LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE | AN ODE

Downtown Los Angeles has gone through profound changes over the last thirteen years, and depending on your politics and socioeconomic status, you might see this as a good or bad shift towards the future ahead. The crusade to clean up Downtown L.A. in order to compete with the likes of New York City, began around 2005 by former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, dubbed The Rejuvenation Project of Downtown Los Angeles. I personally don’t agree with some of these changes, on account the storefronts I grew up with in the early to late 90’s, have been wiped into nothing. But it’s not the town itself or the aesthetic I disagree with. Yes I’m pro-business however, I reluctantly disagree with the new wave of businesses that displace longtime residents and business owners of years past. These new businesses have alienated those of us who’ve grown up here, those of us who have romanticize the idea of Downtown L.A., and those of us who once lived here.

To my knowledge, no publication pushes this alienation far more than Los Angeles Magazine. To quote the headline in the article, The New New Downtown, as seen in the 2017 July issue, “The revival of our once idle city kicked off about a decade ago and it’s only picking up pace.” If I’m to understand correctly, the writer Marielle Wakim (deputy editor), and in turn Los Angeles Magazine, are essentially saying Downtown L.A. did not exist until after 2007. Nor did my weekends spent with family walking up and down Broadway Blvd., browsing through its once crowed swap meets, in the aforementioned 90’s. The businesses that existed then are also irrelevant to the writer because she’s a transplant from Ohio and thinks that if an area isn’t on Instagram or is Hipster friendly, or on a travel blog, it plain out doesn’t exist. Mind you, I’m not against gentrification wholeheartedly, but it begs the question on whether or not the writers of Los Angeles Magazine care about our local culture. I question when the said writers publish articles stating they alone have discovered Los Angeles and its diverse neighborhoods. and adjacent areas, worse yet, even take a pretentious attitude towards it. While I’m not a native Angelino, a term I hate using by the way, however I’ve been here practically my whole life, and I’ve seen many changes since 1994, so I’m not going to sit here tell you I know everything there is to know about this town. 

Further proof Los Angeles Magazine doesn’t care about immigrants, small businesses and most importantly local culture, I’ll turn your attention to the 2017 November issue with the article, All Hail the Pastry King. The writer, Joel Stein, a self-proclaimed Angelino, admits to stalking and kissing ass to pastry Chef, Dominique Ansel, French immigrant and inventor of the coveted Cronut, in hopes of getting ‘special treatment,’ once his new bakery opened its doors in the winter of 2017 at The Grove. The writer is then appalled to learn Ansel doesn’t care who you are once you’re in his bakery, with a firm, no-cutting rule, as to provide equal hospitality to all guests. The writer closes off by saying, “no matter how good his food is, he’s never going to make it in this town.” To be clear, Joel Stein isn’t a true Angelino, he’s in fact a New Jersey native. Los Angeles Magazine, if you’re reading this, don’t hire transplants who claim to be L.A. natives, who then virtue signal us as to who’s going to make it in this town, and who’s not. I’m tired of you bastards claiming you know everything and everyone is this town and the constant stomping of those of us, who hustle in our local, respective communities on the daily. Then turn around and slander those who don’t fit your mold, to further promote your unwanted gentrifying agenda.

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I’m sure I can dig up further examples, however, I have since cancelled my subscription as of last year, on account the writers Los Angeles Magazine employ, seem to have limited views and experiences that don’t reflect those of us who have been here our entire lives. However, and you can quote me on this, I greatly appreciate the handful of new businesses that keep the old buildings they move into and take the daunting task of restoring them to their former glory. Downtown L.A. has stunning architecture from different eras scattered throughout. From 1994, to around 2006, Clifton’s Cafeteria was our go to place for a hearty, American comfort meal. It was the first restaurant I remember walking into upon arriving in this country at age five. A quick ride on the Metro Red Line from our apartment, as at that time, in the early 90’s, the Metro Red Line only went as far as MacArthur Park and Union Station. My family and I would eat here at least once a week, my parents would get me the tilapia filet with a side of rice and I’d get to pick my own gelatin for dessert, admiring how fast the cashier ladies would punch in the numbers on the cash registers. After a while, I started asking for the slice of ham with scalloped potatoes and a few slices of Texas Toast on the side, providing a much heartier satisfaction. As the years went by, Clifton’s laid forgotten through the ‘revitalization’ of Downtown that began in 2005. Then one day, it closed. Years later it reopened, with much anticipation on my part. Sadly however, it wasn’t the Clifton's I remembered. Though the new owners pianistically restored it to its former glory of the 1930’s, the food flat out sucked.

As did the new owners of Clifton’s, so have the owners of the Ace Hotel Building, formerly known as the Texaco Building; otherwise known as the Jesus Saves Building by locals. As a photographer, it makes my heart jump for joy when I see gorgeous, Art Deco architecture fully restored and beautifully presented. I appreciate how accessible Downtown has become over the years. I would say it’s mostly due to the MTA (public transit of L.A.) implementation of the light rail Metro Gold Line from Pasadena to Downtown as of 2003, and later with the 2009 East L.A. extension. I was living in Palmdale when the extension towards East L.A. was completed, irrelevant to me at the time. Who would of thought that a few years later, the Gold Line would become my main source of transportation when calling East L.A. my new home. I’m not completely against the changes Downtown L.A. is going through. I’m simply asking writers with a voice in a mainstream platform as well as new business owners of Downtown L.A., to promote the new while embracing the past. What do you miss of Downtown L.A. and if you were running things, what would you change, bring back or keep, do you agree or disagree with the changes?