It's one of the most common questions I get, from friends, family, Uber drivers.
Male Uber drivers. Either pick up or drop off, inevitably they'll ask, sort of incredulously, You live down here? And you feel safe? The implication seems to be that as a woman, I'm insane to live in this neighborhood. I'm pretty sure Corey doesn't get this question...at least not nearly as much.
The fact of the matter is – Los Angeles is a huge freaking city. It doesn't have the density of Manhattan, but there are millions of people crawling around and statistically, shit does happen. According to NeighborhoodScout.com, LA is safer than only 25% of U.S. cities. That's clearly not awesome.
But for me, statistics only tell part of the story. And of course, anything can be taken out of context, magnified, and used to overwhelm other information.
I've been living in DTLA since 2008, and the reasons I first moved here are myriad. The most potent, however, was that I desperately craved a little history, and a little grit. Relatively speaking, LA is a young city, but when I lived on the Westside, everything felt like it started existing around 1980 and had been taken out of the box in 1990. Okay, okay, I know that's not actually true, but I've always loved historic architecture, particularly tall buildings, and on the Westside, there just weren't a whole lot of reasons to look UP.
Conversely, the pioneer in me (thank you, Laura Ingalls Wilder) yearned to be part of something new. DTLA had been a seed in my mind ever since I'd heard about the live/work lofts, which sounded magical. The concept of a raw, open space, exposed pipes, concrete, echoes and ghosts of original purpose called to me like a siren song.
There were personal reasons for wanting to cut a new path, too. In that past year, my mom had died, I was in the process of divorce, and a lot of fundamental parts of my life were undergoing seismic shifts. Somehow, downtown Los Angeles felt comforting, anchored. Without realizing, I came to DTLA seeking safe harbor.
What I found when I first arrived was a place that made me want to go outside, a place where, for the first time, I wanted to know my neighbors and the people who ran the businesses. So I reached out. I made a point of introducing myself and learning names. I was surrounded by artists of all kinds, people who deliberately chose to experience Los Angeles through a unique lens. The LA of so many films is the sanitized, manicured, Beverly Hills version. And that's definitely a vital part of this city. But it's never appealed to me, never felt like a home. DTLA is the first place in this city where I've felt surrounded by a community I actually want to be part of.
When Corey first walked into my loft, he looked up and around, and said WOW. That might have been when I fell in love with him. The loft we now live in as a family has our fingerprints all over it, and feels like where our history is safe, too.
So, yes. I do feel safe in DTLA. I try to act with wisdom. I don't put myself in situations that might lead to danger. I respect my neighborhood and value the people in it. Every time I walk around with my baby and C jr, I'm hyper-aware of the beauty and the chaos. I know random acts of violence exist and I'm thankful for every day without them. I see the same people every day. Sometimes, when I don't see someone, I worry. The state of emergency in Skid Row is very, very real, and so is the state of inaction.
In DTLA, life bleeds together, sometimes literally. The edges can be difficult to define. It's beautiful and messy and complicated. It's a neighborhood that outgrows its clothing faster than it can put it on.
The people who take care of our building and the property are fantastic humans. I know their names. The woman who owns the amazing pie shop nearby knows my name. The nearest market is open late and I chat with one of the owners about our babies. I've had great conversations with neighbors in all the surrounding buildings. I think one of the main reasons I feel safe here is because I know people and they know me.
And in a city of millions, that's worth a great deal.