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Downtown Los Angeles
Neighborhood of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California
Downtown Los Angeles is divided into neighborhoods and districts, some overlapping. Most districts are named for the activities concentrated there now or historically, e.g. the Arts, Civic Center, Fashion, Banking, Theater, Toy, and Jewelry districts. It is the hub for the city's urban rail transit system plus the Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink commuter rail system for Southern California.
Banks, department stores, and movie palaces at one time drew residents and visitors of all socioeconomic classes downtown, but the area declined economically especially after the 1950s. It remained an important center--in the Civic Center, of government business; on Bunker Hill, of banking, and along Broadway, of retail and entertainment for Hispanic Angelenos, especially immigrants. Now Downtown has been experiencing a renaissance that started in the early 2000s. The Staples Center anchors downtown's south end, and along Broadway, pre-war buildings are being restored for new uses, such as a luxury condos, co-working spaces, and high-end retail.
Looking northeast on Spring Street from First Street, 1880s. Asher Hamburger's Peoples Store at center. Towers of the Baker Block are visible in the distance.
Land speculation increased in the 1880s, which saw the population of the city explode from 11,000 in 1880 to nearly 100,000 by 1896. Infrastructure enhancements and the laying of a street grid eventually brought development south of the Plaza: Victorian Downtown Los Angeles in the 1800s and 1890s along Main, Spring and Broadway south to Third Street - all of which was razed to make way for today's Civic Center. After 1900, larger buildings were constructed along Broadway and Spring from Third to Ninth streets in what is now called the Historic Core.
Downtown's golden age
By 1920, the city's private and municipal rail lines were the most far-flung and most comprehensive in the world in mileage, even besting that of New York City. By this time, a steady influx of residents and aggressive land developers had transformed the city into a large metropolitan area, with DTLA at its center. Rail lines connected four counties with over 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of track.
Commercial growth brought with it hotel construction--during this time period several grand hotels, the Alexandria (1906), the Rosslyn (1911), and the Biltmore (1923), were erected--and also the need for venues to entertain the growing population of Los Angeles. Broadway became the nightlife, shopping and entertainment district of the city, with over a dozen theater and movie palaces built before 1932.
The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (Union Station) opened in May 1939, unifying passenger service among various local, regional, and long-distance passenger trains. It was built on a grand scale and would be one of the "last of the great railway stations" built in the United States.
Following World War II, suburbanization, the development of the Los Angeles freeway network, and increased automobile ownership led to decreased investment downtown. Many corporate headquarters slowly dispersed to new suburbs or fell to mergers and acquisitions. As early as the 1920s once-stately Victorian mansions on Bunker Hill were dilapidated, serving as rooming houses for 20,000 working-class Angelenos.
From about 1930 onward, numerous more-than-100-year-old buildings in the Plaza area were demolished to make way for street-level parking lots, the high demand for parking making this more profitable than any other options allowing preservation. The drastic loss of local downtown residents further reduced the viability of streetfront, pedestrian-oriented businesses. For middle- and upper-income Angelenos, downtown became a drive-in, drive-out destination.
In an effort to combat blight and lure businesses back downtown, the city's Community Redevelopment Agency undertook the Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project in 1955, a massive clearance project that leveled homes and cleared land for future commercial skyscraper development. This period saw the clearing and upzoning of the entire neighborhood, as well as the shuttering of the Angels Flight funicular railway in 1969. Angels Flight resumed operation in 1996 for a period of five years, shutting down once again after a fatal accident in 2001. On March 15, 2010, the railway once again opened for passenger service following extensive upgrades to brake and safety systems.
With Class A office space becoming available on Bunker Hill, many of DTLA's remaining financial corporations moved to the newer buildings, leaving the former Spring Street Financial District devoid of tenants above ground floor. Following the corporate headquarters' moving six blocks west, the large department stores on Broadway shuttered, culminating in the 1980s.
However, the Broadway theaters saw much use as Spanish-language movie houses during this time, beginning with the conversion of the Million Dollar Theater in the 1950s to a Spanish-language theater.
In the early 2000's, the neighborhood became popular with Artists and Creatives due to low rent, open loft space, and many vacancies. In mid-2013, downtown was noted as "a neighborhood with an increasingly hip and well-heeled residential population".
Because of the downtown area's office market's migration west to Bunker Hill and the Financial District, many historic office buildings have been left intact, simply used for storage or remaining empty during recent decades. In 1999, the Los Angeles City Council passed an adaptive reuseordinance, making it easier for developers to convert outmoded, vacant office and commercial buildings into renovated lofts and luxury apartment and condo complexes.
As of early 2009, 14,561 residential units have been created under the adaptive reuse ordinance, leading to an increase in the residential population. With 28,878 residents in 2006, 39,537 in 2008, and over 60,000 in 2017, Downtown Los Angeles is seeing new life and investment.
Staples Center, which opened in 1999, has contributed immensely to the revitalization plans, adding 250 events and nearly 4 million visitors per year to the neighborhood. Since the opening of the Staples Center, the adjacent L.A. Live complex was completed, which includes the Microsoft Theatre and the Grammy Museum.
Los Angeles Metro Rail, a rail transit network centered on the downtown area, facilitates access to the city center, especially from the congested West Side.
On August 7, 2007, the Los Angeles City Council approved sweeping changes in zoning and development rules for the downtown area. Strongly advocated by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the changes allow larger and denser developments downtown; developers who reserve 15% of their units for low-income residents are now exempt from some open-space requirements and can make their buildings 35% larger than current zoning codes allow.
In 2009 Bottega Louie opened on the first floor of the historic Brockman Building on Grand Avenue and Seventh Street. It contributed to the revitalization of DTLA by creating Restaurant Row, which has since brought numerous new restaurants and retail shops to the area. In 2012, the upper 11 floors of the Brockman Building were bought with the intention of being sold as luxury lofts.
In October 2015, an outdoor lifestyle center, The Bloc Los Angeles, replaced the old enclosed Macy's Plaza.
Broadway retail is transitioning from a broad mix of stores catering mostly to Hispanic immigrants and a burgeoning sneaker and streetwear retail cluster has emerged from 4th to 9th streets: Sneaker Row.
St Vincent Court in 2017. European-style decorations date to 1957.
The 2000 U.S. census found that just 27,849 residents lived in the 5.84 square miles of downtown--or 4,770 people per square mile, among the lowest densities for the city of Los Angeles but about average for the county. The Southern California Association of Governments estimates that downtown's daytime population is 207,440. The population increased to 34,811 by 2008, according to city estimates. As of the end of 2019, the population of the district had grown to 85,000 residents, and 7,956 residential units were under construction. The median age for residents was 39, considered old for the city and the county.
A study of the 2000 census showed that downtown was the second-most diverse neighborhood in Los Angeles, its diversity index being 0.743, outrated only by Mid-Wilshire. The ethnic breakdown in 2000 was Latinos, 36.7%; blacks, 22.3%; Asians, 21.3%; whites, 16.2%, and others, 3.5%. Mexico (44.7%) and Korea (17%) were the most common places of birth for the 41.9% of the residents who were born abroad, about the same ratio as in the city as a whole.
The median household income in 2008 dollars was $15,003, considered low for both the city and the county. The percentage of households earning $20,000 or less (57.4%) was the highest in Los Angeles County, followed by University Park (56.6%) and Chinatown (53.6%). The average household size of 1.6 people was relatively low. Renters occupied 93.4% of the housing units, and home or apartment owners the rest.
In 2000, there were 2,400 military veterans living downtown, or 9.7% of the population, considered a high rate for the city but average for the county overall.
In 2010, census data concluded that 40,227 people lived in Downtown Los Angeles.
In 2013, a study by Downtown Center Business Improvement District showed that of the 52,400 people resided in Downtown Los Angeles. The demographic breakdown was 52.7% Caucasian, 20.1% Asian, 17.0% Latino, and 6.2% African-American; 52.9% female, 47.1% male; and 74.8% of residents were between the ages of 23-44. The median age for residents was 34. The median household income was $98,700. The median household size was 1.8. In terms of educational attainment, 80.1% of residents had completed at least 4 years of college. The study was a self-selecting sample of 8,841 respondents across the DTLA area. It was not a "census" but rather a comprehensive survey of Downtown LA consumers.
An additional study by the Downtown Center Business Improvement District showed that by 2017 the population has reached 67,324.
As of early 2020 the population is estimated to have exceeded 80,000 at the end of 2019.
Under construction as of September 2014, the Regional Connector Transit Corridor will connect the A, E, and L Lines between the Little Tokyo/Arts District (which will be renamed "1st Street/Central") and 7th Street/Metro Center stations.
Several future park proposals for the district make use of public-private partnerships between developers and the city of Los Angeles, including a public park at the proposed Nikkei Center development in Little Tokyo; a 1-acre (4,000 m2) park at the Medallion development in the Historic Core; and a pocket park at the Wilshire Grand Hotel replacement project, currently under construction.
Additionally, the city recently completed a new park located on the 400 block of South Spring Street in the Historic Core neighborhood.
The modern skyline of Los Angeles resulted from the termination of severe height restrictions in 1957
Ritz-Carlton Hotel, with distinctive street lamps in foreground, 2012
Despite its relative decentralization and comparatively new high-rises (until 1958, the city did not permit any structures taller than the 27-story City Hall building), Los Angeles has one of the largest skylines in the United States, and its development has continued in recent years.
The skyline has seen rapid growth due to improvements in seismic design standards, which has made certain building types highly earthquake-resistant. Many of the new skyscrapers contain a housing or hotel component.
Some current and upcoming examples of skyscraper construction include:
705 Ninth Street, a 35-story residential tower, was completed in 2009.
717 Olympic, a 26-story residential tower, was completed in mid-2008.
888 Olive, a 32-story apartment tower by Vancouver-based Omni Group, opened in 2015.
Concerto, a 28-story residential tower, was completed in early 2009. A second phase (Tower II) is currently under construction.
The Grand Avenue Project, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is a multi-phase project on four parcels and will include a 39-story hotel tower at the corner of First Street and Grand Avenue and a civic park. The project has been delayed due to funding issues but is now back on track and progressing.
L.A. Live, a multi-phased dining, entertainment and hotel development that includes a Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott Hotel hybrid as well as Ritz-Carlton-branded condominiums, was completed in February, 2010.
The first height limit ordinance in Los Angeles was enacted following the completion of the 13-story Continental Building, located at the southeast corner of Fourth and Spring streets. The purpose of the height limit was to limit the density of the city. There was great hostility to skyscrapers in many cities in these years, mainly due to the congestion they could bring to the streets, and height limit ordinances were a common way of dealing with the problem. In 1911, the city passed an updated height limit ordinance, establishing a specific limit of 150 feet (46 m). Exceptions were granted for decorative towers such as those later built on the Eastern Columbia Building and United Artists Theatre, as well as the now-demolished Richfield Tower.
The 1911 ordinance was repealed in 1957. The first private building to exceed the old limit was the 18-story United California Bank Building, located at the southeast corner of Sixth and Spring streets.
Flat Roof Ordinance
The pattern of buildings in Los Angeles to feature these "flat roofs" was the result of a 1974 fire ordinance which required all tall buildings in the city to include rooftop helipads in response to the devastating 1974 Joelma Fire in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in which helicopters were used to effect rescues from the flat rooftop of the building. The Wilshire Grand Center was the first building granted an exception by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 2014. However, as the building was under construction, L.A. City Council removed the flat roof ordinance as of 2015.
DTLA is a node in the tech economy that extends beyond Silicon Beach. A venture capital firm counted 78 tech-oriented firms in DTLA in 2015. This included mobile apps, hardware, digital media and clean-tech companies plus co-working spaces, start-up incubators, and other related businesses.
The Arts District has become a popular spot for companies seeking out something different than typical modern offices. The central location is accessible from various parts of the Los Angeles Basin. The cultural life has also made the area attractive to young tech employees.
Skid Row is one of the poorest part of LA; Crime here is high and there are many homeless people too.
Colburn School on Grand Boulevard
Ramon C. Cortines High School for the Visual and Performing Arts
Downtown residents aged 25 and older holding a four-year degree amounted to 17.9% of the population in 2000, about average in the city and the county, but there was a high percentage of residents with less than a high school diploma.
These are the elementary or secondary schools within the neighborhood's boundaries:
Dignity Health-California Hospital Medical Center is located in the South Park district of Downtown LA at 1401 S. Grand Ave. The 318-bed community hospital has been providing high-quality care to residents of the district and its neighboring communities for over 126 years. Dignity Health-California Hospital Medical Center is known for its wide range of medical services, from women's health and maternal child to orthopedics and cardiology. The hospital also operates the only Level II Trauma Center in Downtown Los Angeles, and its emergency room treats over 70,000 patients each year. The hospital's neighbors include Staples Center, L.A. Live, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and the Fashion District.