Events That Shocked Downtown Los Angeles in 2023

Ace hotel downtown events

Although 2023 brought both upheaval and progress, the closure of an iconic hotel, unsolved murders, and a freeway ablaze were just some of the top stories weighting on the teeter-teeter of outside support for DTLA. But, never fear. Despite our special blend of chaos, luxury, crime, and culture, downtown still remains LA’s top destination for live, work, and play.  Here’s a look at some of the events that shocked Downtown Los Angeles in 2023.

One. The End of an Era: Ace Hotel Shutters

If there was any doubt about just how much the pandemic still tortures Downtown, a recent announcement blaming “slow post-pandemic recovery” has led to the decision to convert the unshakeable Ace Hotel to “a limited-service, rooms-only operation, managed via a tech platform” (aka AirBnB), sending a shock wave through the hearts of fans already mourning a future without Ace rooftop soirées, room service, or it’s elegantly revived 1927 lobby backdrops.

Although it’s rumored, the theater operated by Live Nation will continue operations, say goodbye to room service, rooftop fun, and the so-so lobby diner once known as Loam. The Ace Hotel’s last day of service will be January 31, 2024.

Two. December Parking Paradigm Shift in the Arts District

A recent December headline marked the end of free parking in the Arts District. Likened to an episode of Twilight Zone, visitors to DTLA know all too well the woes of finding parking and the cost of recovery when the tow truck attacks. So, when news broke that a ritzy downtown district had enjoyed free parking for the past decade, many just refused to believe it. But it was true: the vast industrial landscape of spread-out destinations within the Arts District has grown, and with it comes paid meters. Upscale meters, yes, but paid meters none the less.

While some praise the move as a way to curb congestion and encourage alternative transportation, others are worried about its impact on affordability and small businesses. Not to mention, not one day after the meters were installed, six of the new meters were severely vandalized over night.

Three. Ambush at LA Live 

Security, and police presence has been stepped up at LA Live. Yet, there are still no clues to who committed murder at a popular eatery at LA Live in late November. While unsuspected visitors patronized Fixins Soul Kitchen which marks the gateway to the popular entertainment epicenter, a masked gunman made his way towards the back of the packed restaurant, firing a gun, injuring a bystander and killing a man in his 20s. The victim was taken to an area hospital and later died from his injuries. The suspect is still at large, and the victim’s name has not yet been released. But fans of the eatery are expected to continue to support the venue, which is just as well known for its work in advancing black-owned enterprises and entrepreneurial mentorship as it is for its family-inspired soul food dishes.

Four. The Santa Monica Freeway Inferno

Downtown Los Angeles awoke to a nightmare in early November as news of a fiery inferno engulfed a section of the Santa Monica 10, blocking the flow of one of the city’s main traffic arteries. In the following weeks, over 300,000 traumatized commuters sought to escape the choke on nearby side streets, as the rest of downtown Los Angeles traffic stayed relatively consistent.

What didn’t come as a shock were the initial whispers that blamed a nearby homeless encampment and several hundred flammable pallets for the fire.

After much investigation, authorities soon revealed it to be the handiwork of an arsonist. Justice, though swift, couldn’t undo the tangled mess the fire left behind; that would be a job for Mayor Bass, Metro, and Caltrains and a long list of other department agencies who would join forces to forge a lifeline of alternative routes and public transport and quickly get 10 Fwy up and running again. In daily progress reports, each brick in the road’s reconstruction chipped away at the city’s anxieties, revealing a shared determination to heal.

And heal, they did. The anticipated year-long closure melted away, replaced by the roar of returning traffic in mid-December, leaving DTLA shocked once again at just how efficient and effective our city leaders can be when they set their collective minds to a task.

Five. Kevin de Leon is still Playing to Win.

In a plot twist that could rival your favorite telenovela, Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León remained resolute in his decision to vote for the reelection of CD14.

Despite the no-holds-barred leaked audio scandal that rocked city hall at its core, after enduring months of protests, Kevin stood fast in performing his duties for CD14, a district representing Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, NELA, Eagle Rock, and Downtown LA.

With recall attempts behind him, the Councilmember remains undeterred in his pursuit of re-election, making a comeback and retaining his office chair in City Hall, seemingly waiting for his chance to debate the other candidates, win the people’s vote, and add another term to his tenure as leader of Downtown Los Angeles.

Six. Two Lives Lost, Questions Raised – Still No Answers

Murders in DTLA

There are still no answers to the tragic deaths of two young models that left loft dwellers in DTLA in complete and utter dismay last September. The circumstances surrounding their demise spark outrage to this day, as no one has yet to come forth with any information leading to the arrest of the murderers. 

The deaths of two models, Nichole Coats and Maleesa Mooney, found in their luxury downtown apartments at Eigth & Grand and The Skye Apartments uncovered yet another vulnerability in downtown’s hospitality, as dwellers were forced to realize heinous crimes can happen anywhere at anytime, even within the confines of high-level security buildings surrounded by hundreds of people nearby.

Seven. Sleek, Driverless Vehicles – Hit the Road!

With Tesla recently recalling its automated vehicles, news of Waymo and Cruise, two trailblazing pioneers of autonomous vehicles, bringing cutting-edge technology to downtown in late fall brought the jolt of electric robotic cars now making their way, taking passengers to and fro.

However, not everyone was ready for the future, with daily commuters expressing their mistrust for autonomous vehicles and ride-share drivers waging an all-out war over potential loss of wages, leave it to Downtown Los Angeles to usher in the era of autonomous transportation. The rise of robocars sparked critical conversations about the future of urban mobility, the impact on job markets, and the ethical guidelines governing self-driving technology, yet still we can’t wait to drive in one.

Eight. Downtown LA—The Luckiest Place on Earth?

In July 2023, in a stroke of cosmic improbability, the winning $1 billion Powerball ticket was sold in one of the most remote parts of Downtown Los Angeles, right next to Skid Row! It was like finding a needle in a haystack while dancing in a tornado—pure lottery madness, and Downtown wouldn’t have it any other way.

The chances of hitting the jackpot were 1 in 292,201,338! But hey, someone had to defy those astronomical odds. The lucky DTLA ticket was sold at Las Palmitas Mini Mart on 12th and Wall. Unfortunately, the frantic woman who showed up to claim the winnings ended up being less than credible and was last seen running from local media down the streets of Dtla, filmed at 11.

Nine. Forklift Rampage at Apple Tower

Just when you thought it was safe to leave your keys in your forklift,, DTLA proves once again that nothing is sacred when it comes to the unpredictable nature of the gritty city. 

In July 2023, police scanners called on officers to hurry to 8th and Broadway to do whatever they could to stop a crazed driver from demolishing the entry way of the newly rebuilt Apple Tower Theater. Just outside Apple’s sparkling windows where thousands of Apple products radiated throughout the day was a person who allegedly stole a forklift and purposely crashed it into the historical landmark, not once, not twice, but several times.

According to the police, a witness reported someone getting behind the wheel of the forklift at a nearby job site and driving it through the city.

DTLA may never know what motivated this person, afterwards driving several blocks away to the Maguire Gardens, where they crashed into the World Peace Bell, knocking it, and at least one street lamp over along the way. 

The suspect was taken into custody, police said. Apple has since placed barricades in hopes of deterring any other run-way forklifts from entering without an appointment.

Ten. Heaven Can Wait for One City Jumper

While it’s true you can find anything on social media, tragic scenes of downtown LA became all too easily available in 2023. One such scene involved a twisted, broken mess left behind by a suicidal jumper determined to end her own life, even if it meant jumping off not one but two of the highest levels at the Pershing Square Building.  On May 8, 2023, sources told DT Weekly that the woman leaped from the upper-level rooftop of Perch restaurant, with decorated foliage breaking her fall as she landed upon the lower platform.

Unfortunately, the woman was able to regain enough strength to jump a second time, only this time landing on the hood of a passing vehicle. As the vehicle rolled off, so did the woman, finally accomplishing her goal of hitting the ground. Yikes.

Miraculously, the women did survive; her limbs could be seen moving by hundreds of shocked onlookers, giving new meaning to the concept that when it’s not your time to go, it’s not your time to go. The tragic news of a person jumping from a downtown rooftop served as a stark reminder of the mental health challenges that can afflict our vibrant communities. 

Downtown LA proved its unmatched resilience.

Although this year’s events in DTLA may have taken its inhabitants on a wild ride, Downtown LA’s indomitable spirit ensured it landed firmly on its feet. The city’s heart still beats with the pulse of diversity, grit and creativity. Throughout 2023, downtown held the record for being the most adventurous, vibrant epicenter of Los Angeles, and the year isn’t even over yet.

Author: Jamie Herrera

Writer l Father of many | Master of none l