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Neighborhood Spotlight: Exposition Park's sports, culture and transit offerings make it a player to watch

The 160-acre complex of open space, sports facilities and museums that gives the neighborhood of Exposition Park its name was first established in the 1870s. Back then, it served as the home of a horse-racing track and fairgrounds, notorious for the licentious behavior of their patrons.

When the state purchased the land in the late 1880s, it was reimagined as an agricultural fairground — sort of a Pomona Fairplex for the 19th century — and the less savory elements were swept away in favor of a rose garden and graceful beaux-arts buildings containing exhibits extolling California-grown farm products.

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The area around the park was subdivided during the development boom of the 1880s, when lovely Queen Anne homes on large lots were built for well-to-do commuters to the offices and banks of nearby downtown Los Angeles and when USC first opened its doors to students.

Over the years, an extensive grid of streetcar lines began to crisscross South Los Angeles. The construction of large suburban-style homes began to be supplanted by the development of transit-oriented neighborhoods consisting of apartment buildings and local commercial strips.

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In the 1920s, Issei Japanese-Americans began to head south in search of more elbow room than crowded Little Tokyo could offer, with many of them making their homes in Exposition Park. The Japanese community thrived there throughout the prewar years, living side by side with a mix of neighbors of all ethnicities.

The relatively relaxed attitude toward the enforcement of racial covenants, which segregated housing by barring members of certain ethnicities from purchasing or renting in white neighborhoods, came to an end during the population explosion that followed World War II.

Prior to that, African Americans and Latinos were consistently denied housing in Exposition Park and other South L.A. neighborhoods. But they eventually won a series of court battles that shattered the system of racial covenants once and for all.

Exposition Park today is in the midst of a wave of redevelopment. The Expo Line has brought rail transit back, and the new Los Angeles Football Club will play in a stadium under construction next to the Coliseum, which itself hosts the Rams and Chargers.

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And if Mayor Eric Garcetti has his way, Los Angeles will be the site of the Summer Olympics in 2024 — and the Coliseum and Expo Park will play a major role.

Exposition Park Exposition Park 0.5 MILES 0.5 MILES 10 10 110 Vernon Ave. Vernon Ave. Vernon Ave. USC University Park University Park University Park Jefferson Park Jefferson Park Jefferson Park West Adams West Adams West Adams Leimert Park Leimert Park Leimert Park Historic South-Central Historic South-Central Historic South-Central Downtown Downtown Downtown Adams-Normandie Adams-Normandie Adams-Normandie Arlington Ave. Arlington Ave. Arlington Ave. Vermont Ave. Vermont Ave. Vermont Ave. Jefferson Blvd. Jefferson Blvd. Jefferson Blvd. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Sources: L.A. Times mapping, Mapbox, OSM Sources: L.A. Times mapping, Mapbox, OSM Angelica Quintero / @latimesgraphics Angelica Quintero / @latimesgraphics

Neighborhood highlights

Streetcar suburb, redux: With the opening of the Expo Line, Exposition Park has been re-connected by rail to downtown and the booming Westside.

Nirvana for sports fans: Where else can you walk a few blocks to see college and pro football, college basketball, and pro soccer (coming soon), or take a short train ride to NBA or NHL games?

A perch for culture vultures: In addition to the museums in Exposition Park proper, nearby USC regularly offers world-class cultural events.

Neighborhood challenges

Managing change: With redevelopment comes increased interest from buyers, which drives up prices and has the potential to displace longtime residents.

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Expert insight

RL Morgan, a real estate agent with Sotheby's International Realty, said proximity to USC, downtown and freeways are huge draws for people looking to buy in Expo Park.

"It's definitely a good starter community," said Morgan, who currently has a listing for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in the neighborhood for $420,000. "With downtown having the revitalization that it's having, it's making Exposition Park a nice destination as well."

Homes are still relatively affordable, he said, but "everything's being pulled up with the rest of the market." And because many properties are among the oldest in the city, "you're going to have to do some fixing up."

Market snapshot

Portions of the 90007, 90018, 90037 and 90062 ZIP Codes overlap the Exposition Park area.

In the 90007 ZIP Code, based on five sales, the median sales price for single-family homes in December was $650,000, according to CoreLogic. The median sales price in the 90037 ZIP Code, based on 15 sales, was $428,000, and in the 90062 ZIP Code, based on 14 sales, the median sales price was $425,000.

There were no single-family home sales in the 90037 ZIP Code in December.

Report card

Within the boundaries of Exposition Park is Birdielee V. Bright Elementary, which scored 777 out of 1,000 in the 2013 Academic Performance Index. Lenicia B. Weems Elementary scored 750, Foshay Learning Center scored 719, and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary had a score of 715.

As for charter schools, Alliance College-Ready Academy High No. 5 had a score of 798, and Dr. Theo. T. Alexander Jr., Science Center scored 766. Thurgood Marshall Charter Middle scored 641.

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