In Toronto, it's the CN Tower. In New York, it's One World Trade Center. In Tokyo, it's the Skytree. In Chicago, it's the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. In Seattle, it's the Space Needle. In DC, it's the Washington Monument. And on and on.
|This skyline is instantly recognizable, yes?|
|How about this one?|
Los Angeles used to have a striking, visual focal point in its City Hall. And, in order to ensure that building's primacy, for years the City's zoning disallowed any structures to be built in excess of City Hall's height. Once that rule was relaxed, however, the skyscrapers that quickly sprung up in downtown hid the City's striking seat of government from view. LA's further construction of freeways throughout the region's core splintered City Hall from neighborhoods to its north and east and placed more emphasis on getting through downtown than on getting to downtown.
We face a unique opportunity that arrived officially today, as the International Olympics Committee selected LA as the host of the 2028 Summer Olympic Games. Almost a decade away, these games provide an opportunity right now to take more creative approaches and to galvanize our region around a shared purpose.
Part of the LA Olympic bid was an expectation that downtown's core would be reunited with its older neighborhoods to the north by capping the 101 freeway trench, creating new open space and reclaiming land from several on- and off-ramps in the process and providing new opportunities for more housing and commercial space where now is just pavement.
|This is a freeway trench today.|
This is where a lack of a focal point comes back. LA has a transportation focal point: Union Station. It has a historic center: Olvera Street. And these two places are directly across the street from each other. Just to their south is several parcels of City-owned land splintered by freeway on- and off-ramps that would disappear under a proposed freeway cap park plan and be replaced by a small office building.
|The parcels in question are where you see the U-shaped trees in the lower center portion of this picture |
(currently freeway ramps and a couple small surface parking lots).
Does LA really need a 3-story office building in such a prominent location? Next door to a transit facility forecast to handle 100,000+ passengers/day within a few years? Across the street from our region's historic and cultural center? Just a couple blocks from our civic center, which will be easily accessible on foot once the cap park is completed? And directly adjacent to what will be our newest and most striking city park?
|This city block is over 3 acres in size.|
The block bounded by Alameda to the east, Los Angeles to the west, and the 101 to the south is a prime opportunity to think outside the box, to be creative, and to offer LA a new focal point, one that embraces LA's growing transit infrastructure while mixing the new with the old at the city's historic heart. Once the current on- and off-ramps at that block have been removed, this property will be a completely City and State-owned block that could be a unique opportunity to engage the community, create a design competition, excite kids and families and even the jaded older folks across the region around a new idea, and ultimately give our region something unique and special in the process that will serve as a focal point for generations to come.
Let's do this, LA.