Goodbye, Downtown L.A.
One Heck of a Ride Comes to an End
By: Jon Regardie
Thursday, Aug. 29, was my last day at Los Angeles Downtown News. My departure was neither my decision nor my desire. The paper has a new owner. My 15-year-run -- one heck of a run -- has come to an end.
I know what you're thinking. I'm thinking the same thing: How can I be out of a job when José Huizar, 10 months after an FBI raid of his City Council office, still has his? I mean, there was a battalion of agents in the building!
I'll miss writing about Huizar and the rest of the City Hall crew for L.A. Downtown News. In fact, I'll miss writing about virtually every aspect of the wonderful, diverse, dynamic, evolving, occasionally frustrating community. There have been so many great stories to track and so many extraordinary and sometimes unpredictable people to cover.
It's a cliché to say that it has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Editor of Downtown News, but it's a cliché that is also true. The neighborhood was never dull, and the people who work and came to live here care deeply about their community. While I watched the skyline take shape and saw billion-dollar projects advance, as a journalist I could never predict, on a granular level, what would happen the next month, the next week, even the next day.
The best thing you can hope to find in a job is a place where you want to be each morning, working alongside smart and kind people whose talent in turn makes you better. That was always the situation with this gig. I'll miss it mightily.
I did my first stint at Downtown News in the mid-1990s, left, and returned at the end of 2004, at the invitation of the wonderful Sue Laris, who founded and ran this gem of a publication for more than four decades. The job gave me a front-row seat to an unprecedented city revival. I've been fortunate to watch as a moribund community has been reclaimed, as a neighborhood that two decades ago died each night at 5 p.m. has blossomed into a vibrant, 24-7 city replete with an engaged residential population and some of the best restaurants and cultural spots in the state.
I still remember the day in 1998 when a brash young developer named Tom Gilmore called and told me to meet him at Fourth and Main streets. I did, and he pointed to three buildings at the then-hardscrabble intersection. He said he had bought them and was going to turn them into market-rate apartments. I thought he was nuts.
"People say the neighborhood is lousy," he told me. "I just bought the neighborhood."
I wrote about Gilmore many times in ensuing years, but he and his Old Bank District -- which proved to be the beachhead for the residential revival -- was just one of a gajillion captivating and catalytic projects that powered the growth of the community. The landmarks multiplied -- Staples Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Grand Park, the Ace Hotel, The Broad, the Wilshire Grand. To get a sense of how far Downtown has come, just remember when everyone went bananas in 2007 when Downtown welcomed... wait for it... a Ralphs supermarket.
I've witnessed a stunning array of power brokers and big plays. Fortunes were made and lost. Nothing I saw in Downtown rivaled the dominance and in-the-moment myth-making of AEG's Tim Leiweke as he rode herd on the creation of L.A. Live and nearly got a $1 billion football stadium erected in South Park. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I saw jaws drop as Sam Zell filleted the L.A. Times. That was eclipsed only by Frank McCourt treating the Dodgers as a personal cash machine. Okay, it was also eclipsed by Clippers owner Donald Sterling verbally immolating himself, as we learned the depths of his creepiness.
I'll always be thankful for the coterie of politicians and other public figures who seemed to make it a personal mission to keep giving the media something to write about -- they were the gift that keeps on giving. In addition to Huizar there was Antonio Villaraigosa, a mayor felled by personal ambition, Jim Hahn, a mayor felled by seemingly not wanting to be mayor, and Eric Garcetti, a mayor whose legacy still hangs in the balance. There was Carmen Trutanich, a hurricane as city attorney, and City Council President Herb Wesson. Oy, Herb Wesson. The list goes on and on and on.
I'm incredibly proud of the work Downtown News did over the last 15 years. It was always rewarding. It was always hard. There hasn't been a lot of time off.
So now I'm taking that time, regrouping, breathing, reassessing. I'll spend as much time as possible with my wife and kids. I'll exercise more. Tomorrow I'll wake up early -- it's my turn for carpool.
What's next? I don't know. The lack of an answer is scary. It's also exciting.
I remain fascinated by this city, by its power games and myriad challenges, by its leaders, by its triumphs, by its failure and by its attempt to wrestle with challenges including the soul-crushing crisis of homelessness. I hope to continue to write about Los Angeles for a long, long time.
Thank you to everyone who has read and reached out over the years. And please continue to do so. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'll see you at the next stop.