L.A.’s newest tourist attraction? Abandoned high-rises covered in graffiti

In downtown Los Angeles, the attention of passersby is captivated by the spray-painted towers that have unexpectedly become a focal point in a city renowned for its spectacles.

On Wednesday, crowds gathered around the well-known Kobe Bryant statue outside Crypto.com Arena, while early birds queued up for a rock concert inside. However, the true attraction for many near the intersection of 11th and Figueroa streets was the vibrant graffiti adorning 30 floors of an abandoned real estate project.

Ronald Velasquez from Long Beach, who traversed multiple freeways with his father to capture a glimpse of the graffiti, shared, “I saw it on TV, and I had to come check it out.” Even his disapproving mother agreed it was worth facing weekday traffic to witness the phenomenon. Velasquez reflected, “It’s cool and bad at the same time — it doesn’t make the police look good; they haven’t been able to stop it.”

The unfinished towers have transformed into a canvas for graffiti artists and a playground for BASE jumping enthusiasts, contributing to the cultural buzz that has emerged on the street corner since late last month. Residents and workers are divided on whether to view the taggers’ creations as street art or an eyesore.

Douglas Rhee, residing in a luxury apartment building across the street, remarked, “Aesthetically, it looks kind of cool. I just feel bad for the business. What happened to them?”

Crypto.com Arena employee Elizabeth Lau commended the coordination behind the organized display, impressed by how it unfolded right under the noses of the police. Despite continuous patrols, new graffiti continues to appear, with videos surfacing on social media showing daredevils parachuting off the skyscrapers.

Mayor Karen Bass has expressed concerns about the dangers, emphasizing potential serious injuries. She warned, “I guarantee you tragedy will take place there if that place is not boarded up quickly.”

However, the challenge lies in finding responsible parties, as the city has been unsuccessful in locating anyone associated with the China-based developer that initiated construction in 2015 but ran out of funds in 2018. The company went out of business in 2019, halting work, and attempts to reach the parent company, Oceanwide Holdings, have proven fruitless.

With no company securing the site, police have been forced to intervene, straining their resources. Chief Michel Moore stated that it cost 3,000 hours of personnel time, with 18 arrests made since Feb. 1 for various offenses. The City Council is set to consider a motion to allocate $3 million for a fence, debris clearance, and potential private security to alleviate the burden on the police.

Despite these challenges, the graffiti towers persist in attracting visitors. Sacramento resident Latasha Cooper found symbolism in the unfinished Oceanview Plaza, likening it to abandoned real estate projects seen during her recent road trip in Baja California.

Her fiancé, Mike Quintana, saw a broader perspective, stating, “It’s an L.A. thing, but when you think about it, this is America — and this is America in the future. You’re going to run out of money someday.” As they observed the colorful buildings, a tattered Oceanview Plaza banner fluttered across the street, encapsulating the paradox of an incomplete vision in the urban landscape.