The Los Angeles Conservancy is trying to make it easier to explore L.A.’s architectural history on foot this summer.

The nonprofit’s popular Walking Tour program, which launched in 1980, takes more than 12,000 residents and visitors on a guided tour of downtown buildings each year. Special evening tours have been added this summer to keep up with demand as attendance tends to spike about 25 percent between June and August.

“The idea was to get people downtown, walking, and seeing all of the magnificent buildings we have,” said Linda Dishman, president of the conservancy. “The tours tend to be very popular with people who live locally, but wait to do them when they have visitors from out of town.”

Tickets cost $15 for adults, and $10 for kids and conservancy members. Participants get to explore the rich history and culture of downtown with a selection of eight walking tours such as “Past Meets Present: Reinventing Downtown’s Old Financial District” and “Angelino Heights.” Each one lasts about two hours and is led by a volunteer docent. Groups are capped at 15.

While the “Historic Downtown” tour is the most popular for out-of-towners, the “Broadway Historic Theatre and Commercial District” option is perhaps the most significant celebration of Hollywood’s influence on the area. It offers an opportunity to explore the social, cinematic, and architectural history of the street that was once home to 12 movie palaces.

“What makes these tours special is we take a very broad view of what is considered historic,” said Dishman. “With more and more residents moving downtown, people find it’s a way to get to know their neighborhood. It’s a way to find a part of Los Angeles that they never knew existed.”

Streetcar Scenarios

With the second iteration of Los Angeles County’s transportation finance measure R, named R2, officially on the November ballot, the proposed downtown streetcar project is closer to spanning its $220 million funding gap.

If passed, the ballot measure would raise the county sales tax by a half-cent for the next 40 years to fund some $120 billion in transportation projects. That figure includes $200 million earmarked for the streetcar.

While such a windfall would alleviate most of the financial pressure, the project’s time line still has some serious questions marks.

The nonprofit spearheading the streetcar implementation plan and City Councilman Jose Huizar are pushing to have it operational by 2020. However, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plan has the streetcar funding tied to a 2053 groundbreaking.

Shane Phillips, project director for nonprofit Los Angeles Streetcar Inc., said multiple options exist to deal with the discrepancy, including petitioning Metro to release the funds earlier. A recently passed amendment allows for funds to be released early if a project can show it won’t materially impact other projects’ time lines. Given the relatively small size of the streetcar project, getting approval for a funding bump up might not be too difficult.

“When we’re talking about $200 million from a $120 billion pot of money, it becomes a little easier to be nimble,” Phillips said.

If the tax measure doesn’t pass, other options include federal funding and a public-private partnership, though details are still being worked out and could push the project back.

Creative Community

Downtown’s evolution as a leading hub for business and art points toward a future of creativity and innovation.

That’s according to the Downtown Center Business Improvement District’s newest initiative, a collaboration launched June 22 with the Brookings Institution and the Project for Public Spaces.

Innovate DTLA aims to measure and nurture downtown’s emerging innovation ecosystem while attracting creative and technology firms through a series of workshops and research that will culminate in a report gauging downtown’s viability as an innovation district.

Workshops were to begin July 7 and run through the month at Cross Campus’ downtown working space. The events are targeted to key downtown stakeholders in a range of industries and sectors – everything from tech and media to architecture and design, education, and real estate. The BID will gather opinions and data from individuals and businesses participating in the workshops and incorporate the information into a report set for release during Los Angeles Innovation Week in October.

“This new growing sector of creative and tech companies helping to create a diverse set of companies is really going to build downtown’s future,” said Carol Schatz, chief executive of the Downtown Center BID.

Staff reporters Kristin Marguerite Doidge, Henry Meier, and Jonathan Ponciano contributed to this column. #DTLA is compiled by Managing Editor Omar Shamout. He can be reached at oshamout@labusinessjournal.com.

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