Los Angeles Downtown Gentrification
A Plan for the Gentrification of the Broadway Commercial Corridor
in Downtown Los Angeles
Los Angeles is in a state of flux. The demand by the middle class and upper middle class to live in an urban environment has spread to L.A. New and converted properties are being developed in the downtown market with great success for the great majority. Frank Gehry’s new project will bring additional vitality to the Bunker Hill area of downtown. What is the future of the “lower” or “older” downtown L.A.? Loft conversions are aplenty, but the commercial corridor on Broadway between 3rd & 9th Streets remains an urban eyesore.
The population of L.A., I believe, is ready to have a downtown that resembles the vibrant metropolis that existed until the 50’s and 60’s when the middle class fled America’s urban centers, including Los Angeles. The “older” downtown that has evolved, and still exists, is one of abandoned movie palaces, major buildings that are vacant or used for manufacturing, grand hotels that are now welfare hotels and retail that became the destination of the poor. Downtown L.A. has huge open lots - perfect for good urban planning.
Downtown Los Angeles consists of two primary centers - Bunker Hill and the older “Historic” downtown. Bunker Hill is changing rapidly. But the “Historic” downtown, except for the large number of loft conversions, presents a retail mix that caters to the large poor population that had been the only customer. Broadway, in particular, from 3rd Street to 9th Street, is lined with shops that are of little interest to the middle class.
That will change - over a much longer time than necessary. The help of the government is needed to effectuate this change in a timely way to keep up with the need for positive change. Government seems reluctant to assist with this change as it is “politically sensitive”! Replacing a poor person by a middle class one is dangerous in today’s world, it seems. There are a number of issues that confront us in the prospect of gentrifying downtown L.A. The first is protecting the interests of those who will be disenfranchised. The second is a plan to allow for the upgrading of commercial spaces. The rest, I believe, will evolve naturally, as the marketplace and demand will allow for this change. Regarding the first and most serious issue, the question is what to do with the large poor population that now reside in the downtown hotels. My ideas of change in America - see CFANA.com deals with my proposals. Basically, I believe the interests of all can be served in the specific case of gentrifying downtown L.A. by allowing for a plan for the “resettlement” of the poor.
I believe the concept of Community Living Centers (CLC) could serve Los Angeles, and all of America, on many fronts. My concept of the CLC is a facility set up by the Federal, State &/or local government, by a corporation, not for profit &/or philanthropist in a location less valuable than our downtowns to allow for those who can not take care of themselves to be in an environment that would:
1. Be geared toward teaching them a skill so, if they are capable, they could learn to be self sufficient and if they desired to could become independently.
2. Similar to a kibbutz in Israel, those on the CLC would contribute to their own sustenance - cooking, cleaning, child care, maintenance, etc.
3. Similar to a kibbutz in Israel, there would be a money making venture on the CLC - farming, manufacturing, cottage industries, etc.
4. The CLC, eventually, would be geared toward teaching a specific skill and assisting those living there with making transitions in their lives, if that is what they desire.
5. The CLC would provide the network for the social service system required by this population. However, the cost to government (and us) would be significantly less than now as the indigent would contribute to their own needs with our help and direction.
6. CLC’s could become a “transition” place for immigrants - to allow them to learn English and for us to try to determine who is here to work and contribute to our culture and who is here to destroy us.
7. The construction of CLC’s could initially depend upon the financing from the large body of extraordinarily wealthy Americans, who, I am certain, would be proud to have made such a vital contribution to the revitalization of our country.
Specifically, in L.A., a plan to construct Community Living Centers, could, initially, be directed to “cleaning out” the welfare hotels, one by one, working with owners who are interested in converting or selling their hotels for conversion.
Regarding commercial space downtown, it seems to be the backbone of downtown’s commercial corridor is Broadway between 3rd and 9th Streets. A walk on this once glorious street is a trip to what America has become and a dream of what America could be again. Some of my photos of what now exists can be viewed below, or will be up soon. Change requires the coordinated effort of government and the private sector. Local politicians have visited NYC to explore how our largest city effectuated change, particularly in the Times Square area. It is no secret - it was the government using the Right of Eminent Domain and working with the private sector that allowed this change to take place.
Retail tenants have leases that can be “modified” by eminent domain. Without the unified effort of government and the private sector, the time to see change will be extended by decades. The change of the retail on Broadway, starting with one building and then one block, would create a destination for the middle class to explore, shop and sightsee. Many cities have used this formula to great success - New York in Times Square, Miami Beach on Lincoln Road to name two obvious examples.
The time now is ripe for change. Times, and economies, change. Los Angeles should take advantage of this timing to effectuate the positive change that the residents of this great city deserve!
Donald S. Weiss
May 11, 2006
Downtown LA is the same as many American cities in many ways - it has seen its better day. The poor are the primary shoppers and occupy many of the once glorious hotels. Their presence on the streets is abundant. In many way, however, downtown LA is different from many other American cities. Most of the beautiful buildings are still intact. When they were built they were used by the “gentry” for shopping and offices. Upscale stores were common. Today the shopping still exists, but it is stores selling cheap merchandise to a primarily poor client. The buildings are used mostly for manufacturing.
People are taking note of downtown LA. It has much to offer and, I believe, with recertification, LA could become one of the premier cities in the world. The Beautiful structures, the abundance of open space for proper planning and the “world class” weather all would lend to this end. Change is taking place - new structures of renown, The Disney Hall, etc. as well as strong demand for living space is evidence of this. However, with the complications of change, stores and manufacturers with long leases, welfare tenants living in hotels, etc., the time table for change becomes problematic.
However, I believe there is a solution! The government’s use of eminent domain has been expanded by the Supreme Court. I do not know all the details, but through the use of eminent domain, it would be possible, block by block, to create change. Starting on Broadway, the “spine” of downtown would make sense. Working with developers, theater operators, corporations and arts groups, I would be possible to effectuate change.
The issue of what to do with poverty in America is a serious one. We have come to accept that poverty “belongs” in our great cities! This could change also. In my web site, CFANA.com - Committee For a New America, I present an alternative for poverty. It would be a “revolution” of our social service system. What I propose is what I call Community Living Centers (CLC‘s). To be set up anywhere in the country - urban areas, suburban, rural, the facilities would be geared to teaching a profession. Those dependent on the government for housing, etc. would choose one that suits them or one would be chosen for that person. If they are capable of learning a skill and want to leave the center and provide for themselves - good! If they want to stay, when they are capable, they can contribute to their cost of staying there. If they are not capable of learning a skill, the Centers would have cottage industries, farming, manufacturing, etc. to allow them to be productive and to contribute to their own sustenance. Similar to a kibbutz in Israel, they would help with their own cooking, cleaning, child care, maintenance, etc.
CLC’s could be used by the government for new immigrants to help them learn English and integrate into our society. It could help us determine who might be here to destroy us! CLC’s could also provide an alternative for housing for those other than the indigent. Many people might enjoy living in such an facility where they share responsibilities and could help others in need.
Our great American cities can become havens again for the middle class, the upper middle class and the wealthy. It would be a moral uplifting for all of America.
Donald S. Weiss
November 14, 2005
Other Web Sites:
CRHNYC.com - Committee For Rational Housing Laws & Economic Development in NYC & NY State (When can we, as New Yorkers, discuss the significant aspect of the Rent Stabilization Law - it ostensibly prevents change and has “cemented” in NY Cities population base at it’s historically lowest economic level! Rent Stabilization ostensibly prevents change and Has “cemented” in NYC’s population base at its lowest socio-economic level historically. The life time rights to rent apartments that the poor people have that replaced the middle class when they fled NYC has taken off the housing market about one half of NYC’s rental housing stock. This massive change in supply has created higher rents for the middle class and narrowed their choices of where thy feel comfortable living.
CleanupNYCgarbage.com - Clean Up New York City Garbage - New Yorkers have grown accustomed to the garbage. It is true, in midtown areas where there are active BIDs, the garbage is contained quite nicely. However, even in these neighborhoods, the problem exists that there is a constant abundance of large black garbage bags that line the sidewalk once, twice or three times a week waiting for pickup at some point in the future.
CFANA.com - Committee For a New America (Would it be moral to allow our American cities to become middle class again and, if so, what do we do with the poor? We have come to accept that, in America, we house and care for the poor in our great cities. My suggestion for change can be found on this site and a new one going up soon - CommunityLivingCenters.com.
SugarHillAC.com - Sugar Hill Art Center - History and photos of the Art Center I opened in October, 2001
(great timing!) in Harlem.
NoMorePennies.com - No More Pennies! Why do we need them? Why not get a final number, then round up or down to the nearest nickel? Get rid of them now.
WhyZoning.com - Why Zoning? - Paris and London do not have zoning! It is considered part of American culture. But it prevents natural change. Why not do as these two great cities do and allow existing property to be used for its best use. This allows for good development - the market knows best! To think, as in NYC, that someone 50 years ago knew exactly what was the best use of every space then, and 50 years later, is preposterous. New development should be “directed” by government.
CellPhonesandDataBases.com - Cell Phones and Databases - We are dysfunctional in America. In most other countries, including China, cell phones operate by satellite dishes - reception is excellent. In America, we use towers - reception is terrible! And calling information - T Mobil, Verizon, etc., etc. They all have their own data bases and do not share information. Clever! There should be a way to coordinate data bases so one can get a telephone number from whatever phone one is calling from even though the number listed might have been registered with another phone company.
BetterStreetSigns.com - Better Street Signs - How do we get around in our cars in America? Not too easily! New navigation systems might help those who can afford them, but shouldn’t we, as bearers of our own fate, help ourselves in giving ourselves good signs. It seems an impossible task. How about a toll free national number that would allow any motorist to call in an improper or missing sign with the location and the error. This information could be passed to a local authority that could confirm the suggestions and change it if needed.