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What Is The Tallest Building in Los Angeles?

When looking at the Los Angeles skyline from a distance, the tallest building in Los Angeles actually appears considerably shorter than it’s top competitors. And we do mean competitors.

Just as the mega billionaires of the world find it necessary to have a newer and larger yacht constructed each time one of their peers gets a bigger boat, developers seem to suffer from the same obsession. The tallest building in Los Angeles, the US Bank Tower lost its title to the Wilshire Grand when it opened its doors on June 23, 2017. And both are about to loose their title to a proposed new skyscraper that intends to take the record.

Wilshire Grand
The Wilshire Grand (left) is currently the tallest building in Los Angeles

When the LA skyline is viewed from Elysian Park, the Observatory, the Hollywood Bowl Overlook or another high vantage point, the US Bank Tower looks like the clear winner in the tallest building contest. Likewise so do several of the other shorter skyscrapers near it.

This is due to their location atop Bunker Hill, the highest point in downtown Los Angeles. The Wilshire Grand is located at the bottom of the steep hill and so it looks considerably shorter from a distance.

Truth is, it actually IS shorter. That is if you are talking about the highest floor with usable, occupied space. The US Bank Tower is 968 feet at its highest floor, the Wilshire Grand is 934 feet at its highest floor that can be occupied. The spire, or mast on the building bring it to its advertised height of 1100 feet. This is a common tactic in the tallest skyscrapers in the world. The upper portions of the buildings are merely a facade.

The Wilshire Grand does however have another claim to fame. It’s the first building built in Los Angeles since 1974 over 75 feet tall that doesn’t feature a flat roof design. The flat roof design was mandated by a fire ordinance in Los Angeles that required all buildings over that height to have helicopter landing pads on the roofs to aid in rescue in the event of a fire.  The Wilshire Grand was able to get an exception to the rule by adding additional fire safety features to the building.

Semantics aside, the Wilshire Grand stands as the tallest building in Los Angeles.

The Wilshire Grand has existed on that site as a hotel under different names since 1952. Korean Air purchased the hotel in 1989 and in 1999 they changed the name to the Wilshire Grand Hotel.

The CEO of Korean Air decided to revitalize the Wilshire Grand as a Los Angeles Landmark and created the idea of a complex with the tallest building in Los Angeles. The redevelopment was also part of the plan to turn Figueroa Street into a vibrant LED sign district like Times Square in Los Angeles. As a result, the skin of the building is entirely covered with programmable LED panels and the building is seen displaying anything from the Pepsi logo on its top portion to advertisements for television shows on the lower portions. The prominence of the LED signs adorning buildings now carries down Figueroa Street to LA Live and the Convention Center.

The old Wilshire Grand was demolished in 2013 and the iconic new Wilshire Grand opened for business in June 2017. It’s primary occupant is the Hotel InterContinental, (you might want to check it out as a hotel to stay in while visiting Los Angeles) and it also includes office space and upscale restaurants.

It’s something you’ll want to put on your list of things to see when you visit downtown Los Angeles. It is an impressive work of architecture, with dramatic sweeping lines and staircase fountains.  Be sure to see our guide to Things to do in Downtown Los Angeles for more ways to enjoy your downtown LA vacation.

More photos after the break…

US Bank Building
The US Bank Tower, currently the 2nd tallest building in Los Angeles
Wilshire Grand
Courtyard of the Wilshire Grand in Los Angeles

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