Clifton's Reopens, Downtown Demographic Data

After a momentous ribbon cutting last week and a dazzling grand opening party last night, Clifton's Cafeteria reopens to the public this week. A lot of eyes have been on the beloved venue lately - the press has been all over its reemergence. But while the headlines are strong, the eyes we notice most are those of elderly passersby who stop their Broadway stroll to stare into its newly revealed glass windows, peering in with wonder, intrigue, and questions. It's become a frequent heart-clenching scene. Talking to a few of them, each shared stories of the Clifton's they once knew: the birthdays spent there, the noise the streetcar would make as it pulled up to Broadway and 7th Street, tales of mom's favorite jello. It's amazing to see a culturally significant venue not just reopen in the Historic Core, but serve as a catalyst for sharing memories and history. • 

Every two years or so, the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID) puts out a demographic study and retail survey. The purpose is to identify who lives and works Downtown, determine the economic makeup of our community, and deduce what retailers Downtowners want to see more of in the area. Past survey results claim to have helped recruit Target, Whole Foods, Smart & Final, and other advantageous amenities. Data is powerful, especially as it pertains to an often misunderstood and undervalued community like ours. But data can be misleading. According to their 2013 survey, the median income in Downtown LA is $98,700, a figure that seems wildly high for the area with the highest concentration of low-income, affordable, and permanent supportive housing in the city of Los Angeles. It's likely that lower-income residents aren't filling out the DCBID's survey as responsively as the more affluent locals. While reporting high income values may be ideal for recruiting retailers, it's important that a data set that aims to speak for Downtown as a whole accurately communicates the vast economic spectrum that exists here.  •