysis of neighborhood changes in Asian immigrant communities focusing on demographic dynamics, housing shifts, and commercial trends. The analysis investigates the vulnerability of these communities to gentrification. The subsequent stage entails an in-depth case study of Koreatown, which sheds light on commercial changes and gentrification process in a multi-racial and multi-ethnic community where businesses predominantly serve Korean immigrants and Korean Americans.

Key findings of neighborhood change analysis highlight that Asian immigrant communities experienced significant gentrification-related changes from 2010 to 2019. The findings include an influx of affluent and educated residents, an increase in housing prices, and a rise in the housing cost burden. The analysis reveals the unique feature of the commercial landscape in the communities, primarily comprising non-chain, small businesses with BIPOC-ownership in the food sector, which are at risk of displacement. Contrary to the typical commercial gentrification patterns shown in prior studies, there was an increase in BIPOC and Asian-owned small businesses in the communities. However, these businesses also experienced high turnover and short business longevity, indicating vulnerability to gentrification.

The Koreatown case study offers unique insights into the multifaceted nature of gentrification by uncovering how diverse community members perceive gentrification differently based on their positionalities. The case study examines how gentrification has impacted the ethnic identity of the community, raising concerns over the displacement of Korean-specific businesses and cultural/social disruption. This case study highlights significant fragmentations across residential-commercial, racial-ethnic, and socioeconomic lines, emphasizing the complexity of gentrification in Koreatown.

The dissertation provides two significant contributions to planning literature. First, it challenges the model minority myth, illuminating the struggles and vulnerabilities faced by Asian immigrant communities in relation to gentrification. Second, it incorporates commercial and retail activities into the framework of neighborhood change analysis, offering a comprehensive perspective on the interplay between residential and commercial gentrification. This approach provides fresh insights into understanding the nuances of gentrification in Asian immigrant communities, emphasizing the need for inclusive and equitable planning practices.


© 2023 Seyoung Sung

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