CD14 Candidates Weigh in on Housing and Transportation at Debate (copy)

(From second left to right) Kevin de León, Monica Garcia, and Cyndi Otteson. 

During the lead up to 2019, many Angelenos pinpointed the upcoming calendar year to be one to remember. With hindsight being what it is, it’s safe to say that they were not wrong.

But, as the saying goes, there’s always next year, and 2020 is shaping up to be just as important for Downtown Los Angeles, with some major events on the horizon.

Below are some of the things in the realms of politics, development and culinary spaces to keep an eye out for in 2020.

The Political Carousel

While the elephant in the room is the 2020 general election, which will test whether the United States is keen on another four years of President Donald Trump, the upcoming election will also disclose who Downtown, and the other neighborhoods of City Council District 14 consider to be the right person to replace longstanding Downtown representative José Huizar.

Huizar, who was elected to the seat in 2005, will be termed out in November. Seeking to replace the councilman is a mix of first-time and seasoned candidates, led by former State Senate President pro tempore Kevin de León and former Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia. The two candidates are front-runners in a crowded field of candidates that includes marketing specialist Cyndi Otteson, DLANC representative Marcus Lovingood and many more.

The primary election will be held in March. The top two vote getters will face off in November’s general election.

Once elected, those officials will be tasked with tackling a homeless crisis that has seemingly spiraled out of control in Downtown Los Angeles. The most recent homeless count found nearly 60,000 Angelenos living without permanent shelter in Los Angeles on any given night, and with billions of taxpayer dollars attached to the issue in the form of new shelters and programs and little progress being made on curbing the issue, the person who sits in the CD14 will have extra focus placed on how they approach the humanitarian concern.

Chinese Development in Downtown

At this point, it’s almost a cliché to say that Downtown Los Angeles is in the midst of a development boom, but, borrowing another cliché: if the shoe fits...

Glass and steel high-rises and plenty of smaller boutique hotels and developments opened or began construction in 2019, which will only continue in 2020 as Downtown barrels toward housing close to a 125,000 people by 2040.

A major trend to keep an eye on in 2020 is the state of Chinese investments in Downtown developments. The $1 billion Oceanwide Plaza, located next to L.A. Convention Center and L.A. Live, ceased construction in January, pledging to resume construction within months. Since that announcement, 12 months of silence has rung out of the eyesore, with little to no discussion about when construction at the building will recommence.

Owned by the China-based Oceanwide Holdings, experts say that the stall is a result of the Chinese government cracking down on direct international investments. The building is expected to comprise 504 condominiums and a 154-room Park Hyatt hotel. It’s not the only Downtown project being developed by or heavily dependent on Chinese funds. Greenland USA’s Metropolis hit a stall in its last stretch, having only recently finished its fourth tower in December. Shenzhen New World Group plans to redevelop the L.A. Hotel, while Shenzhen Hazens is working on a two-tower complex to replace the Luxe City Center Hotel across the street from L.A. Live.

Similarly, FBI officials have placed a microscope on City Hall and the flow of foreign — mostly Chinese — political contributions.

A search warrant tied to an FBI investigation that seemingly began in November with the raiding of Huizar’s home and City Hall and Boyle Heights offices, seemed to be in large part attached to a probe of possible bribery, extortion and money laundering involving city officials. It’s worth noting that Huizar, and other officials named in the warrant, have not been charged.

How, or if these developments come under heightened scrutiny, or if developments like Oceanwide continue to remain dormant will be an important storyline to follow in 2020.

Check, Please?

The culinary scene in Downtown Los Angeles has been particularly interesting in 2019, with a number of glitzy restaurants and bars going the way of the dodo, while newcomers look to take advantage of Downtown’s hip and explorative population.

The restaurant industry has always been a tough nut to crack, with most restaurants failing to get through their first year of business. Downtown had plenty of businesses that fell into that group like The Manufactory and Simone, but also saw a number of longstanding businesses like Café Pinot opt to go another route.

While not everyone closed due to shrinking profit margins, it is worth noting that the restaurant trend, despite the influx of new, wealthier clientele snatching up expensive condos and apartments, begs the question: How much is too much?

We might get that answer in 2020. New bars like the lauded Death & Co. are looking at 2020 to stake their claim, while restaurants like Red Herring on Grand Avenue will try to capture an audience amongst an increasingly crowded field.

How that will play out remains to be seen, but in 2020, we’ll certainly get closer to that answer.

sthomas@timespublications.com