Late developer Al Tiara and Arts District resident and musician Drew Lesso founded the Los Angeles River Artist and Business Association (LARABA) in the 90s to give voice to the resident artists and businesses. In the early 1990s, 5,000 artists lived in the industrial Arts District, whose boundaries on the eastern edge of Downtown were defined by the Los Angeles River and Alameda to the east and west (respectively), and1st and 7th Streets to the north and south.
Since then, LARABA has helped shape the neighborhood, through a variety powerful of initiatives, including three major urban planning workshops. Called Uncommon Ground (2002) and Uncommon Ground II (2006), it helped define the interests of the community as it was being transformed and developed. LARABA also participated in Uncommon Ground III (2012), which was then expanded to include community stakeholders, the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council (HCNC), and the Los Angeles Downtown Arts District Space (LADADSpace).
LARABA has taken on large challenges, such as actively opposing the demolition of the Santa Fe outbound terminal for a LAUSD warehouse and kitchen facility. What would have become a junction for 800 trucks a day became an international design competition to explore the use of the facility, and Southern California Institute of Architecture to occupy and renovate the historic terminal. It also coordinated with the Los Angeles Department of City Planning to educate the community and provide input on the 2015 Live/Work Ordinance Draft – the important planning and zoning laws that will define and contribute to the health and vitality of the Arts District in the years to come.
LARABA’s influence goes beyond being a grassroots cluster of community volunteers sponsoring the weekly Arts District Farmers Market located both at City Hall and in the Arts District triangle adjacent to Joel Bloom Square. The Farmers Market has thrived and is an important community event for residents, local organizations and businesses alike.
The organization has also spearheaded neighborhood betterment initiatives like the opening and maintenance of the Arts District Dog Park, producing community celebrations like Bloomfest and Winterfest, and environmental projects including tree plantings, razor-wire removal, and neighborhood cleanups.
LARABA has acted as a conduit between residents and the film industry by rewriting Special Use Conditions for filming in the Arts District, a popular location for its industrial grit and historic bridges. Once a low-cost backlot that inconvenienced residents, the has now become a sustainable collaboration for both the film industry and the neighborhood at large.
Funds donationed by film companies have been financial resource for LARABA We continue our interest in the betterment of the community and welcome all stakeholders to participate and influence the shared urban potential inherent in this uncommon ground. Monthly Board Meetings are held on the first Monday of the month at ARTSHARE, 801 E.4th Place, at 6:30 p.m.
Drew Lesso: President 1991 – 1994
Joel Bloom: President 1995 – 2000
Tim Keating: President 2001 – 2006
John Saslow: President 2007 – 2010
Joseph Pitruzzelli: President 2011 – 2013
Deborah Meadows: President 2014
Christopher Fudurich: President 2015 – 2016
Dori Keller: President 2017