LA City Council approves resources to address vacant, tagged development


The Los Angeles City Council on Friday approved a motion aimed at addressing an abandoned luxury skyscraper development in downtown after more than 25 floors were tagged with spray paint.

Council members voted 14-0 to instruct city departments to begin an abatement process to secure the site and restore the sidewalks should the property owners fail to respond by Feb. 17, and remove all graffiti and debris, and securely fence the property on their own accord.

The planned $1 billion multi-use complex, known as Oceanwide Plaza, began construction some years ago, but stalled since 2019 when Beijing-based developer Oceanwide Holdings could no longer finance it.

With recent events at Arena such as the Grammy Awards and the statue unveiling of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna, who died in a helicopter crash in 2020, worldwide attention has fallen on the tagged complex as well.

“We confront a challenge that undermines the very character of our neighborhoods — that is both blight and criminal vandalism,” Councilman Kevin de León said prior to the vote, who represents the 14th District where the development is located.

He added, “Last week, the eyes of the world turned toward our vibrant city where we hosted the Grammy Awards. Yet, I missed the excitement. We could not ignore the blight across the street on the building of a private development that failed to be completed.”

While he noted graffiti art has its place, it should not be on public or private property, where it defaces city streets and diminishes a sense of security.

“Let me be clear, defacing this property or any public property is not the fault of the city or due to neglect by the city,” de León said. “That responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the developer. There’s no ifs, ands or buts”

City leaders are scrambling to figure out a way to clean up the graffiti that’s vandalized an abandoned high-rise building in Downtown Los Angeles. Robert Kovacik reports for the NBC4 News on Feb. 1, 2024.

According to the councilman, the city notified the property owners in several different ways, such as email, phone calls, fax and messages through social media platforms.

“(They) have to get their act together,” de León said.  

He noted that if the property owners do not act within the legal amount of time, the city will take action. The Bureau of Street Services will ensure the removal of all obstructions blocking sidewalks and streets, including K-rail and scaffolding.

The councilman took a moment to address criticism from L.A. residents, who did not approve of the Los Angeles Police Department spending time on “security” for the complex or for spending resources because it’s abandoned. Some housing advocates have said the time and money spent could be used to address the city’s homelessness crisis.

“LAPD belongs to the people of the city of L.A. and the constituents,” de León said. “Their efforts should not be diverted to protect for-profit developers.”

A downtown Los Angeles high rise building has been vandalized with graffiti art on nearly each floor. Robert Kovacik reports for the NBC4 News on Jan. 31, 2024.

LAPD Central Division, which oversees Downtown L.A. and other areas, reported at least seven individuals have been arrested on suspicion of vandalism, trespass, burglary and other crimes, according to recent statements. Central Division detectives were also placed to investigate crimes committed at the site.

On turning the complex into housing, de León said it was easier said than done.

“It’s not that simple because we don’t have a billion dollars lying around right now to buy this three-tower development,” he said. “That’s just the current value, if you will, more or less on the actual abandoned building. It will take another billion dollars, at least, and I’m that conservatively, to actually complete and finalize this building.”

Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez supported the motion, adding “This circumstance is one of exploitation and criminal activity.”

She referred to the building as a “huge black eye” and a “red flag” about how the city needs to be vigilant and obstruct these activities from occurring.

Councilwoman Imelda Padilla said she was shocked by how much people wouldn’t stop talking about the tagged complex.

“At the end of the day, the only reason why we’re talking about it is because it’s just so gigantic,” she added. “But we have these all over Los Angeles. I can think of at least four buildings that are mini versions — what is neglect from property owners.”

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