The Arts District is a dynamic, passionate and creative neighborhood whose residents and local business owners work every day to maintain the soul and character developed by their urban peers who pioneered their path over 30 years ago. The Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) has paved one of the most successful models of urban revitalization by creating and protecting space that serves as a catalyst for human renewal. It has created a new sustainable model that may fit other parts of our city and is certainly trying to be duplicated in other parts of the world. Looking to the future with a thoughtful process designed to enhance these achievements and avoiding the pitfalls of myopic planning practices is the reason for this community website.
A few of the projects (recently completed or under construction today) that slipped under the community radar several years ago became a stark reminder of the importance of staying involved with policy matters on a daily basis. These are the only tools available for our community to avoid projects that add little value to its shared creative goals.
As a result of the ongoing attempts to spot-zone projects, the community welcomed the idea of creating a thoughtful land use policy to enhance the successful aspects of the Arts District. In 2014, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning began to explore an interim ordinance that would be specific to the Arts District while a herculean effort was about to begin updating the City Planning Code and the specific plan for the area. The timing seemed right and potential developers were notified by the Department of City Planning as well as other agencies and officials of the inevitable changes. In the meantime, Arts District leadership formed a Land Use Committee (LUC) through the Los Angeles River Artist & Business Association (LARABA) and an Urban Design/Land Use Committee (UD/LUC) with the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council (HCNC), the latter of which oversees six DTLA neighborhoods, including the Arts District.
Interested members of the Arts District, the LUC, and the UD/LUC began the arduous task of figuring out the best path for development in the neighborhood. Hundreds of hours were spent designing a plan that would provide healthy and sustainable growth to the Arts District and would ensure that the neighborhood would remain at the forefront of creativity and sustainability for future generations. Residents and local business owners conveyed their thoughts, findings, and recommendations to the City Planning Department, government officials, and interested developers through numerous meetings and communications, keeping an open mind that an exchange of ideas and experiences would simply add value to the discourse.
After months of working together, the ordinance presented by the Department of City Planning seemed to include very little of the stated community needs and seemed to include more of the fingerprints of specific development efforts. Despite the best efforts of residents and local business owners, the team at the Department of City Planning stood their ground, insisting that their version was the best for the community. However, the push back from the Arts District community was so large, the Department of City Planning was forced to take the proposed ordinance off the Los Angeles City Council agenda in December 2014 and was asked to revisit many of the assumptions in its version.
As the Department of City Planning and government officials were debating what to do next, key Arts District advocates hired professionals experienced in similar issues faced by other cities to help LARABA, HCNC, and its LUC and UD/LUC members translate the goals and objectives of residents and local business owners, resulting in the draft of a land use policy that more closely matched community needs and input. Compared to the City’s version, this community-supported policy would best create a framework that is even more clear about what type of development efforts would add positive value to the Arts District. Residents and local business owners recognize that various opinions and different agendas exist for the Arts District. For example, the idea that a massive amount of small apartments is a solution to address affordability needs of Arts District simply misses the point – these smaller spaces do not offer what artists and makers need. Residents and local business owners of the Arts District are open to a positive future with higher densities of artists, makers, thinkers, and creators who can flourish in this neighborhood. Developers who invest in this positive future for the Arts District are welcomed once they understand that there is an “Art to Development.”
This website is a project of HCNC, LARABA, Arts District Community Council Los Angeles (ADCCLA), community leaders, and you. Click HERE to see who is behind this website, who cares about the Arts District, and who endorses this community-supported draft ordinance. We welcome any feedback, encourage you to ask questions, and learn more by attending any of the monthly convenings of local community groups. The LARABA board meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at Art Share Los Angeles (801 E. 4th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90013). HCNC UD/LUC and LARABA LUC convene jointly at 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month for public presentations by developers at SCI-Arc in Room 160 (enter building from parking lot at 350 Merrick St., Los Angeles 90013). The full board of HCNC meets at 6:00 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at various locations (check their website 72 hours before the scheduled date for location and agenda). The ADCCLA meets at 7:00 p.m. every third Monday of the month at 1855 Industrial St., Rm. 106, Los Angeles, CA 90021.
On this website, you will find the community-support draft of the Arts District Ordinance and the letters sent by leadership to officials at the Department of City Planning and Council District 14. You will also find the names of community members who support this draft, and can add your own name to the roll!