DTLA RA: A Love Letter to Downtowners

In a short time, DTLA residents and community organizers have been able to unite downtown residents in creating a unified voice across multiple districts. Early in 2024, Cassy Horton and Leslie Ridings successfully created the Downtown Los Angeles Residents Association, or DTLA RA for short, a grassroots advocacy group for residents, by residents.

Leslie Ridings, a native Angeleno and son of Latino immigrants, was the first in his family to attend college. While at USC, he studied art and obtained his degree in law at Columbia University and practices in downtown. Cassy talks about their partnership, “Los Angeles is Leslie’s home. He looks at Downtown and sees so much possibility and promise for Angelenos like him, and he’s relentless in wanting the best for his city. Having him as a thought partner and motivation for the life we can build together for ourselves and our own family makes all of this more fun and meaningful than it would be if I were doing this alone.”

Cassy Horton and Leslie Ridings – DTLA RA

Cassy originally moved to the area to attend UCLA. Afterwards, she followed her passion for working with charter schools and cancer-related non-profits. Leslie shares, “Cassandra is an organizing machine with a vision. Her dedication to listening to all Downtowners to guide our work has been inspiring; she’s an absolute boss. I can’t think of a better partner to work alongside to make DTLA a better place for all its residents—and all Angelenos.”

The couple hit it off on Bumble before first meeting in person. Leslie reminisced, “We connected on being hopeful for a better future and wanting to bring it about. I think Cass and I are both optimistic and hopeful people, and we vibe on being civically minded. I’m hoping it’s the right place/right time for DTLA, and we can make positive change in concert with other downtowners!”

Suzanne Holley, Christopher Antonelli and Leslie Ridings

The Community-Based Theory of Action to Help DTLA Thrive has Three Pillars: Connect, Vote, and Care.

“We are finalizing our selections for Board Members and Building Captains and looking to host our first board retreat in May or early June to set a strong foundation for the year ahead. This will enable us to expand our reach, achieve some wins, and maintain the community-led momentum.”

Key metrics point out that each decade since 1990, DTLA has been doubling in size, and it anticipates a population of 240,000 by 2040. Downtown Los Angeles represents only 1.4% of the land area of the City of Los Angeles, but it has almost 20% of the city’s jobs, almost half of its office space, and generates around 40% of its business and sales tax revenues. Looking at the numbers, DTLA RA feels that residents’ voices are not being represented and added that “In the most recent primary election, 22% of Downtowners turned out to vote, compared to 43% of registered voters in Eagle Rock, 35% in Highland Park, and 28% in El Sereno.”

Downtown residents network at DTLA RA event

What Does Downtown Want?
DTLA RA sent out a survey asking downtowners to share the things they love the most. 155 residents from 10 different DTLA neighborhoods replied in March.

“The survey results won’t be surprising to Downtowners — what stands out is how aligned we are. For community that’s often overlooked by our elected officials and other civic leaders, the survey is an important call to action.“ Said Cassy Horton.

“DTLA residents love living in connected, vibrant, dense urban environment. We want Downtown to be more of all those things that make the neighborhood unique relative to LA’s sprawling suburbs. DTLA residents are close to the pain and hardship caused by our housing crisis; we witness mental health and substance-related crises first-hand every day and want real, compassionate solutions. Our shared voice is key to unlocking some of our City’s biggest opportunities and challenges.”

SPNA Founder Marty Goldberg, DTLA Weekly publisher Keri Freeman, Lawrence Carroll and Mrs. Goldberg at DTLA RA event at Hatch

Key Downtowners say: We Need Organized Residential Voices.

DTLA RA shared, “We’ve learned a lot from LACCD Trustee Sara Hernandez and Anthony Bejarano and their success with DTLA Strong. South Park Neighborhood Association (SPNA) is another resident-led group that we’ve been able to collaborate with and learn from out-of-the-gate.”

Sara Hernandez speaks Cognoscenti Coffee

Sara Hernandez stated her views as a resident working with the City of Los Angeles, “I noticed that the voices of people who actually live in downtown were often overlooked, and that many decision-makers at City Hall absolutely didn’t understand what it meant to live in downtown, the resident’s needs, and how cohesive and amazing of a community it was. I started DTLA Strong because I really wanted to build political power for the people who live in this neighborhood, and I knew the best way to get people to notice in city government was to have a neighborhood group that was very assertive about the things that we needed and wanted, and so that we could have a thriving and functional city center.”

Gabriel Yeager & Blair Beston, Historic Core BID Executive Director

Connecting Downtown while Supporting Local Business.

DTLA RA has had a string of impressive and electrifying community outreach events, kicking off with a launch event on February 25th at Cognoscenti Coffee in the Fashion District, where residents met candidates and representatives from the CD 14, AD 54, and AD 57 races.

The launch of Third Thursdays, hosted at HATCH Yakitori in The Bloc on Thursday, April 18, is a monthly community initiative aimed at connecting downtown residents who were starved of connection during the Covid-19 era and are eager to return to community building while supporting local businesses that initially drew them to DTLA.

Cassy, Jay Williams and Lawrence Carroll at 3rd Thursday

“As a new DTLA resident and employee, I’m thrilled to join a group that’s dedicated to building relations within the residential community and uplifting downtown,” says resident Gabriel Yeager. “DTLA RA has successfully brought together hundreds of residents in its first two events, with the shared goal of improving the place we’re so fortunate to call home.”

“Third Thursday” meet was great! I now feel a true sense of community, having met so many of the neighbors I share our downtown community with,” said Allan Wayne Anderson of Bunker Hill.

What’s Next on the Agenda?

The next 3rd Thursday event will be on May 16th from 6-8pm, hosted at DTLA Cheese Superette and Kippered, located at 4th and Broadway. These two venues are next door to each other, and the event will feature a DTLA-themed craft night for adults and kids.


Author: Shawn Smith

A Cancer Sun, Leo Rising, and a Pisces Moon, Shawn Smith is a multi-media artist with a background in real estate and a champion of The Run. Shawn has been a resident of downtown Los Angeles since 1990. iheartdtla2020@gmail.com