Source: CCA Research -- interactive version at ccala.org/childcaremap
Over the past two decades, DTLA has transformed from an office district to a vibrant, 24/7, urban environment with a thriving residential and employee base. DTLA’s residential population continues to rapidly grow -- estimates show that DTLA will be home to 250,000 people by 2040. What does that mean for DTLA and what do we need to ensure Downtown is an inclusive place to live and work?
One of the key challenges related to accommodating DTLA’s growth is a lack of early care and education (ECE) and elementary school facilities to serve DTLA’s residents and workers, the topic of our latest white paper. A conservative projection shows DTLA gaining 11,900 children by 2040 for a total of 17,500 children. However, LAUSD public schools located within DTLA boundaries have a current combined capacity of 1,641. There is a clear need for more ECE and schools in DTLA and that will only increase as its population growth continues.
Source: Loyola Marymount University, “Downtown LA Community Study,” March 2019
We worked with Loyola Marymount University to survey 610 DTLA residents and found that residents rated their access to quality childcare and K-12 education in their neighborhood much lower than residents elsewhere in the city and county. More than three-quarters of residents said they would not recommend DTLA as a place to raise children. This is a challenge that we must address head-on. We often hear about the couple who enjoyed living the urban lifestyle DTLA provided them -- being able to walk to work and have the world’s best restaurants, entertainment and cultural activities at their fingertips -- but deciding to move when they have a child due to the lack of education and childcare opportunities. The benefits of living in an urban area and close to work become moot when residents must drive out of Downtown to drop off their child at daycare or school. Our vision of an inclusive DTLA for people of all ages will not come to fruition unless we build a complete community.
Not only does increased access to ECE and school facilities directly benefit the families they serve, but it also has wider economic, environmental and community-building benefits. It helps companies attract and retain employees, supports local businesses, provides attractive real estate amenities, reduces congestion, improves public health, and builds a more engaged and connected community.
A complicated layering of barriers including permitting and regulatory requirements, design challenges, costs, knowledge and partnership gaps, and the political environment have presented challenges to opening new facilities. These barriers are well illustrated by the history and ultimate closure of Metro Charter School, detailed on page 8 of the white paper. We must break these barriers by using a multi-pronged strategy to ensure the increase of ECE and schools in DTLA.
In our white paper, we recommend locating facilities in existing buildings and encourage their inclusion in new developments. DTLA is home to the largest concentration of office square footage in LA County, and we must leverage vacancies in existing spaces to locate ECE facilities and schools. Clear, predictable compliance processes and flexible land use provisions would need to be set, and some permit and parking requirements should be reformed. Additionally, as DTLA continues to grow, creating schools in new developments should be encouraged and prioritized. Lastly, strong partnerships with LAUSD, the City of Los Angeles, the State of California, and the broader DTLA community comprised of parents, property owners and businesses are also crucial to overcoming barriers. See pages 20 and 21 of the white paper for a chart summarizing these recommendations and implementation roles. With these actionable steps, we can make significant progress in making DTLA a complete, family-friendly neighborhood.
We are committed to a thriving DTLA and are thankful for our members who have played a role in DTLA’s transformation over the past decades. We look forward mobilizing an all hands-on-deck approach to bring more school and child care options to serve DTLA’s population. CCA will continue to advocate for the necessary infrastructure to support people of all ages to build healthy communities and have a growing economy, and this is becoming even more apparent as we weather the COVID-19 pandemic. DTLA is resilient, and the recommendations in our white paper will help build a vibrant and sustainable DTLA.