LA Wrestles With Once-Posh, Abandoned 'Graffiti Towers'

Police struggle to keep up as incomplete development overrun by vandals, BASE jumpers
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2024 10:09 AM CST
Abandoned 'Graffiti Towers' Pose Headache for LA
An unfinished high-rise development in the downtown entertainment district that has become the target of graffiti taggers who have struck dozens of floors is seen in Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

It was meant to be a luxury skyrise, home to the rich and famous. But the unfinished Oceanwide Plaza Towers in the heart of Los Angeles have instead attracted vandals. "We do think that unfortunately it has become an iconic location ... for nefarious acts," LAPD Chief Michel Moore said at a Tuesday press conference, noting the crime had left the department "strained." Police have been monitoring the buildings 24 hours a day, and making numerous arrests, for weeks since some 30 floors were tagged with graffiti. "It would've taken hundreds of writers, tens of thousands of cans," graffiti veteran Michael Delahaut tells the Washington Post. Then a larger concern surfaced Monday as a viral video showed people BASE jumping from one tower.

"People being in that building is extremely dangerous," Mayor Karen Bass said, per NBC News. "I guarantee you tragedy will take place there if that place is not boarded up quickly." The City Council is to consider a motion to spend $3 million to clear debris, install a new perimeter fence, and perhaps hire private security guards at the so-called Graffiti Towers, across the street from Arena. But the city doesn't want to be stuck shouldering the costs. "The owner of the building should be held accountable and he should reimburse the city for every dime that is spent," said Bass. The problem is that Oceanwide Inc. is bankrupt.

Chinese developers initially planned for condos, a hotel, and a shopping mall at the site. But in 2019, four years after construction started, Oceanwide Inc. ran out of money and went out of business, per NBC. City officials have said they'll secure the building, with the expectation of recovering the money from the owners, if the owners don't do it themselves by Saturday. "I'm not holding my breath," Councilmember Kevin de Leon tells KNBC, noting the city has been unable to reach the owners by phone, email, social media, even fax. "But that does not mean we cannot continue putting the pressure on them." He adds officials hope to eventually recruit investors to take over the project. According to NBC, it will take $1 billion to complete, on top of $1 billion already spent. (More Los Angeles stories.)

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