Now the downtown area features a lot of high rise apartments. People actually live there.
High rise, greening and smog
By Leslie Clague
Driving along the 405 Freeway from the airport to the San Fernando Valley, now in L.A. for my 50th high school class reunion, I could see downtown Los Angeles to my right. A lot more high rises of varying size and style marked the centre.
My friend Sheri was taking me to her home in Studio City, a suburb of the valley. I certainly wasn’t driving, now so used to driving on the left. When we got to her car I of course got confused as to which side to sit on!
Interestingly, there was a lot of green in the city view, much more than I remembered. In the close to 40 years since I left the city for New Zealand, trees had grown much larger. They slightly softened the urban sprawl. No sharp blue sky, of course, but a soft blue-grey one, with the decidedly beige haze that blends with the colour of the concrete freeways. Hello Los Angeles smog! Mind you, it wasn’t as prevalent as it can be. One wasn’t aware of it particularly until flying over Catalina Island. In past flights the smog could be seen, and smelt, half-way to Hawaii.
Sheri takes me on tour
Sheri now lives in the family home she grew up in, as her parents have passed away and her brother lives in another part of America. The bungalow was built in Art Deco style in 1938. Inside are amazing Art Deco features. Divorced, she is quite proud of her daughter who has made her a grandmother for the first time with grandson David turning one this month. They live in Las Vegas.
Sheri has had a career in graphic design and photography and now works at Universal Studios, an administrator in the film distribution division. She had planned a wonderful tour for me the next day to cover old haunts and new developments.
We headed into downtown Los Angeles, traveling along the Hollywood Freeway. I have to say downtown has grown up into a proper city. Previously everyone just drove into there to work and then left for somewhere suburban. Now the downtown area features a lot of high rise apartments. People actually live there. Since 2000 the downtown population has just about doubled to over 50,000. Some 500,000 work there.
One feature is an art community, with apartments called lofts. They have large high ceiling room space to create in. I met an alumnus at the reunion who lives and works in one of these downtown lofts.
The diversity of the downtown
Ethnic communities like Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, plus a greater number of tiny specialty shops give the area a more cosmopolitan feel. The Mexican population has grown tremendously over the wider city, as has the number of people from El Salvador. Latinos are just under 50% of the total Los Angeles population, now at just under 11 million.
We visited Los Angeles Central Public Library, (photos alongside), where I worked when getting my library masters. The building has been renovated but also keeps its Art Deco style. Los Angeles seems to be better at preserving the look and feel of different eras. It is not so much focused on ripping things down and making everything modern.
There is the relatively new Staples Centre downtown, next door to the L.A. Convention Centre. It is home to the LA Lakers and other sporting teams, plus offers excellent concert facilities for the likes of Elton John, Lady Gaga.
L.A. does remain the freeway capitol of the world. They even have an expressway built over the top of a freeway. Public transport has improved, but more on that later….
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