Graffiti Artists Took Over These Abandoned Luxury Towers In Los Angeles

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images

A luxury building development in Los Angeles has been sitting unfinished for years. For a while, the three hollow towers sat dormant, but they have recently been thrust into the forefront of LA news. Graffiti artists have spent the beginning of 2024 writing their names on the windows of these skyscrapers, calling into question the safety of the neighborhood and what the city intends to do with the unfinished project.

It was an ambitious project

Oceanwide Plaza in Los Angeles was supposed to be a building development that would transform the neighborhood it sits in. Located across from the Arena, home to the Lakers and Clippers basketball teams, the development featured three skyscrapers that would be filled to the brim with luxury amenities. They would include luxury condos, a five-star hotel, retailers, restaurants, a two-acre park, pet grooming services, and a rooftop pool.

A skyscraper covered in graffiti beside an arena.
An aerial view of graffiti spray painted by taggers on at least 27 stories of an unfinished skyscraper development located downtown, with Arena visible on February 2, 2024, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Oceanwide Holdings, a conglomerate headquartered in Beijing, was in charge of the project, which was going to run a bill of around $1 billion. The three towers were erected as planned, but in 2019, funding for the project suddenly disappeared. The company abandoned the project, and the three skyscrapers sat abandoned, empty and unfinished, for about five years. That is until they were brought back into the spotlight by graffiti artists.

Three skyscrapers with graffiti on their windows.
All three towers have been marked by graffiti artists. (Photo Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Graffiti artists rushed to get in

Visible from the highway, windows stretching up to the top of the towers have been covered in graffiti. Artists rushed in to get their work put on skyscrapers, especially after noticing no one was really doing anything to clean up the paint once it was there. One artist described what it was like, saying, “It’s pretty unheard-of to paint a skyscraper, so it was like, ‘Oh, man, let’s go take advantage of this and do it while it lasts.'” He said he was part of the early wave of artists who got into the towers, and it took him about 40 minutes to leave his alias on the window. “We were so happy to be there because I was like, ‘Tomorrow, they’re going to barricade the whole thing.’ But then people just kept doing it.”

A view of building in LA, a skyscraper with graffiti on its windows.
Graffiti artists rushed to try and get their names on the windows of the skyscrapers. (Photo Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Apparently, getting into the towers was almost too easy. Despite hauling buckets of paint, spray cans, and brushes into the towers, the graffiti artists found it strikingly easy to evade the security guards who were patrolling the site. One artist, who goes by the name Aker, managed to paint his alias twice on the towers. “We got a little lost at first; it’s kind of like entering a little city.” However, despite going in groups, the artists’ ambitions were solely individual. “You either get in or you don’t,” Aker explained the race to tag the towers, “and you don’t want to miss your chance.”

Graffiti on windows of a skyscraper.
A close-up of the graffiti that covers the windows of one of the Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers. (Photo Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Locals think it’ll increase crime

While many artists were in awe of the opportunity to put their names on the side of skyscrapers, many LA residents saw the act as vandalism. People living in the neighborhood said that they felt their sense of safety had been diminished as the vandalism encouraged crime in their area. Over just a few weeks, over a dozen people were arrested on the suspicion of trespassing, four of which were charged.

Graffiti on windows of a skyscraper.
While the towers were almost completed, they now sit empty and abandoned. (Photo Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

The city is trying to do something about it

The work of the graffiti artists has not gone unnoticed by the city (how could it?), and they have stepped in as they have a responsibility to keep people safe. They ordered Oceanwide Holdings to secure the property, but their messages were unanswered, and the deadline they set for the company came and went without any response. Oceanwide was in debt to several companies and is being liquidated, so it doesn’t look like they will be taking responsibility for the future of the towers.

Graffiti artists walking the unfinished balconies of a skyscraper, graffiti on its windows.
Graffiti artists climbed the many stories to put their names on the windows of the skyscrapers.
(Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images)

Kevin de Léon, the council member who represents the area, and his office have been trying to find investors to help finish the project, saying it would take a new developer about $2 billion to finish it. In the meantime, the Los Angeles City Council agreed to spend $3.8 million to put up fencing around the property and begin cleaning it up.

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Many feel that the abandoned towers should be converted into low-income housing, especially considering their proximity to LA’s Skid Row and the housing crisis that is occurring in the city. Unfortunately, some say this is not necessarily a viable option. “In terms of it being a near-term solution for the housing crisis that we have, I think it’s unrealistic,” said Donald Spivack, a former member of LA’s Community Redevelopment Agency. “It’s not something where you could go in there, do a little patchwork, and open it up in six months. I don’t think that’s at all possible.”