California Plaza – Welcome to the 80s

When it was built sometime in the 1980s, California Plaza must have been an oasis, its terraced fountains and non-colored stone. The water fall and reflecting pool must have been the megaliths of banks somehow natural. It was urban meets country. Business meets the mall.

Now, Cal Plaza seems like a strange leftover. The fountains need constant repair. In certain places, the water fall blows back upon the second story walkway, casting anywhere from a few droplets to a monsoon on anyone standing there. Perhaps, it wouldn’t matter much except this is the walkway from the historical Angels’ Flight to the first floor entrance of several banks. The “post-modern” sculptures capture whatever the left-over construction material was, puzzling and confusing the German tourists who somehow wander in, while the random geometric shape immediately conjures the thought: “I AM THE 80s.”

The scattering of lunch places have gotten better over the years, but the people remain the same. The fancy suits are the lawyers or VPs; the cheap suits the lower level bankers, accountants, and business people (and yes, you can tell that you got 3 suits for $99, including shirts and ties). Fashionably dressed – probably from one of the museums or other art institutions. Everyone else somewhere in between or not part of one of the monstrous towers.

Once long ago, this was LA’s Bunker Hill, a series of wandering streets covered in Victorian houses, that with every year became more and more dilapidated. It was a montage of neglect until everyone did not care and then, the glory of the 70s and the 80s hit, razing the wooden structures to build up the reflective towers. With the skyscrapered landscape came the iconic image: downtown LA. It was a vision, a re-imagining of a city needing focusing, a beacon to the smog-filled city.

And with that came Cal Plaza, a vision for the future. But now, it’s stagnant. A place that suggest you eat frozen yogurt and listen to Madonna. Things have shifted– people now eat salads with deep fried tofu or balsamic strawberries, drink their Starbucks, and talk about what they heard at Coachella. But everything else is still the same. It always will be here in the land of Cal Plaza.


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