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Remote work delaying DTLA's post-pandemic recovery, study says

Researchers say work-from-home delaying downtown LA's post-pandemic recovery
Researchers say work-from-home delaying downtown LA's post-pandemic recovery 02:41

A new study from UC Berkeley shows that downtown Los Angeles' post-pandemic recovery could use a boost after foot traffic continues to fall behind pre-pandemic levels.

While there's a reason for optimism, there's also a sobering reality for downtown. In a UC Berkeley study called "The Death of Downtown," which looked at mobile phone data to study the movements of people returning to businesses, restaurants, shops and other popular spots, researchers found that activity in downtown L.A. has only returned to 61% of the level in 2019. 

Researchers pointed to one major factor for a relatively slow recovery — people working from home. Without a reason to lease office buildings for staff, many high-rises have been left with a lot of vacant space.

Businesses in the area are also pointing to the growing homelessness crisis as another reason for people not returning to the area. 

"Downtown is horrible," convenience store owner Steve Bikusa said. "Most of the homeless people around here terrorize the businesses. We try to do the best that we can. I give out hundreds of dollars every month to the homeless and the people out here."

The authors of the study say for cities to survive this new era of work-from-home, downtowns will need to evolve by diversifying economic activity and land uses. 

"I think a lot of people are still working from home," said downtown resident Erik Velie. "But I think people like the nicer restaurants and bars here."

Despite this slowed recovery, many who live and work in downtown L.A. believe conditions will get better. 

"I'm from the city," said Charles Latimer. "This is what I'm used to."

Latimer is raising his seven-month-old son in downtown and said while the city took a hit during COVID he has seen the area improve.

"Picking up now, a lot more," he said. "Been slow before, but now it's picking up a lot." 

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