Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Could Downtown Los Angeles Become The 21st Century Creative Mecca of the US Now That New York Is Too Expensive?

In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hannah Gersen discusses The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn by Robert Anasi.   The book's main point is when a city or a community becomes successful enough to both nurture and reward artists and creative types of all persuasions - can it still remain affordable enough for future, upcoming generations of artists - much less affordable enough for the pre-existing blue collar residents.?

That then brings up the question if Los Angeles is also approaching the stage where it is pricing out its upcoming artists and creatives?  My answer is - yes, when it comes to the Westside - and no when it comes to other parts of greater LA;  particularly in the greater Downtown Los Angeles area.

DTLA's big difference with New York & WLA is that Downtown Los Angeles is in the almost exact center of a vast metropolitan area - while Manhattan is an island by the ocean - and the Westside of LA is bordered by an ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains with only one pass connecting it to the Valley - and no fixed rail transit connecting it to the rest of LA; just the barely moving San Diego and Santa Monica Freways

In contrast, Downtown Los Angeles - with an inner ring of dozens of relatively affordable and rather dense urban suburbs and with its being the hub of all the fixed rail transit,  has best chance of becoming - and remaining - a national creative hub for established, emerging  - and just beginning - artists, creative and entrepreneurial types. In fact, during the past 15 years, the number of affordable units of permanently protected low income housing has actually increased in Downtown LA - with the latest major new project, the Hotel Genesis - about to open at 5th & Main directly across the street from where both Gallery Row and the Art Walk started..

So even if one or two of those urban suburbs should begin to turn into another Williamsburgh in the next 20 or 30 years, the vast number of housing units in the endless communities surrounding DTLA far exceeds the limited supply of artists.  Artists should be able to integrate into those communities in a way which was impossible in a place like Williamsburgh or other NYC communities which were only one or two subway stops after you leave Manhattan.

Ironically, it is our much decried sprawl which should save us.  And while the traditional forces which have kept LA's housing prices high may eventually change the pricing structure of our urban suburbs, there are simply not enough artists  to significantly impact those communities.

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