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Downtown Los Angeles: Cutting Edge Living in LA’s Historic Core

View of Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles, known by its hip acronym DTLA, is an emerging hotspot located in one of the oldest parts of the city of Los Angeles. An area that used to be lifeless after dark now explodes with the hustle and bustle of clubs and restaurants frequented by its younger, creative, upscale residents.


Essentially, Downtown LA is bound by 3 freeways and a river: the 110 in the west, the 101/5 junction in the north, the 10 freeway in the south, and (also featuring plenty of concrete) the Los Angeles River in the east. Downtown LA apartments are available in both the newest high-rise buildings and oldest hotels, often nestled in formerly industrial or low-income areas.

Map of Downtown Los Angeles via RENTCafe
Map of Downtown Los Angeles


Downtown Los Angeles was all there was of the City Of Angels when it was founded in 1781. Its (first) heyday peaked in the 1920s, when large movie palaces, 5-star hotels, banks, and department stores reigned supreme in the area. After World War II, the suburbs beckoned and most professionals and families flocked to greener pastures. It wasn’t until the so-called Loft Law passed in the 1999 that the housing stock was allowed to rise, with the number of DTLA rentals particularly escalating in the last 10 years.

Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles. Image courtesy of Chad McDonald via Flickr.

Overall Feel

Young, hip, and modern. The median age is 33.5 years old, and over 80% of DTLA residents have been to college; the median income is $98,700 and 52% of residents are female. To accommodate this demographic, there are many cafes, restaurants, and boutique shops opening literally everywhere.

Retail and Entertainment

The area approximately centered on 4th and Main, known as the Old Bank District, was part of the initial wave of live/work spaces. Today you can nosh on Spanish fusion at Baco Mercat or enjoy more traditional comfort food at Nickel Diner. Catering to this highly-educated community is The Last Bookstore on the corner of 5th and Spring with 250,000 new and used books and records filling 22,000 square feet.

The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles
The Last Bookstore

The Arts District near 3rd and Alameda was established in the 1970s; some of its warehouse spaces have been converted into condos, artists lofts, and offices while others remain. Its older residents now face being priced out of the neighborhood they built. Across from the former punk rock dive Al’s Bar is Wurstküche, a brats and beer hall that often has a queue outside. Areas like Little Tokyo thrive with noodle parlors, sushi, and karaoke, and South Park has the Staples Center and the 14-screen LA Live just down the way.

Little Tokyo and City Hall. Image courtesy of Andy via Flickr.
Little Tokyo and City Hall. Image courtesy of Andy via Flickr.

On the 2nd Thursday of every month, the entire area comes alive with the DTLA Art Walk, which attracts tens of thousands from across the city. A double-decker bus is provided to shuttle you around.


DTLA is one place in Los Angeles where it may actually be a disadvantage to have a car. The majority of residents live as well as work here, and many opt for a DASH, MTA, or Metro (all the major lines converge at Union Station) instead of paying for a parking space.

Because the area is generally flat and its population relatively young, many choose to get around by bike or foot, or when all else fails, they use Uber.

Downtown Los Angeles
Metro train tracks leading to Downtown Los Angeles. Image courtesy of Neil Kremer via Flickr.


Downtown LA is still a relatively new residential destination, so there aren’t a lot of elementary or secondary schools to choose from within its boundaries. Less than 5% of residents have children between 5-18 years of age, and those that do often find it a struggle to place their kids nearby. Still, quality options are available in the surrounding neighborhoods if committed parents are willing to look.

Outdoor and Green Space

Although Downtown Los Angeles is better known for its skyscrapers, there is a small amount of outdoor/green space around and about. One of the newest and most impressive open spaces is Grand Park, a 12-acre slate of green that extends from City Hall to Disney Hall and also includes a Starbucks.

Grand Park in DTLA
Grand Park From Los Angeles City Hall Observation Terrace. Image courtesy of Joe Wolf via Flickr.

Other green areas are tucked away, like the 2.5-acre Grand Hope Park and also Spring Street Park (between 4th and 5th), which has a playground for kids. DTLA is extremely dog-friendly, with many indoor dog runs and day care facilities available to pamper your pooches.

Grand Hope Park in Downtown Los Angeles
Grand Hope Park. Image courtesy of Ricardo Diaz via Flickr.

Cost of Living

If you start renting an apartment or condo in DTLA, you will probably be paying $3-$4 a square foot, some of the highest rents in the city, if not the nation. Food runs a similar gamut: you can spend $20 or more per plate in a high-end restaurant or $1 for a bacon-wrapped hot dog. There are mid-range meals besides fast food, as well as recently opened Whole Foods and Ralphs supermarkets to stock up on groceries.

Public Safety

Because of the stark differences between rich and poor, parts of DTLA can feel luxurious one block and unsafe the next. The last few years have seen an uptick in violent crime and burglary – particularly in the 90013 ZIP Code – but the city has been working to curb the problem with more foot and bike patrols around the Downtown LA area. Still, residents should be aware of their surroundings at all times.

Housing Stock

All the beautiful Victorian homes are gone (you need to rent in Echo Park’s Angelino Heights for that) and so are the cheap artists’ lofts. What is left in Downtown LA apartments are the renovated and/or brand new luxury units that mostly only the well-to-do can afford. Demand is such that there are 9,000 apartments and condos under construction in 2016 and more than 13,000 more being proposed in future developments.

Apartments for Rent in Downtown LA

Even though you see construction everywhere, it can be a challenge to find DTLA rentals that are both affordable and in a quality neighborhood. The average asking rent in DTLA is $2,511, considerably higher than the average Los Angeles rent on RENTCafe of $2,016.

South Park Apartments

This newly renovated building from 1924 was originally one of Downtown LA’s first parking structures. Now its apartments include 12-15 foot ceilings, gourmet kitchens, and there’s even an indoor dog park for residents.

South Park Apartments in DTLA
South Park Apartments

Great Republic Lofts

Large open spaces and modern architecture combine in the Great Republic Lofts, located on Spring St. What you’ll find here? Hardwood floors, exposed ceilings, city views, and a rooftop spa where you can chill out and soak it all in.

Great Republic Lofts in Downtown Los Angeles
Great Republic Lofts

Met Lofts

Arguably the cream of the crop is Met Lofts, a stylish and modern complex adjacent to L.A. Live and the Staples Center. Featuring a mix of urban, contemporary one- and two-bedroom loft-style apartment homes with panoramic views of the Downtown skyline, the community includes a fitness center, a pool, an outdoor dining and entertainment area, controlled access, and more.

Met Lofts in Downtown Los Angeles
Met Lofts

What You Can Buy in Downtown Los Angeles

If you’re looking for an affordable fixer-upper, Downtown LA is not the place to for you. Most properties are in a new or renovated building, with a price tag north of $500,000 not uncommon. Like this penthouse end unit at Market Lofts with extra tall exposed concrete ceilings, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, a large walk-in closet, and an in-unit laundry at 645 West 9TH Street.

Condo for sale in Downtown Los Angeles CA
Penthouse for sale at 645 West 9TH Street

Make DTLA Your New Home

If you are young, single, affluent, and have a sense of adventure, you may find DTLA appealing and even welcoming. Take a look at the exciting offerings we have listed on RENTCafe today!

Check out more Los Angeles neighborhood guides:

Living in Van Nuys, Los Angeles: Where You can Enjoy the Glitzy LA Life on a Budget
Wilshire – Montana, Santa Monica: Beach Living with a Touch of Class
Westlake, Los Angeles: A Low Cost Alternative to Downtown Living
Living in Palms, Los Angeles: A Historic Neighborhood, Populated by Millennials
Hollywood – a Vibrant LA Neighborhood with Celebrity Status
Koreatown – The Little City That Never Sleeps
Westwood – Live Large in the Center of It All
Sherman Oaks – Timeless Elegance in the Heart of the Valley
Sawtelle – A Walkable, Culture-Filled Enclave Bustling with L.A. Charm

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About the author

Ama Otet

Ama Otet is an online content developer and creative writer for RENTCafé. She loves all things real estate and strives to live beautifully, one green step at a time. You can connect with Ama on Twitter or via email.

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