Oceanwide Plaza: Graffiti ‘vandalism’ or the greatest tag ‘takeover’ of all time?

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The New York Times has entered the debate surrounding LA’s troubled Oceanwide Plaza development this week after social media and the outside press tied its celebrity status to the neglect of downtowns, housing rights issues, and their relationship to developer capitalism. 

The Times piece follows news of the city’s recent order on Oceanwide to install a security fence to prevent against interlopers’ vandalism and the ‘public nuisance’ the highly publicized graffiti artwork has turned the unfinished project into. 

‘Vandalism’ is a charged term to apply in this case, but it has affected other sites near Downtown Los Angeles, like the copper wire-stripped Sixth Street Viaduct, in the midst of its delayed economic rebound. The street art community is here portrayed alongside BASE jumpers as a lawless quandary that considers their “takeover” a bar-raising move geared mainly at promotion and exposure. A smarter take is that taggers have the broader consensus of society so well-figured that their actions led to a more benign and timely form of public action. 

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Related on Archinect: LA City Council orders graffiti removal on infamous unfinished Oceanwide Plaza towers

(This is, after all, a long-stalled, bankrupt luxury tower complex standing on an urban island framed by the Crypto.com Arena, the LA Convention Center, and other more useful commercial and civic spaces.)

As previously reported, the property was under an abatement order before February and could face imposing liens, a foreclosure ruling, and a possible demolition if the City Council’s order, which includes a $1.1 million cleanup effort, is not met. The project stalled out in 2019 and will cost a reported $1.5 billion to finish. Lendlease, who is the General Contractor, has also recently filed suit to force a sale of the development to a new buyer (h/t CoStar.com).


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