Security guards — not LAPD — to protect graffitied downtown L.A. towers, officials say

Los Angeles, CA, Thursday, February 1, 2024 - Taggers have graffitied what appears to be more than 25 stories of a downtown Los Angeles skyscraper that's been sitting dormant for several years. Construction on Oceanwide Plaza, a $1 billion mixed-use retail and luxury apartments project with three towering unfinished structures, stalled in January 2019 after the Beijing-based developer lacked the funds to complete it. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Taggers have graffitied many floors of the Oceanwide Plaza towers, which have been empty for several years. A new law will allow Los Angeles to hire private security guards to protect the complex from trespassers. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The city of Los Angeles no longer has to deploy police officers to guard the abandoned Oceanwide Plaza buildings from graffiti taggers and other trespassers thanks to a new law that allows the city to hire private security guards to watch over the defaced skyscrapers.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday that allows it to "provide private security to secure properties" that are abandoned, a law intended to address the plight of the abandoned complex in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, though it applies to any abandoned building in the city.

The ordinance, which passed 13 to 0, comes as the Los Angeles Police Department has been stretched thin protecting the neglected downtown L.A. complex that earlier this year became a popular site for graffiti artists and daredevils, who illegally entered the property. The owner of the complex, a Chinese conglomerate, ran out of funding before completing the residential and retail project.

Private security would be cheaper than paying LAPD officers to "babysit" the property, said Pete Brown, a spokesman for Councilmember Kevin De León, who represents parts of downtown Los Angeles. Before hiring private security, Brown said the city is checking to see whether Oceanwide will provide its own security team.

“For LAPD to be outsourced, quasi-outsourced, as a security team to secure the perimeter of these buildings, at this moment, it’s not sustainable,” said De León, according to NBC. “LAPD is a trained, professional police force. They are there to protect and serve the city of L.A., not to protect and babysit buildings.”

Read more: Four more trespassing arrests made at graffitied downtown skyscraper

Former LAPD Chief Michel Moore said in February that his officers had spent “more than 3,000 hours” on securing the complex.

“We have called in some officers on an overtime basis so that we can provide for these added patrols, or station them at that site to deter vandals and others from gaining access to it while also ensuring that we meet the minimum deployment requirements for stations across the city,” Moore said.

It's only the latest step the city has taken to secure the property.

In February, the council allotted $1.1 million to fund a fence around the property.

The Oceanwide Plaza project, which consists of three towers across Figueroa Street from Arena, became the focus of public attention this year when many of the floors were tagged with graffiti right before the Grammy Awards were held in the arena.

Since then, the LAPD has investigated gunfire at the building and paragliders have even jumped from the roof of the tower for a social media video.

The owner of the buildings, Oceanwide Holdings, is a publicly traded Beijing-based company that halted the $1-billion project in 2019 when it ran out of money.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.