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What's up in downtown LA?

Posted by: Chris Palmeri on May 30, 2006

It’s been years in the making. Even as cities such as Cleveland, Denver, Houston and San Diego enjoyed startling rebirths of their downtowns, Los Angeles, king of sprawl, could only sit back and watch with envy. The last few years have changed that. Soaring real estate prices elsewhere in the city coupled with some major public infrastructure investments have spurred a residential boom in downtown L.A. Since 1999, 7,000 new residential units—like the Santee Village loft pictured above—have been built or rehabilitated. An additional 100 more projects are in various stages of development. Eli Broad, the city’s top philanthropist and backer of a $1.8 billion rejuvenation of downtown’s Grand Avenue, is leading a delegation to New York on June 1 to drum up more interest from investors and the media. Also on board will be Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is building a $2.5 billion entertainment/residential complex on the other end of downtown.

Two things are most surprising about downtown L.A.’s renaissance. The first is that unlike other cities that have enforced vagrancy laws and gotten the homeless off the streets, Los Angeles has not. In fact a federal court last month ruled that arresting the homeless constituted cruel and unusual punishment because there simply aren’t enough shelters for them to go to. The second fascinating thing is that there is almost no discount for buying in downtown L.A. Kevin Ratner, a senior vice president at developer Forest City, which has two buildings under construction there, says sales of its condos are averaging $600 a square foot, roughly what developers are getting for similar properties in other parts of the city. Homeless people regularly set up tents and cardboard huts on the sidewalks, turning them into a modern day version of Valley Forge every night. Los Angeles police allow this as long as they are removed by 6 a.m. This happens on some of the very same streets above which the more well-to-do are paying $1 million or more for condos. It’s a very strange turn of events and the only place in the world I know of where that level of privilege and poverty intersect so obviously. Let's hope there's room enough for everyone in downtown's renaissance.

Reader Comments


May 31, 2006 9:40 AM

WOW! What an amazing vista. That image certainly is stunning.

Craig Blackmon

May 31, 2006 11:40 AM

I guess you've never been to New York City, which pioneered the juxtaposition of abject poverty with unbelievable wealth.


May 31, 2006 1:20 PM

The homeless is the percise reason why downtown LA is not booming because TRUST ME if they enforced vagrancy laws and got rid of the homeless, downtown LA would be the next NYC. I know because i am a former New Yorker. A lot of homeless people (if not most) are mentally ill. You dont know what they are capible of doing at any moment. I worked downtown for a short period of time when i first moved to LA 2 years ago and my first impression of downtown was, "my god there is a lot of homeless people here" and it was very frightening. There is nothing attrative or luring about getting robbed or followed by a crazy homeless person. I think Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa needs to take some lessons from Rudy Giuliani on how to clean up a city and bring it back to life!

Troy McKirk - Realtor

June 2, 2006 6:35 PM

Booming Real Estate in Downtown Los Angeles..
Today at the New York Marriott East Side, Eli Broad, philanthropist and founder of KB Home and SunAmerica Inc., along with leaders of major U.S. real estate and brokerage companies and prominent Los Angeles business community members, expressed their descriptions on the overwhelming growth in housing and office space market in Downtown Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID) hosted the program for the New York-based real estate, investment banking and development industries. It aimed to build awareness of investment opportunities in Downtown Los Angeles.

Troy McKirk


December 31, 2006 12:03 PM


Clary Jeffrey

April 29, 2009 4:44 AM

Downtown LA won't be like NY because there twice as many homeless in LA than NY and fewer beds. Enforcing vagrancy laws is only going to displace them not get rid of them. And forcing people to vacate public space just because they don't have homes isn't right. Push for rent control if you want fewer homeless.

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BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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