Pico Tour: History

Some Background:

Back in the early years of the 20th century, local real estate developers predicted it was just a matter of time before their city’s downtown expanded south to Pico Boulevard and beyond. After all, hadn’t history shown that with each decade since the first population boom of the 1880s, L.A.’s downtown hub had crept southward? And by the 1920s, weren’t office buildings already popping up as far south as Tenth Street (today’s Olympic Boulevard)?

Today, one look at those “pioneer,” 1920s office buildings will tell you this: they were wrong. The depression years of the early 1930s pretty much stalled downtown growth, leaving those 12- and 13-story buildings looking more like tombstones than trend-setters. As that decade drew to a close and real estate started hopping again, it hopped clear out of downtown to Mid-Wilshire, Beverly Hills and the Westside. When substantial growth in downtown resumed in the late 1960s its boom didn’t pick up where it left off. Instead, it was focused on the in-filling of Bunker Hill and surrounding blocks.

So there you have it. “Downtown” never reached this far down. It certainly came close – but no cigar. And that’s precisely what makes the neighborhood unique. Available land at the city’s edge (and a handy confluence of freeways) brought in the Convention Center. It attracted a college (F.I.D.M.), a new park (Grand Hope), a sports arena (Staples) and recently, an entertainment complex (L.A. Live) punctuated by a 54-story hotel/residence (JW Marriott/Ritz Carlton). People moved in, too, and today it’s one of the most desirable places to live downtown, with an interesting mix of apartments, condos and loft conversions. There’s even a grocery store – the first here in over 50 years!

All this makes for an interesting walk, too. On one block stands a 90-year office building, the next, a 9-year-old condo. Tourists mix with transients, nightclubs with students. Ghost-empty streets one day, gridlock the next.

The “Pico” WalknRideLA tour makes for an easy launch to a great Side Trip, too: Exposition Park and the USC campus.


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