Looting devastates LA’s prime retail corridors

Emerging and established enclaves in Long Beach, Santa Monica hit hard

TRD LOS ANGELES /
Jun.June 01, 2020 05:42 PM
Rick Caruso and vandalized shops at the Grove shopping center (Credit: Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire, and VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)
Rick Caruso and vandalized shops at the Grove shopping center (Credit: Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire, and VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

Michael Bohn’s architecture firm Studio One Eleven opened not in Silver Lake or another trendy part of Los Angeles County, but downtown Long Beach.

Studio One Eleven was part of an emerging art and commerce hub, and his landlord, Tony Shooshani, boasted of “The creation of a new downtown.”

On Sunday afternoon, the looting began at Studio One Eleven.

“We could watch on our cameras as businesses around us were looted,” Bohn said. “Then looters broke into our office, breaking monitors, stealing computers, and graffiting our walls with no police response for close to an hour. Our firm is about building community, so this was terribly painful to experience.”

Downtown Long Beach is one of a handful of L.A. County pockets impacted by vandalism on Saturday and Sunday, part of a larger movement of unrest that resulted in demonstrations in 140 U.S. cities.

What started as protests against systemic racial issues in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, morphed into damage of L.A.’s most vibrant commercial corridors. At least three-dozen L.A. County stores were looted in the past 72 hours, according to an analysis of interviews, news reports and social media messages by The Real Deal.

The damage is a dramatic setback for retail landlords and tenants in Long Beach, the Miracle Mile, Santa Monica, and also Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. The destruction of property came as much of L.A. County’s retail was set to re-open after a shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Retail was having trouble before Covid,” said Gary Weiss, a commercial real estate broker at LA Realty Partners. “The outbreak and then the looting doesn’t help.”

The weekend chaos harkened other racially charged incidents in L.A. history, including the 1992 riots, which followed the acquittal of police officers charged with assaulting Rodney King.

But those riots were both on a much larger scale and barely touched the more affluent parts of L.A., while decimating neighborhoods including Watts and Koreatown.

“The rioters in 1992 didn’t hit anything west of LaBrea Avenue,” Weiss noted.

By contrast the Nordstrom Rack, Ray Ban’s sunglasses, and Apple store at the Grove shopping center, a few blocks west of LaBrea, were looted and vandalized on Saturday.

Destruction at the Grove happened four days after mall owner Rick Caruso announced plans to reopen the property with “social distancing ambassadors” who would replace valet parkers and shoe shiners, and reassure customers that the mall was spick-and-span.

Messages left with Caruso’s eponymous company Monday were not returned.

Caruso and Shooshani were not the only major landlords who suffered damages from the looting.

Federal Realty Investment Trust, a Maryland real estate outfit, has reconfigured Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade over the past two years. Converse and Patagonia stores at the Promenade were vandalized Sunday amid widespread property damage close to the Santa Monica Pier.

Observers noted Monday that most chain stores and medium- and large-scale landlords have insurance to cover theft and property damage.

Perhaps the tenants and landlords who felt the most damage are from independent shops north of the Grove on Melrose Avenue.

These include the Record Collector, Petty Cash Restaurant, Mozza Restaurant, Paper Bag Princess, and Reloaded LA, stores that have generated little revenue since shelter-in-place orders went into effect, and may not have the insurance of their chain competitors.

“If you’re a small store owner on Melrose Avenue, how do you come out of this?” Weiss said. “I feel terrible for those people.”


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