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Grand Plans All Over Again

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The funny thing about reading The “Grand Avenue Plan,” preliminarily approved last week, is pondering how often in the last century developers have felt the need to shift the functions of various districts, as though downtown LA were one of those party-favor puzzles in which you slide the little tiles around the board until a picture comes into focus. Certainly something needs to be done with the area — what ought to be a pleasantly walkable few blocks between the Music Center and City Hall has been an exhaust-filled concrete canyon for the last 50 years — but the classic Angeleno urge to keep building brings a sense of déjà vu.

Bunker Hill was once covered with Victorian residential mansions that declined into slums after World War II and were torn down and replaced in the 1980s with shiny office towers. The photograph above is of the last few houses being moved off the hill in 1969. Meanwhile, the Beaux-Arts era bank offices in the old Central Business District on Main and Spring Streets also declined into slums, but many have recently been bought up, earthquake-retrofitted and refurbished, and turned into residential lofts.