Taxpayers to spend $3.8M to secure and scrub graffiti off DTLA towers

City will try to recoup funds from project’s developer China-based Oceanwide Holdings

Taxpayers to Spend $3.8M to Secure and Clean LA Towers

From left: Los Angeles Councilman Kevin de León and China Oceanwide Holdings chairman and CEO Liu Guosheng along with the partially-built Oceanwide Plaza project at Figueroa, Flower, 11th and 12th streets in downtown Los Angeles (Getty, Oceanwide Holdings)

Los Angeles taxpayers will spend $3.8 million to secure and clean 27 floors of graffitied hotel and condo towers partially built by Oceanwide Holdings.

The City Council voted to allot the money to strip the graffiti and fence off three abandoned skyscrapers of the Oceanwide Plaza project at Figueroa, Flower, 11th and 12th streets, across from the Arena, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Councilman Kevin de León filed the motion to allocate the funds to secure the property and restore the public right of way, now blocked by plastic barriers, scaffolding and debris. 

“I’m not holding my breath waiting for the developer to clean up their property,” De León said last week. “The purpose of my motion is clear: to prepare our city to take decisive action if the Oceanwide Plaza developer ignores their responsibility and to put them on the hook for costs incurred by the city.”

The city will move $1.1 million into a fund to fence and secure the ground floors of the South Park buildings. It will pour another $2.7 million into a fund for security services, fire safety upgrades and graffiti removal.

The motion also calls on the city attorney and city administrative officer to report back to the council within 30 days with a legal strategy to recoup the funds from Oceanwide Holdings,  developer of the failed luxury project.

Oceanwide is a unit of Beijing-based China Oceanwide Holdings Group, now facing a foreclosure battle over the unfinished L.A. project.

In recent weeks, the Oceanwide Plaza project has become a site for graffiti tagging and even paragliding. At least 18 people have been arrested, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. 

After footage of graffiti on each floor of the towers went viral, the city gave Oceanwide until Feb. 17 to remove the graffiti from the towers and fence, according to LAist. The council allotted the funding after it became clear that Oceanwide would not meet the deadline.

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In 2015, Oceanwide broke ground on what was then a $900 million Oceanwide Plaza project that promised to turn Downtown Los Angeles from “an in-and-out destination to a place to dwell,” according to the architecture firm CallisonRTKL’s website. 

Plans called for two 40-story buildings with 340 luxury condominiums that would include private screening rooms, a dog washing facility and other amenities. Its centerpiece was a 49-story highrise with 164 condos, a Park Hyatt hotel, a rooftop pool, plus restaurants and event spaces.

A year later in 2016, Shenzhen-based Oceanwide upped its estimated costs to $1.5 billion, while still aiming to complete the buildings in 2018. 

But in early 2019 the development stalled, leaving in the lurch a 2 million-square-foot hotel, condo and retail complex without roofs. By 2022, Oceanwide pegged the cost of completion at $2.3 billion. Since then, the project has faced more than $240 million in mechanics liens, as well as complaints from a group of Chinese EB-5 investors over alleged mismanagement. 

In August, a state court of appeals temporarily blocked a foreclosure of Oceanwide Plaza from moving forward, saying it needs more time to review claims by Lendlease, its general contractor. 

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In September, a Bermuda court ordered the liquidation of Beijing-based China Oceanwide Holdings, whose U.S.-based Oceanwide Holdings didn’t complete the three-building Oceanwide Plaza.

Oceanwide was implicated during a federal investigation into Los Angeles corruption involving bribery and money laundering by city officials. Oceanwide, along with former councilmen Curren Price and José Huizar, was named in an FBI search warrant against the email account of Raymond Chan, the former head of the L.A. Department of Building and Safety.

— Dana Bartholomew