November 23, 2014

Spotlight On South Park

ralphs south parkIf there’s any neighborhood in DTLA that can be described as family-friendly, South Park is it. There are two simple reasons why: Ralph’s supermarket and the playground at Grand Hope Park. Readers who are un-childed may wonder what the big deal is. But when you’re raising a toddler in a downtown apartment, being able to walk a couple of blocks to the park or make a quick dash for diapers without a car is a very big deal.

It isn’t just parents who love South Park. The neighborhood was recently named the number one hottest neighborhood in the U.S. and has twice been voted Neighborhood of the Year by Curbed Los Angeles. Building occupancy rates are at an all-time high and young professionals continue to flock to the area, including many who work in DTLA’s financial and fashion districts. Pretty impressive when you consider that South Park essentially didn’t exist as a neighborhood until about ten years ago.

What’s Great About Raising Kids in South Park

South Park has an active parenting community centered around weekly Saturday morning playdates at Grand Hope Park. Unlike other communities (*cough*silverlake*cough*) where competitive child rearing is the norm and parents obsess over minutiae like cloth diapering, baby yoga and infant music classes, South Park parents are a tight-knit group who are more likely to have conversations about downtown development and the latest DLANC elections. It was a group of South Park parents who came up with the idea for Metro Charter, a downtown elementary school that they hope to launch in Fall 2013 (learn more at http://metrocharter.org/).

In addition to being the center of DTLA family life, South Park is home to LA Live. Restaurants, a bowling alley, the Grammy Museum, a movie theater and a holiday skating rink are some of the kid-friendly activities available.

South Park is where most of downtown’s luxury housing is being built. Apartment buildings and condos include Elleven, EVO, the Met Lofts, and the Ritz-Carlton residences at LA Live. Most of these buildings feature units with actual walls and doors, a plus for parents who don’t want to figure out how to make a loft liveable with a two-year-old.

Because the neighborhood is somewhat removed from Skid Row, the number of homeless people is lower than it is in the Historic Core and Little Tokyo.

What Will Make You Call the Moving Van

Luxury housing = sky-high prices, whether you’re looking for a rental or a condo. A quick look at Craigslist shows rental prices averaging $2-$3 a square foot (some buildings, like the ultra-luxury WaterMarke Tower on 9th and Flower, rent for $5 a square foot, yeowch). That means a two-bedroom apartment will run you about $2,200-$3,200 a month, out of reach for many young couples. And rents are expected to increase as much as 6 percent in 2013.

Living in South Park puts you right next to Staples Center, Nokia Center and the convention center, which means frequent traffic jams and occasional Lakers riots (complete with cars set on fire on Figueroa Street), making it difficult or impossible for people to get in and out of their buildings.

The neighborhood is weirdly lacking in street-level activity. Aside from LA Live/Staples Center and Ralphs supermarket, there just isn’t much to walk to. There are a lot of “dead” blocks in South Park with nothing but parking lots or half-empty commercial buildings, making walking even less appealing. The area is relatively transit-poor compared with the Historic Core (though things have improved somewhat with the opening of the Metro Expo line, which has a stop at LA Live). Given that many people choose to live downtown in order to reduce their dependence on their cars, the lack of walkability and public transit are major downsides.

What else do I need to know?

The city recently approved a plan to build an NFL stadium in the neighborhood, news that will either delight or appall you depending on how much you love football (though the plans were thrown into doubt when stadium developer AEG announced the company is up for sale).

Neighborhood development continues at a blistering pace, with two groundbreakings and at least five new projects announced in 2012. It remains to be seen how many of these projects are actually completed and what affect (if any) they have on rents.

ETA: Great question from one of our commenters:

Informative article! I’m considering moving to South Park from the ‘burbs and wanted to get an idea on specific buildings that are “baby-friendly” in the area. i.e. Buildings that don’t have loud music and parties all the time where the hallways smell like weed, where the walls aren’t so thin that a crying baby will disturb every neighbor in the vicinity, and where I won’t be the only resident walking around with kids. Do you have any advice on which buildings to avoid or which to put at the top of my list? Thanks!

I put out the word to the downtown parent community and here are their replies:

I would say any of the South park condo buildings would work. Market Lofts is the only personal experience I can offer but the walls are double stud concrete (within units) so you can’t hear a thing. There are several families there, you have a pool, Grand park across the street, great management, and you’re on top of Ralphs (and pharmacy) which is perfect when you have a sick baby and need medecine ASAP.

Grand lofts on 11th and grand is family friendly. No amenities but more square footage for the buck. Been here since my kid was 4 mos and she’s 4 now. We used grand hope park and grand park regularly. We walk to LA Live often. Now that she can sit through certain movies, having the regal so close is awesome.

We are at the Mozaic. It is quiet, close to two day cares, walking distance to Alpine Rec Center, and at the back door to Union Station. Plus…lots of kids.

I live at The Met (not Met Lofts), a rental property in South Park. It’s a mixed bag. The building manager and front desk supervisor both have young children and are very welcoming to families in the building. (Front desk supervisor lives in the building.) There are a few families in the building, but there are a large number of students, young professionals, and some older people. It’s half a block from Ralphs and Grand Hope Park and has a small gym, a nice pool, courtyard, underground parking, and 24-hr security. They have lots of events in the lobby, geared to all ages (mostly student types but there are always a few young kids) & the staff have dressed as Santa and the Easter Bunny for photos. They have studios, 1BR, and 2BR/2BA. The walls must be fairly thick. There are sometimes loud parties but the only time we hear the noise inside our apartment is loud music directly next door (can’t actually hear the music, just the bass). It bothers my husband, but my daughter and I don’t really notice it. Management will ask them to turn it down if someone complains. We do sometimes hear tapping noise from upstairs like someone is moving furniture or hammering. We have lived here for 7 years or so and raised a 4-year-old… our neighbors said they never heard her cry. While we have not been bothered much by noise (and our chlid can sleep through sirens and Lakers riots), this is not the place to get away from students. They have an agreement with FIDM and provide housing, so there are A LOT of very young FIDM students and it can feel dorm-y. And ok, since you asked, sometimes the hallways smell like weed.

We lived in the Renaissance Towers which shares the space with Grand Hope Park! My daughter was there 2-4 hours every day from age 6-18 months. The rent is high, but it’s secure and convenient – late night runs to Ralphs took 2 minutes. The largest they have is a 1250 sq ft 2 bedroom.

We were in Elleven for 5 years, 1.5 with a baby. It’s a great building with nice amenities. Soundproofing is great on all sides except the hallway, but we rarely had noise issues. We only moved because of a job relocation to San Jose. Not too many multiple room units in the building though.

I live in the Grand Tower Building but on Bunker Hill, next to the new Broad, across from the MOCA. I love it.. I’d say it meets all your requirements. The only thing that makes me nervous when my nephews are visiting (12, 10 and 2) are my balconies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYhzFTzZrwI

One of my girls’ classmate live in Packard Lofts and have said many good things about it, including management.

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About Alisa Rivera

Alisa is a writer whose work has been featured in the Oregonian, the Syracuse Post-Standard, Latina magazine and other publications. She has also had her short fiction published in the Berkely Fiction Review and Iris: A Journal About Women. Alisa and her husband, James Hightower, have been happily raising their son, Nathan, in downtown Los Angeles since 2008. You can learn more about Alisa's work at www.alisarivera.com.