DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - It seems that nowadays many Down-towners think their neighborhood is the only good place to live in Downtown Los Angeles. Where has this attitude come from? Is it dividing us?
As Downtown has evolved into a residential area, it has created several micro-neighborhoods. Each community has a distinct flavor and residential demographic mix.
Many outsiders assume that living Downtown means living in an artsy, industrial loft. But the transformation of old office buildings and the creation of luxury highrises with private screening rooms and gyms has brought a whole new group of homeowners and renters. The intermingling of Lamborghinis and Bentleys with Priuses and Smart Cars is a common sight in many Downtown residential garages.
Thus a rivalry has begun, with some feeling "my neighborhood is better than yours." You hear comments like, "City West is not really Downtown," "South Park is the Beverly Hills of Downtown" and "the Historic Core is the real Downtown."
What happened to the camaraderie of all Downtowners? When did the pretentiousness and insecurities we all sought to escape track us down?
Most Downtown residents select the neighborhood and building that best fits their needs. Some people like ultra-modern architecture, others industrial. Some residents don't feel that they are living in an urban environment unless they see someone urinating on the sidewalk or can buy fake Prada sunglasses down the street. Others insist on sparkling landscaped sidewalks with at least three Starbucks within walking distance. Are any of these views wrong?
I've solicited anonymous opinions from Downtown residents in several communities to learn what Downtowners really think of their neighborhoods.
South Park: Viewed by many as the most "gentrified" area of Downtown, it was once known as "that area way down near the Transamerica Building," but is now the center of the entertainment corridor. Residents include professionals, hipsters and students who are drawn to Staples, L.A. Live and restaurants, as well as the soft-loft, high-rise lifestyle. "I chose to live here just because of its proximity to the new Ralphs and because the buildings are brand new and really top of the line." Many residents see it as the "most probable neighborhood to realistically be able to raise a family in Downtown L.A. in the coming years."
On the flipside, some see it as too homogenized. "South Park is too sterile, too cold. It's not living up to the hype and a lot of residents are feeling a little sore over that. It should've grown organically." Some view the residents as more suburban-minded than urban.
City West: The home to many corporate professionals and entrepreneurs who are drawn to its easy freeway access and lack of hustle and bustle is a quiet neighborhood that escapes the commute time gridlock. It's close to everything, yet out of the loop. One homeowner describes it as "Upper-East-side-esque, the true quiet neighborhood in Downtown just outside of all the action."
Others see it as dull and lifeless, the "New Jersey of Downtown," since it's across the bridge. "Good bones, but it'll always be 'Downtown support' because of the freeway. There's no center for the neighborhood. Right now, it's just a conduit to the Financial District."
Historic Core: Believed by many to be the "real Downtown," the neighborhood is the most like San Francisco and New York in architecture and energy. Residents are as varied as the mix of businesses on the street. It seems to be the area where you are most likely to have a doctor, an artist and a CEO all living in the same building.
Recurring concerns include the homeless, the lack of street parking and congestion during the day. "Not for the fainthearted or weak stomached."
Fashion District: The neighborhood offers an eclectic mix of architecture. People who live in the Fashion District want to be in the middle of the action. Non-residents see it as a "bargain haven. Crowded. Mix of boring and intriguing at the same time." It's a highly charged creative environment. "The Fashion District is awesome - packed with people during the daytime. Los Angeles Street south of Seventh is unexpectedly charming."
But this is not an area for the agoraphobic. Transients and parking are frequent complaints, as is the fact that after 7 p.m. the sidewalks seem to roll up. Additionally, many think this commercial center is too rough around the edges. "The streets aren't as clean, the people aren't as clean."
Arts District: Although some new upscale housing complexes have opened here, many people still think of the large, raw spaces in converted industrial buildings and warehouses that draw those who require a lot of space in order to create. A local describes the area as "quiet, more laid-back than the rest of Downtown." A longtime area resident says, "I live here because it is like living in a shire or Mayberry.... People you don't even know will say hello as they pass you on the street."
However, it's an area that many Down-town dwellers have not explored. Some feel it's too desolate. "The Arts District has some cool places to eat, and there are probably plenty of cool little places to go that are worthwhile, but not enough to gamble on living there."
Is one neighborhood really better than another? It all comes down to personal preference. Downtown's diversity and variety is a positive feature that should be respected, embraced and explored. We should all make a point to get out of our corner of the city, see the sights and discover the wonders in our neighbors' backyards. Maybe we shouldn't judge these diverse areas, but recognize that their differences are what make Downtown "Downtown."