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Shooting "Near" Staples Highlights Downtown's Distinct Boundary

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, October 13, 2008, at 11:29AM
110 Freeway Eric Richardson [Flickr]

The 110 freeway separates South Park from the Pico-Union neighborhood. Visible on the left edge of the photo is construction for LA Live's Regal Cinemas.

"An 11-year-old boy and a 19-year-old man were fatally wounded Sunday evening a few blocks from Staples Center, victims of a drive-by shooting that police said may have been gang-related."

That's the opening paragraph from a sad story in today's L.A. Times about a shooting that occurred near Staples Center last night. A followup story places the incident near the Convention Center.

The stories and their geographic references are accurate, but illustrate the sharp definition of Downtown's geographic boundaries and the wall that our freeways create.

The shooting occurred at Connecticut and Valencia, west of the 110 freeway. The site is just under a half-mile from Staples Center, but few would call it Downtown.

The 110 provides a defined boundary between Downtown and the Pico-Union neighborhood immediately to its southwest. The neighborhood is served by a different LAPD division (Rampart instead of Central), a different CRA project area and features a very different demographic. While the areas around Staples Center and LA Live have seen much development and even more projects planned, none of that has crossed over to the west side of the freeway.

All of this division has been shaped by the path of the 110. The freeway creates a 150-foot-wide gash that separates what once were contiguous neighborhoods. While the development of the freeway system has created neighborhood separation throughout the city and the country, in few places are the two sides so night-and-day different as South Park and Pico-Union.

It seems inevitable that Downtown development will eventually spill west of the 110 here, much as it has to the north in City West. Given that Pico-Union is a fully built-out and occupied neighborhood, that's sure to create a much more serious debate on gentrification than occurred in the rest of Downtown. For now, though, it's remarkable that two neighborhoods can be so close, yet so different.

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