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A multicultural moment: Downtown L.A.'s population evenly split

April 12, 2012 |  5:21 pm

Outside Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A.
Downtown Los Angeles can stake its claim to being the most multicultural part of a racially diverse metropolis.

Two researchers from Loyola Marymount University have found that the population of downtown L.A. –- the area bounded by the Los Angeles River and the 10, 110 and 101 freeways –- rose 50% between 2000 and 2010, from 26,000 to almost 39,000 residents. The researchers analyzed data from the 2010 census.

As its population grew, this core downtown area gained many white and Asian American residents as it lost Latinos and blacks. As a result, downtown Los Angeles is now almost evenly balanced among the four racial and ethnic groups, said Loyola Marymount political science professor Fernando Guerra, who did the analysis of downtown census tracts with his colleague Brianne Gilbert.

"Downtown L.A. was almost perfectly balanced in the 2010 census," Guerra said. "It may not stay that way, but we happened to capture a moment with this census. And it’s symbolically important that, for right now at least, downtown Los Angeles belongs to everyone."

The analysis shows that non-Hispanic white residents are now the largest share of the downtown L.A.  population, climbing from 18% of the total in 2000 to about 26% in 2010. Latinos declined from 32% of downtown residents in 2000 to 25% in 2010. African Americans also dropped, from 24% in 2000 to 22% in 2010, and Asians gained, from 22% in 2000 to 23% now. Those who identified their race as "other" and said they were not Hispanic went from 3% of downtown residents in 2000 to 4% in 2010.

And most of the newcomers to downtown L.A. are young, as anyone who has been to the area's popular bars and dog parks lately is likely to know. The LMU researchers found that although the largest share of downtown residents is between the ages of 30 and 44, with the second biggest group aged 45 to 64, the fastest growing part of the community is made up of 18- to 29-year-olds. Their numbers jumped 79% over the decade, the analysis showed.

Guerra is also the director of LMU’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles, which this week also produced a poll about Los Angeles 20 years after it was shaken by the the 1992 riots. The survey found that most people say the city is safer and relations between its racial and ethnic groups are significantly better than they were in 1992.

Most respondents also said L.A. was unlikely to see riots in coming years similar to those that swept through the city in April 1992, after the acquittals of four L.A. police officers charged in the beating of motorist Rodney King, the poll found.


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Photo: People walk by the Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times