Oceanwide “Graffiti Towers” – South Park BID Executive Director Nolan Marshall Speaks

Nolan Marshall photo by Shawn Smith

In Spring of 2023, months before the vandalism of
Oceanwide Plaza, the South Park Business Improvement District invited City Council leaders to hear its concerns about the deterioration of the
Oceanwide site.

Now that the site has garnered worldwide attention, South Park BID Executive Director Nolan Marshall has some innovative ideas to share with the city…

City leaders have recently begun to act with urgency to address the immediate security of the building and abatement of graffiti. We are grateful to have everyone’s attention now, regardless of the reason. But we’ve seen a 70% increase in neighborhood graffiti, beyond the Oceanwide site. No matter what you think of the prolific tagging of these towers, vandalizing neighborhood businesses isn’t activism or art. We appreciate Mayor Bass, Deputy Mayors Freeman and Winston, and City Council leaders for their commitment to removing graffiti, securing the site, and assisting our clean and safe teams throughout the neighborhood. However, our concerns about the deterioration of the Oceanwide site, like it and its blight, persist.

Oceanwide Site Figueroa & 12th

The site has been an albatross for four years, disconnecting LA Live and the Convention Center from the emerging neighborhood that at one time was the fastest growing in Los Angeles. Data from Placer.ai (a software company that tracks mobility using cell phone data) shows that the economic fluidity in South Park has been drastically disrupted by this massive failure; residents don’t pass beneath the site to cross Figueroa and spend money at LA Live, and visitors and tourists rarely navigate the construction hoarding to spend time and money in any other part of our neighborhood.

Paint Storage at South Park BID HQ

We know the economic health of South Park and Downtown businesses will remain fraught as long as these towers remain lifeless. Downtown may be only 1% of the city’s land (and South Park an even smaller portion of that), but according to a 2019 study by the Central City Association and Beacon Economics, 23% of Los Angeles’ sales taxes are generated in Downtown. And because of the sports, tourism, and hospitality infrastructure within South Park, the success of this Downtown neighborhood is disproportionately critical to the fiscal health of Los Angeles and the services the city can provide to other areas. This equation is true in Downtown’s across North America, which is why our nascent pandemic recovery should continue to be a priority to everyone; we’re all downtown stakeholders.

With this in mind, we ask city leaders to be proactive and engage in the planning and disposition of the Oceanwide site. The city should simultaneously pursue two paths. One path is to commit resources to evaluate the structural integrity of the towers – ensuring public safety and viability of the project. If safety and viability are compromised, the city must be prepared to act through imminent domain. A second path is to dedicate resources to support the neighborhood while globally marketing the site. The city can lead a public private partnership by creating the best environmental conditions for the private sector stepping forward to fix this mess. That means expediting the convention center expansion in advance of the Olympics, and supporting the South Park BID’s efforts to improve lighting in the public realm, enhance pedestrian experiences, create quality placemaking installations, upgrade our waste receptacles, and add a park to a neighborhood that doesn’t have one, despite our name.  

Oceanwide can’t be allowed to remain an anchor around our highest hopes and ambitions.  Almost 10 years after construction stopped, we’ll host the international media during the 2028 Olympics. We should own a narrative of renewal around the Oceanwide site, not a tale of abandonment and decline. Will local officials be the leading actors in a story of public pride, or will this blighted structure remain on display for the global community to gawk at, depicting a decade of disinvestment on the biggest world stage?  The time for city leaders to decide is now, with the same urgency they captured to address graffiti.

Nolan Marshall III has been the Executive Director of the South Park Business Improvement District for 1 year, previously serving as the CEO of Downtown Vancouver, Chief Engagement and Solutions Officer of the New Orleans Business Alliance, Chair of the New Orleans Planning Commission, Executive Director of Uptown Dallas Inc., and Director of Public Affairs and Policy at the Downtown Development District of New Orleans.    

Author: Nolan Marshall III