Prank? Protest? Graffitied LA high-rise sparks housing crisis debate



graffiti

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The crisis ruled the headlines once again when a group of 12 graffiti artists tagged 27 floors of Oceanwide Plaza, an empty, three-tower luxury high-rise development towering over the Crypto.com Arena, the site of last weekend’s Grammy Awards.

The billion-dollar plaza was supposed to be a mixture of residential and commercial spaces, including a luxury hotel. However, the developer, Oceanwide Holdings, ran out of money in 2019, according to reports by The Hollywood Reporter and The LA Times. 

“The measures will be implemented immediately and the graffiti will be removed,” the Los Angeles Police Department said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The LAPD arrested 35-year-old Victor Daniel Ramirez and 25-year-old Roberto Perez for their part in the tagging.  Local news outlet KTLA5 said both men were given citations for trespassing on private property and released. The other artists involved in the tagging are still unknown.

LA Councilmember Kevin de León, who represents downtown, will spearhead efforts to get the graffiti removed. “Los Angeles should not be an open canvas [for] budding artists,” he told KTLA5 in a statement over the weekend.

Although the tags will be erased in the coming weeks, they’ve been immortalized on X, TikTok and several other social media platforms by users who lauded the artists’ work. The artists haven’t stated their motives; however, much of the public believes this is elaborate protest art.

X user @PaperFrank’s post of the building garnered more than 5.6 million views, 18,000 likes, 4600 retweets, and more than 200 comments from users who called for city, state and local legislators to turn their attention toward affordable housing.

“Three skyscrapers have been left empty in a state with a homelessness crisis,” wrote user @FrenchFlower. “If you ever need an example that poverty is manufactured, remember this, share this, be radicalized by THIS.”

“Love it. And yes, it is a symbol of a greater problem,” added user @prettylittlenerd. “All those vacant buildings in a capitalist world with people who can’t afford to live in the city they work for or are unhoused in.”

Other commenters marveled at the coordination needed to quickly tag so many floors and said the new art might attract a new group of developers who will keep the art — and the high prices.

“I could see them leaving it and using this ‘urban art’ to sell the condos,” wrote user @Phillystunna221.

Filmographers Michael Lopez and Juan G., who captured the artists at work via drone, told The LA Times it was a “once-in-a-lifetime moment” and should remind Angelenos the city ultimately belongs to them.

“You’re never going to see something like this again,” G said. “The rules are going to change. The security is gonna come in here hard. But to have been a part of that? To see this up close? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment.”

“All of this doesn’t just belong to the developers,” Lopez added. “It belongs to all of us.”

The LAPD said the artists’ work isn’t done yet. The group tagged the 30th floor of an in-progress luxury development. The artists escaped the construction site by car and were pulled over for failing to yield to an officer. They were questioned, cited and released.

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