A brand new shiny Walgreens just opened this past Friday at the crime ridden intersection of 5th and Broadway — a part of Downtown LA’s Historic Core that has resisted change from its gang and drug infested past even as the rest of downtown continues to revitalize. The grand opening on Jan 31 at 10 am was an event marked with DJ music, balloons, free food samples, and lots of smiles and cheer. The celebratory mood inside stood in stark contrast to the seedy elements that still lurked outside as the daily east-west migratory pattern from Skid Row to Pershing Square continued as usual uninterrupted. However, given Walgreens’ different operating strategy from “the problem” Rite Aid across the street, the new Chicago-based drug store is hopefully a sign of more positive changes to come for one of Downtown LA’s worst intersections.
Category Archives: community involvement
Watch a short video about ULI FutureBuild hosted in Downtown LA!
Mayor Eric Garcetti is among the leaders who will preview dramatic changes in urban living at FutureBuild 2014. On January 28 ULI Los Angeles presents this high-level, interactive event. Mayor Garcetti will give the keynote speech – a preview of a sustainably designed a future Los Angeles. (Could it be something like the transit-oriented Downtown depicted in Spike Jonze’s movie “Her?”) Other Downtown-focused topics will include: new bikeways; a preview of the new cubicle-free office represented by CBRE’s redesigned headquarters; parklets such as those popping up on Spring Street; expanded access to a restored L.A. River, and more.
There is nothing to be proud of when it comes to LA’s backward car culture. Endless ugly strip malls along with empty sidewalks and congested freeways have defined LA in pop culture — no wonder we were the butt of jokes. But we all know that things are changing for the better now as LA is in the midst of an exciting urban renaissance transforming Downtown LA into a bustling urban center filled with, believe it or not, pedestrians walking! I like to describe it as “LA getting its mojo back.” However, instead of continuing to encourage more pedestrians to walk in a land infamous for car loving addicts, the LAPD has been cracking down on (read: penalizing) pedestrians who jaywalk and going so far as to set up sting operations at the busiest intersections (i.e., 7th and Figueroa) to slap unsuspecting pedestrians with up to $250 tickets. That’s exactly why I am very glad to see the conversation continue about “jaywalking in Downtown LA,” this time in the NY Times in an article that came out today titled: “In a Car-Culture Clash, It’s Los Angeles Police vs. Pedestrians.” (Click here to read the NY Times article.)
Click to listen: Police Cracking Down on Jaywalking in Downtown LA
In case you’ve been under a rock over the past few days, “jaywalking” has been a controversial headline in the LA media circuit. And it’s something I’ve been an outspoken critic about (for a long time) with the LAPD and their antiquated enforcement policy against jaywalking in Downtown LA, an urban oasis in Los Angeles and what I like to think of as the largest island of pedestrianism in an ocean of car-loving suburbia.
Lessons in Urbanism for Downtown LA from Chicago: Brigham Yen Joins LA Architect Thomas Cox’s ULI Panel
I spent last week in one of the country’s best downtowns — Chicago. I was invited by Downtown LA-based architect firm, TCA, to join the founder Thomas Cox on an Urban Land Institute (ULI) conference panel discussing Gen Y (a demographic group I belong to) and our shifting preference toward multifamily housing in urban centers away from the default auto-centric suburbia that the Baby Boomers — our parents — once salivated for. The panel discussion was held at the Langham Hotel in the heart of Downtown Chicago across from the brand new stunning Trump Int’l Hotel and Tower. Lodging nearby at TheWit (highly recommended), I was in the perfect central location to explore all the amazing urban attributes that Downtown Chicago has to offer.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will join ULI Los Angeles, a District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), for Transit Oriented L.A., a long-anticipated summit exploring how to dramatically improve transportation corridors. With interactive panel presentations from nationally recognized speakers, Transit Oriented L.A. – or ToLA– will expand the traditional emphasis on individual transit stations to a bold transformation of corridors to achieve a truly transit-oriented Los Angeles.
ToLA is Thursday, October 10, 2013, 7:30 a.m. — 12:30 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, 90012.
Now that the 12-acre Grand Park has been open for over a year in Downtown LA, the LA Music Center, which is in charge of maintaining and programming the park, continues to look for innovative ways to activate the public space, becoming an integral part of the Downtown LA urban psyche. Part of that ongoing process depends on community driven participation that will happen organically over time as more Angelenos, especially downtown residents and workers, are exposed to the park. To nudge that process along, Grand Park has implemented a new “Free Little Libraries” program that promotes the idea of reading and getting the community more engaged with the public realm.
Okay, it’s a complete coincidence that after posting yesterday about redeveloping/redesigning Pershing Square (using SF Union Square as a model) that Councilman Jose Huizar announced this morning at the Gensler office downtown that a new 21-member task force was put together to help re-envision and re-imagine the future of Pershing Square. Perhaps the stars are finally aligning? Some of the members (listed below) are property owners surrounding Pershing Square who obviously would like to see the immediate surroundings improved. Remember: A beautiful and successfully activated Pershing Square of the future will benefit the nearby building stock tremendously, raising property values. A conceptual video was also released by Gensler highlighting some ideas for Pershing Square that you can watch here.
The parallels between San Francisco’s Union Square and Los Angeles’ Pershing Square are pretty astounding. On the surface it’s hard to believe, but they are essentially twins living two separate lives 337 miles apart but following almost identical historical paths, faced with similar challenges, and playing similar roles in their respective city centers. SF’s Union Square, however, is about two decades ahead of LA’s Pershing Square. As a result, visiting Union Square is really like looking into a crystal ball and gazing into what the future of Pershing Square could become, which is a much better and prettier version of its current ugly self. Unlocking the immense potential surrounding Pershing Square will depend heavily on the right kind of redevelopment and redesign efforts focused on the square itself. In other words, making Pershing Square into a beautiful public space where everyone wants to be will naturally raise the value of all buildings surrounding the square nearby, and as a result, transform the area into a viable and vibrant commercial district akin to Union Square.
As construction wraps up on Chinatown’s first market-rate apartment project — Equity Residential’s new Jia Apartments (jia means “home” in Chinese) — with a projected occupancy date slated for Sept 10, 2013, another new ground-up project directly adjacent to the apartments will begin construction sometime soon. The new headquarters for the Southern California Teo-Chew Association will be built just north of Jia Apartments along Broadway near the Ord Street intersection.
PODCAST: Brigham Yen Gives Colin Marshall of Notebook on Cities and Culture a Walking Tour of Downtown LA
Notebook on Cities and Culture: “Prada and Fallas-Paredes with Brigham Yen”
Colin Marshall walks through downtown Los Angeles with Brigham Yen, Realtor and author of the urban renaissance blog DTLA Rising. They discuss the sort of neighborhood that can rise from nothing, and whether Los Angeles’ downtown has come back from a deeper state of nothingness than other downtowns; the “bones” of a city’s center, and how Los Angeles’ have remained sound through all its problems; the late introduction of public space here; his car-centric youth in the San Gabriel Valley suburbs, and how going to San Francisco for school changed everything; the enduring “obesity” of Los Angeles’ streets, even as it has become the fastest-changing city in America; in what order transit, restaurants, bars, shopping, and housing needed to return downtown; how streets become “activated” with human energy; Broadway’s prospects for becoming “one of the coolest streets in America”; the healthy urban balance of a Prada by a Fallas-Paredes; how he began writing about cities by writing about Pasadena, and how interaction between the blogging half of his career and the real-estate half has deepened ever since; how he responds to longtime Angeleno’s complaints about “brainwashed Millennials” and their fallen expectations; the special importance of an undisputed urban center amid a sea of suburbia; the laid-back sensibility he hopes Los Angeles can retain during its transformation; and what dream people can see actively (and successfully) pursued if they visit downtown Los Angeles themselves.
Today was another great step forward in Downtown LA’s evolution in becoming a mature urban center that’s balanced not only with more needed density but open space as well — two important ingredients needed in urban planning that encourage a pedestrian lifestyle. The 0.7 acre Spring Street Park, nestled in between two historic condo high-rises — The Rowan and El Dorado — between 4th and 5th Street, officially opened at 10 am with a community gathering and inauguration that included downtown residents, community stakeholders, and LA Mayor Villaraigosa along with Council Members Huizar and Perry. The mood was cheerful and celebratory as today’s park, designed by Lehrer Architects, opening marked an important milestone for the Historic Core that further establishes the district as a bona fide urban residential community.
By Tom De Simone
Dear Fellow Angelenos,
I just returned from another evening of phone banking for Eric Garcetti and since I’ve been calling complete strangers, trying to convince them to vote for Garcetti for Mayor, I figured I should certainly reach out to my friends as well. We are fast approaching a mayoral election (Tues. May 21) in which the media would have you think there is no use even bothering to vote because the two candidates are mere carbon copies with little to distinguish them. Yet, while there are several similarities between Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel, there are key differences that make this race important and one in which I urge you to vote for Eric Garcetti to be our next Mayor of Los Angeles.
Every time I visit New York, I’m like a kid in a candy store. Why? I’m an urbanist at heart and New York is brimming with urbanism. No, it’s exploding with urbanism! I love walking and being a pedestrian free to roam the city, and whenever I’m here in New York (usually for a week at a time), I feel liberated and empowered as I dart through the energetic streets, slide my MetroCard on my way down into the ubiquitous subway stations, and jaywalk whenever and wherever I please. The way New York and other East Coast cities are built, compact and mixed-use, encourage a thriving pedestrian culture. What are some key ideas that we can bring back from a city like New York that can continue to help Los Angeles (and specifically Downtown LA) develop that wonderful pedestrian urban lifestyle and lessen our dependence (read: handicap) on automobiles?
As Downtown LA continues to evolve and mature into a multi-faceted urban center that’s not only a commercial hub but a bona fide residential community, it becomes even more important that we focus on creating an environment that is pedestrian friendly making it enjoyable and convenient for residents to live, work, and play in. That enhancement to the pedestrian realm — wider sidewalks, narrower streets, more bike lanes, etc. — in Downtown LA is needed to create the strong walkable connections that eventually spawns a walking culture.