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Dick Turpin

Selling of Los Angeles: No Shortage of Buyers

September 21, 1986|Dick Turpin

The rambunctious history of Los Angeles is inseparable from its history involving real estate. It's always been for sale.

The cycles in sales, alternating between hot and flat through the years of the city's growth, discovery of oil in the La Brea and downtown areas and even gold in Newhall, are part of what has become an almost make-believe story of a city's growth and maturity.

Our penchant for doing things differently, unusually, disdainfully--all make up whatever it is that has become the California life style.

But with what's at hand--our enviable climate, natural resources of sea, desert and mountains, spiced by bits of increasing culture and recognition as the nation's western capital, the selling of Los Angeles has not been difficult.

In charting the ownership of all this valuable land, we reported in 1979 that about 23% of the major buildings in downtown Los Angeles were owned by foreign investors.

Since then, that ownership ratio increased significantly, hovering near the 70% mark this year. Our canvass included all major properties within the center of downtown--everything between the Hollywood and Santa Monica freeways to the north and south, and between Broadway and the Harbor Freeway to the east and west.

Much of Chinatown and Little Tokyo--geographically just outside the central district--obviously is foreign-owned too.

Then this month, two major transactions were finalized, involving the sale to a Japanese realty giant of two downtown landmarks, the Arco Plaza and the new Chase Plaza. That tilted the percentage of foreign ownership closer to the 75% mark.

Shuwa Co. Ltd., a major Tokyo entity but little known here until now, is the new owner of those two important properties. The troubled Bank of America and Chase Manhattan Bank will remain as tenants in those respective towers. (See related story page 2.)

Since there's no law against what's happened, the selling of Los Angeles represents billions of dollars--yen, pounds, francs, marks--invested in the future of this city. That's a compliment to the city's vital stature and its global position, enhanced greatly by the safe--and profitable--1984 Olympics.

It also reflects on Los Angeles and California, as the agents of tourism are wont to say, "the places to be" in this world.

Our forever increasing city and state populations, growing from the continual flow of people from places where they don't want to be any longer for whatever reasons, represent a global mix of Asian, Middle Eastern, South and Central American nationalities.

As in the case of our Mexican-American population, these various ethnic groups here and throughout the state, represent--in almost every case--the largest concentrations of their respective groups outside their native lands. They and their corresponding moneyed interests are here to put down roots.

The property changing hands is quality stuff. The major foreign buyers, not concerned with short-term investments, want the Mercedes-category properties. They certainly aren't buying a Brooklyn Bridge.

American car manufacturers have lost the edge in the automotive field; television and gadgetry, the garment industry, shipbuilding and machine tools are other weakened industries giving way to foreign competition. And the competition can get roughter.

A wary look at heavy construction industry jobs shows how a few Japanese builders are positioning themselves to challenge the ranking American giants--the Turners and the Bechtels.

What's left to sell and who's left out? No Russian rubles are likely to be spent here but it sure could ease some international relations.

Well, there's always Dodger Stadium, a great buy just a couple miles from City Hall. It won't be hosting any play-offs or World Series games this year but it's sure a gold mine.

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