What an exhausting, emotionally challenging year. Many events around the world wreaked havoc, and here in Downtown, we grappled with losses too. Downtowners marched in the streets, camped out in protest, and watched an iconic bridge be torn down. But we also came together and shared some positive moments, with new art spaces, new multimodal transportation, and new progress on homelessness.
Here are our Top Downtown LA Moments that Mattered of 2016:
Anti-Trump protests erupt
On November 8, so many of us were plunged into shock, anger, grief, and reckoning that someone as openly racist, violent, xenophobic, and unqualified as Trump could be voted in as President of the United States. In the dark difficult days following, tens of thousands of people from around Southern California flooded to Los Angeles’ urban center, uniting to protest, support each other, and demand fairness and equality.
Hauser Wirth & Schimmel opens
Hauser & Wirth, a Zurich-based gallery and art collecting house, teamed up with former MOCA Chief Curator Paul Schimmel and opened their most ambitious project yet - a 100,000 sq. ft. gallery in a former grain mill in the Arts District. Technically the largest gallery in the world, complete with exhibition spaces, academic labs, a bookstore and a restaurant, HW&S upended traditional models of what we think of as galleries and for the average visitor, feels more like a museum.
Sixth Street Bridge demolished
This iconic viaduct, first opened in 1932, connected the Arts District with Boyle Heights across the LA River. Its recognizable arches and notable entry point into the LA River made it a particularly loved piece of infrastructure for artists, photographers and urban adventurers. Due to unfortunate structural problems, the bridge was ordered demolished and replaced, leaving breathtaking ruins in the riverbed.
Measure HHH passes
Could 2016 be the year we finally hit our moral breaking point on homelessness? We sure hope so, as over 75% of voters voted yes on HHH. The vote initiated a $1.2 billion bond measure from property taxes to pay for 10,000 new units of permanent supportive housing and homeless services across the City of LA and united homeless advocates, housing non-profits, City departments, and the general public in offering a key next step towards policy that supports, not criminalizes, the homeless.
Flour tortillas, long-shunned amongst LA’s Mexican restaurant offerings, became celebrated with a lot of heart when our friends Jen and Teo opened Sonoratown, a counter service restaurant for Sonora-style tacos, chivichangas, caramelos and more. Sonoratown’s name and cuisine pays homage to the former Northern Mexican-immigrant neighborhood that existed where Chinatown sits today.
Expo Line completed
LA Metro finally delivered on its long-awaited goal: a train from Downtown to the beach. The Expo Line’s final phase opened in May, offering Angelenos a 47 minute $1.75 train ride from Downtown LA to Santa Monica. The jury’s still out of whether it will unclog the freeways, but it offers a more sustainable and economical cross-city transit option.
Black Lives Matter occupies City Hall
For 55 days straight this summer and fall, Black Lives Matter’s LA chapter occupied LA City Hall with a sizable encampment, demanding that Mayor Eric Garcetti fire LAPD Chief Charlie Beck for the department’s repeated incidents of police brutality. According to BLM-LA, LAPD killed more of its citizens in 2015 than any other police department in the country.
The return of S.C. Mero
After what felt like a long lull in public art installations in the Historic Core neighborhood, the works of artist S.C. Mero thankfully returned right as we needed it most. Erecting signage and sculptures right after the Presidential Election, she filled our streets with several new site-specific works that play on our state of politics, Downtown gentrification, homelessness, and culture at large. Look out for Skid Row Santa, who as of now remains upright, albeit looking for work, at 6th/Main.
Ronald Troy Collins continues his rise
Our third issue, Skid Row Art, featured the story of singer Ronald Troy Collins, who at the time was homeless and singing on the street for food. Since then, he’s gotten sober, is living in a recovery community in Long Beach, has been the star of a documentary, has recorded much of an album, and has performed a number of shows including at the Youbloom Festival at the Lexington and the Festival for All Skid Row Artists in Gladys Park.
Bike Share begins
Years of other-city-envy subsided a bit this year as Los Angeles finally got its own bike share system. Introducing over 60 stations and 700 bicycles across the Downtown LA area, it’s made working and living Downtown much easier knowing that a bicycle is always nearby 24/7. We’re not thrilled with the high prices, but knowing that low-income rider rates will be introduced in 2017 makes us a little more hopeful of the system’s eventual equitability.