I was recently in an elevator at my Downtown Los Angeles office when I overheard one man saying to another, “I don’t know how people can live Downtown. Traffic here would drive me nuts!” Well, isn’t the point of living Downtown leaving your car behind and actually walking, or [gasp] taking public transit for personal chores and other activities?
Although Los Angeles remains defined by the automobile, I have seen quite a change in the mindset of the city’s citizenry and its physical identity since moving here in 1990. Downtown back then was characterized by silent roads and empty sidewalks after 6 p.m. Today, the streets are energetic and busy with tourists, residents, and workers long after work hours.
I appreciate experiencing Los Angeles during this crossroads moment. The city’s future is being shaped by new civic leadership and policies, and the Downtown center is being continually transformed by new housing construction and public transit alternatives. Think about what has happened in the last few of years alone: the recent approval of L.A.’s Mobility Plan 2035, the approval of the Army Corps’ recommendations for restoring a portion of the Los Angeles River, Metro’s ongoing expansion of a rail transit system. These are just a few impressive milestones reshaping the heart of Los Angeles.
As I observe the construction and completion of Downtown Los Angeles apartment buildings and the daily flow of commuters spilling out of buses and the Metro transit stations, I recall another conversation, this one with a friend which occurred nearly two decades ago. When I informed him that I accepted a position with a Downtown-based company, he looked at me in disbelief and declared “Nobody works Downtown!”
Naysayers take note: Downtown Los Angeles is a pretty cool place to live and work. The city even has its own hip hashtag name: #DTLA. She may still be a “bit gritty and less pretty”, but DTLA has finally arrived.