The above map is a draft version of the Downtown Los Angeles Map of Land Use and Zoning. On the left is the Financial Distict and South Park while on the right is the Warehouse District and Arts District.
The City Planning Commission is updating the Downtown Plan for future growth and changes in land use. The new plan will set a new direction for the future of DTLA to guide the physical development of neighborhoods, and establish goals and policies for land use in addition to a range of planning topics, including streets and open space, urban design, mobility, and arts and culture.
Heavy Industrial zoning would be removed. A new Hybrid Industrial Zone would dominate in the Arts District.
In the upper right section the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan (CASP) area encompasses a large area sometimes known as the North Industrial District. Older generations may refer to it as part of Chinatown or Dogtown.
In a June 14, 2021 letter by the Chinatown Stakeholders to the Planning Commission, CASP was addressed per the below excerpt which is somewhat critical.
In the Cornfield – Arroyo Seco Specific Plan (“CASP”) adopted in 2013, City Planning attempted to promote infill development in the CASP area but also sought to limit the percentage of residential space in the floor area of new projects. This had the unintended effect of discouraging new development even at a time when other parts of the Central City were experiencing a development boom. The only project within the CASP area that has been approved since adoption of CASP (1457 N. Main St., with 244 live/work units) moved forward only as a result of the Central Area Planning Commission granting (in May 2020) an exception from CASP’s limitation of residential uses not exceeding 15 percent of the floor area. The City Council subsequently approved Councilmember Cedillo’s motion (Council File No. 13-0078-S2) directing City Planning to review the land use incentives in CASP to determine whether they had the net effect of discouraging the production of mixed-income housing.
In addition to the above commentary, the Shimoda Design Group submitted its criticism of the draft plan as per below excerpt:
The draft plan website states “Several years ago, City Planning set out to create a modern and efficient zoning system for Los Angeles. The proposed approach aims to establish a new Zoning Code that is more responsive to the needs of Los Angeles’s neighborhoods, in addition to being easier to use.”
These are noble goals, but the current draft of the code does not show itself to be more responsive to local needs, nor is it easier to use. We believe that the zoning sections regarding Form, Frontage, Standards & Use and Density are too prescriptive and need to be revised to allow for creativity and diversity in aesthetics and construction. As it stands this document is too granular and contains many contradictions in its prescription. The density and the complexity of the current version will create an administrative nightmare for the city in its implementation and interpretation. Many of the prescriptions for dimensional minimums and maximums are not reflective of real market conditions and place unnecessary limitations on creativity. The code will inadvertently create requirements that will effectively neuter Los Angeles as a competitive and desirable place to invest in. The result will negatively impact the future of Los Angeles.
We strongly believe that the current draft needs further revisions and input from the professional design and development community prior to adoption. The draft analysis of the Downtown, Arts District, Little Tokyo, and Chinatown districts in particular need to be reconsidered and not be defined by transitory cultural associations, a form-based code or by prescribed use requirements that will not evolve over time to reflect the community that it serves. We strongly believe and support the up zoning of all of these areas to increase density and affordability.
The CASP is a land use document that governs a 600-acre industrial area interspersed with clusters of residential neighborhoods, commercial activity, City-owned land, affordable housing developments, and open spaces, such as the Los Angeles State Historic Park (the “Cornfield”). The area contains 3.7 million square feet of industrial space—the most prevalent use in the CASP—of which 74 percent is used for warehousing, storage, or distribution. There are about 1,800 dwelling units in the CASP, three-quarters of which are in multi-family buildings, totaling about 6,200 residents.
The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering is leading the construction of the new, $588 million Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project, the largest bridge project in the history of Los Angeles. The completed structure will be a 3,500-foot long viaduct connecting Boyle Heights and the Arts District across the Los Angeles River. The original viaduct was built in 1932, but had significantly deteriorated due to “concrete cancer”; it was demolished in 2016. The new viaduct will have ten pairs of lit arches, bike lanes and wider sidewalks, along with stairway access and bike ramps connecting to 12 acres of recreational and open space under the bridge, including the Len Hill Plaza. The bridge is funded primarily through the Federal Highway Administration, with additional City support. The viaduct will be completed in Summer 2022
Constructed in 1932, the original Sixth Street Viaduct (also known as the Sixth Street Bridge), was an important engineering landmark in the City of Los Angeles. It was one of a set of fourteen historic structures crossing the Los Angeles River, and the longest of these structures.
Due to its large size, the original Sixth Street Viaduct was constructed using an onsite concrete mixing plant. Unfortunately, the aggregate used in the concrete caused a chemical reaction known as Alkali Silica Reaction, which caused deterioration of the concrete structure within 20 years of its completion. The total project replacement cost is $488 million, making it the largest bridge project in the history of Los Angeles.
Located in a highly urbanized area just east of downtown Los Angeles, the original bridge acted as a critical transportation link between the neighborhoods of the Arts District on the west side and Boyle Heights on the east side.
The original viaduct was demolished in 2016. The new viaduct is scheduled for completion in 2022.
Amid exclamations like “I am going to be so happy to see the bridge completed!”, the most common questions on social media were about pedestrian and bike lanes and general accessibility. The wide and separate sidewalks and bicycle lanes planned for both sides of the bridge met with high praise. https://www.sixthstreetviaduct.org
Historically, the Arts District was home to industrial users who manufactured, distributed, and warehoused goods ranging from toys to frozen fish. Over time, the multi-story industrial buildings became antiquated and functionally obsolete – they began transitioning to lofts and studios for artists during the 1970’s.
Then in 1981 the Artist-In-Residence ordinance was passed by the city and it legalized the use of industrial buildings as work/live spaces for artists. During the 1990’s the area petitioned to be officially recognized as a city neighborhood called the “Arts District”.
About a decade ago, developers started converting the former warehouses into live/work lofts – starting with Barker Block Lofts, Toy Factory Lofts, and Biscuit Company Lofts. These projects helped spark a renewed interest in the Arts District, and the retailers have followed suit. Award-winning restaurants, designer apparel brands, and a multitude of breweries and cozy coffee shops make this neighborhood of mural-splashed warehouses truly unique.
The Arts District has also become a hotbed of residential and mixed-use development, with projects aimed at luring new residents to the live-work-play atmosphere of the area. The real estate players in area have shifted from private/local investors to developers with institutional funding, such as Shorenstein, Tishman Speyer, Hudson Pacific, etc. Office tenants are also vying to call this neighborhood home – Warner music Group, Adidas, Spotify and more will soon be settling into their world-class creative office spaces.
Although the landscape of the Arts District is changing dramatically, the intent of the developers and the local community is to keep the integrity, character, culture, and aesthetics intact for the most unique district of Downtown Los Angeles.
■ Great Creative Studio/Warehouse Space ■ Classic Brick Building, Constructed 1968 ■ Fenced Parking ■ 1st Floor: Previously an Art Gallery, Air Conditioned ■ 2nd Floor: Beautiful Wood Floors & Bow-Truss Roof ■ Only one block from 10 Freeway Onramp ■ Fashion District Near South Park, Historic Core, & Arts District
3-5 year lease term. $1.50/SF/mo. Marketing brochure package. The larger property can be made for sale for a buyer.
The online coupon company, Honey, has signed a lease to occupy the former Coca-Cola syrup manufacturing plant in 2019. Hudson Pacific, the property owner, paid $49 million in 2015 and renamed the site to Fourth+Traction. They purchased it from GPI who purchased it for $19 million in 2014. One of my colleagues and I represented the buyer in that sale, where they then more than doubled their money flipping it. The seller then was a woman related to the man that once occupied the building as a toy distributor, T.T. Toys.
The Honey lease follows other recent DTLA Arts District transactions such as Warner Music at the Ford Building and Spotify at the At Mateo complex.
Historical photo below showing occupancy of Coca-Coca at the building.
Los Angeles has an abundance of street art, especially DTLA and in the DTLA Arts District. I and many downtown dwellers view and define “street art” as artwork in a public space that has a generally pleasing design. Contrast that with typical street-gang graffiti, which was primarily composed of dreadfully designed words and dominated the public realm prior to 2000. Most denizens consider graffiti to be blight. Street art adds value to the public realm as well as property values, especially in areas such as the Arts District. Check out some great examples here: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/lastreetart/. A large portion of DTLA street art has been painted on industrial buildings.
Street art is not exclusive to gentrifying areas. See below in the heart of Skid Row with homeless encampments.
The Los Angeles City Council last week approved a plan to expand the southern boundary of the Arts District, paving the way for redevelopment of the industrial area between 6th and 7th Streets just west of the river. This area includes a scattering of modern warehouses amongst mostly older and sometimes multistory brick warehouses built in the 30’s and 40’s. New residential grown in the current industrial area is expected. Councilman Huizar proposed the modification to the former boundary set by the Planning Commission and CRA.