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It’s been one year. Here’s how our readers feel about L.A. now

Illustration of a face mask, and the words "screeching halt."
One year ago, it all came to a halt.
(Typography by Grace Danico; Illustration by Jamie Sholberg / Los Angeles Times ; Getty)
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One year ago, vast swaths of life in Los Angeles abruptly came to a screeching halt.

Many workplaces emptied, leaving behind wall calendars reading “March 2020.” Meanwhile, in-person workers at hospitals, grocery stores and beyond were left facing some of the scariest moments of their professional lives. Scores of people lost work, facing homelessness and poverty. Over the course of a year, more than 50,000 people died from COVID-19 across the state.

The shock of COVID-19 challenged many Angelenos’ relationship to the city, with inequities in access to housing, medical care and other resources made even more apparent during the pandemic.

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Some celebrated quiet walks around their neighborhood for the first time, while others mourned the loss of loved ones as well as the loss of safe access to restaurants, museums and outings with friends. Some ultimately questioned their decision to live in L.A., where home prices continue to rise. Others reaffirmed their appreciation for the city, while grappling with its flaws.

To mark the one-year anniversary of the shutdown in Los Angeles, we asked readers to reflect on life in L.A., how their relationship with the region changed — or stayed the same — during the pandemic. We also asked about them to share the specific changes they’ve seen in their neighborhoods and what they are looking forward to doing in and around L.A. when some sense of normalcy returns. Responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.

An illustration of a facemask, with L.A.'s skyline projected upon it.
The size of the city makes keeping far-flung friendships a bit of a chore.
(Jamie Sholberg / Los Angeles Times; Getty)

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What have you discovered about life in L.A. since the pandemic began?

Life in L.A. since the pandemic began has been a mix of enjoying the beautiful outdoors and great weather with worrying about the city’s future, especially the economy, the homelessness crisis, job security and housing. — Clarissa Cervantes

We want to understand how people’s relationship with L.A. has changed — or stayed the same — over the course of the past year.

Being forced to do more outdoor activities made me realize how lucky we are to have such great weather. But on the flip side, I realized just how bad the homelessness crisis is. — Marie Navarro

I see the difference from growing up in L.A. as a child and still living here as an adult. L.A. needs to listen to the locals. I have seen the city of Los Angeles cater to the wealthy class while marginalized people of color get pushed out of the communities they created. People of color should not have to move out. Homelessness should not exist in such a wealthy city. — Meztli Cruz

When lockdown began I felt a sense of camaraderie I had never experienced while living here before. Then, as the months went on, I returned to the normal fend-for-yourself mentality. — Nora Greer

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I’ve gotten to know the trails of Griffith Park on an incredibly detailed level, especially on the Valley side. I know them by name, where they start and end, and where the good landmarks and vantage points are. I know shortcuts and hidden cul-de-sacs. In my new expert opinion, the Mineral Wells Picnic Area is the best part of the Park. — Eric Spiegelman

I learned that driving in L.A. is actually not so bad when most people can work from home. Commuting is bad for society. — Zach Moore

I used to take public transportation frequently because I enjoy seeing the city and my fellow Angelenos from a perspective other than that of a car. Driving during the pandemic reintroduced me to the selfish nature and recklessness of so many drivers in the Southland. — Hassan Abdul-Wahid

I discovered that I love L.A. Seriously. I grew up in Sacramento and have lived in San Diego for over 20 years. The only things these two cities have in common, besides me, is their contempt for L.A. But not me, not anymore. Since the end of the Before Times, I’ve spent more time in L.A. than ever before. The energy has been liberating. — Joe Hlebica

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I began to notice the wildlife and birds that live around me. Perhaps I was too busy to take notice of them before, but spending so much time alone has made me more aware of my surroundings. I bought wild birdseed to feed the birds outside and sometimes I leave my door open to say hi to them. I am learning to identify them; sparrows, goldfinches, mourning doves, etc. I guess now I’m a bird lady. — Amy Ma

We got to explore our neighborhood in a far more intimate way. We met the young couple down the block. My neighbor Mary Ann made me homemade vanilla extract and pomegranate jelly. My neighbor Laura gave me M&M’s and an adorable painted rock for Valentine’s Day. We send emails when someone’s lemon tree is full to see if anyone wants to share. All of these little things make life feel better. — Cynthia Prochaska

The L.A. River bike path is pretty cool. — Joel Rosario

I’ve always been aware of how our city’s geography affects a person’s social life. Pre-pandemic, I had friends in East L.A. and in DTLA who would never venture past the 110 — but we’d stay connected on social media. A few months after Los Angeles shut down, I noticed my friends seriously drifting apart. First it was messages, emails and the occasional phone call that gradually stopped. Then even generic interaction on social media started to slow. The size of the city always made keeping far-flung friendships a bit of a chore, but with restrictions added, I seriously wonder if we’ll reconnect once we can or if we will largely move on. Well, here’s to what comes next. —Kevin Marcus

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L.A. had a culture of isolation long before the pandemic. The need for money, long commutes and the subsequent lack of time and energy discourage close relationships. Virtually all my social connections during the pandemic are work-related, but my situation was much the same even before the pandemic. Compared to other places I’ve lived, Los Angeles is where I’ve been the loneliest, though I’ve spent the majority of my life here. — Tasha Vest

I discovered that L.A. actually cares. I’m a pastor of a small church in Mar Vista, and without prompting, my congregation asked how they could respond to the pandemic and help people in need in our neighborhood. We set up a station in the parking lot where people could drop off or pick up additional groceries and supplies. We helped sponsor a “slow streets” program in the community so elders and kids could enjoy increased mobility. I discovered that life in L.A. is really about the ways we look out for each other, the ways we show up for each other and the ways we eagerly adapt for each other. I just pray that we can continue to build on what we’ve learned this year. — Caleb Crainer

I’ve had several lifestyle-challenging battles that coincided with the pandemic, and I live alone, so the shutdowns made life even more lonely. I feel lucky, however, that I live in Valley Village. It’s a great location with broad sidewalks, lots of trees and greenery, and sidewalks that are not busy. The livability of Valley Village was never as obvious as it is now. — Michael Barnard

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Even a big city like L.A. doesn’t have the most up-to-date internet speeds in all places. — Beth Owen

We pay a lot of money and deal with a lot of nickel-and-diming to live here. With remote work, it’s so hard to justify continuing to do that. The best weather in the world is not enough, especially with house prices moving even further out of reach. — Matt Pressberg

Unfortunately, I’ve realized that many of the things that make living in L.A. worth it for me are exactly the things that were shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic — concerts, movies, ease of access to gyms, a great dining and bar scene. I do have faith that once everyone is vaccinated and things go back to normal, I’ll like living here as much as I did before. It’s been disconcerting to realize how much of my satisfaction with L.A. depended on what it could offer me in terms of entertainment. — Eric Nyren

I chose to live in L.A because it was such a fun city and I could never get bored. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. I have learned that I don’t need a lot of stuff to make me happy and that I can get used to living a simpler life. I have learned to enjoy the tranquility L.A. offers instead of feeling that I’m missing out on something fun all the time. — Homa Pourasgari

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We’ve discovered comfort in our daily routine. The coffee and newspaper, the den tidying, the cat feeding, the litter-box cleaning, the making of the bed. — Mary Camarillo

The homelessness crisis is very serious in L.A. We need a lot of affordable housing, higher minimum wage and better treatment. — Elaine Walker

I lost my job and went on unemployment. The biggest thing I learned is that we don’t really have a functioning social system in America. You’re on your own. There have been times where we have no toilet paper or access to food staples. I’m glad I got a new job because unemployment only takes you so far. Why do people have to pay for healthcare when there’s a pandemic spreading that is no one’s fault? Why are some people denied access to care when they need it? Because we have a s— system and the people in charge don’t owe us a thing. — Sean Ellis

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I’ve discovered how many people are willing to do so much to care for others but also how many are not even willing to wear a mask for others. — Susan Jennings

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L.A. is divided and fractured along race and class lines. The inequities are stark — Patrick Gauthier

Illustration of a facemask, with a Los Angeles city street projected onto it.
“I see this city in all of its complexity, squalor and beauty.”
(Jamie Sholberg / Los Angeles Times; Getty)

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Have your feelings toward L.A. and the Southern California region changed? If so, how?

On one hand, I’m grateful to be in Southern California because the weather is much more conducive to being outside throughout the year. On the other hand, being around people all the time creates an underlying level of anxiety. — Hemanshu Patel

With job losses due to the pandemic, the homelessness crisis in the city has gotten worse. — Clarissa Cervantes

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I knew we needed more and cheaper housing even before the crisis. — Zach Moore

I was an urban geography major in college and studied the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to Los Angeles. I hope we’ve hit a meaningful low point and are now poised to do much good work. I think that’s the direction we’re heading in. I have cautious excitement about the future. — Kevin Marcus

My love for the gardens and natural spaces of Southern California has grown. Walking around the Huntington and the California Botanical Garden has been a lifesaver. Once a week my husband and I try a new lunch spot, from All Day Baby to Paper Rice. We discover new neighborhoods on these adventures and hidden surprises, like the brightly colored stairs of Silver Lake and the joys of picnicking in Los Angeles Historical Park. — Cynthia Prochaska

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I’ve come to question the value of living in Los Angeles. — Tasha Vest

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I always considered L.A. to be welcoming, but I didn’t understand the depths of how nurturing this place can be. — Caleb Crainer

I love my hometown as much as I ever have. I see this city in all of its complexity, squalor and beauty, and I cannot get enough. Los Angeles is a bizarre place. At times it’s a mirage, other times it’s the easiest and most welcoming place you could imagine. In the end the unpredictability of Los Angeles has left me in love with and in awe of my hometown. I’ve been all over the world, but there’s no place I’d rather be than Los Angeles. — Hassan Abdul-Wahid

Los Angeles is my favorite city in America. But at this point it’s just structurally hostile to young people who might want to start a family, unless they had enterprising grandparents who bought real estate 60 years ago. — Matt Pressberg

I could have been stuck quarantining in a tiny, overpriced shoebox in the steel bind of an apartment building in crowded Manhattan, during a gray dreary winter. Instead, I have near-constant sunshine each day beckoning me outside. — Demi Chen

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Confidence in our public officials was misplaced. While those living behind high walls and thick gates make the rules, they don’t share or even understand the actual experience of those less fortunate. — Alan Bernstein

My feeling of frustration with some of the people who live in L.A. has become more pronounced. I can’t help but feel resentment toward all the well-off people I see eating outside at restaurants and going about their lives as though nothing has happened. Like, who really needs to eat brunch in a public space that badly? — Eric Nyren

I appreciate L.A. more because there is a lot of wildlife, nature and parks to be enjoyed, and I have yet to explore them all. I have visited some parks and botanical gardens during the pandemic, and there are still many places I want to visit. — Amy Ma

I know L.A. will never be the same and that makes me sad. I hope one day we can all go to the Hollywood Bowl again or drink in a crowded bar. I never considered leaving L.A. before, but now it’s a possibility. — Scott Uhlfelder

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I feel more connected with the region and want to stay here. Last March, I was job hunting for positions in New York City and was hopeful to make the move there, just for something new. Thankfully that never came to fruition. I found a deeper connection with Los Angeles and realized the people I know here are worth cherishing. I may move about the region, but it feels so much more like home than even a year ago. I feel a very comforting contentment living here. — Cameron Goldbeck

I still love L.A. and Southern California. Some amazing people with so much compassion and concern for each other live here. — Susan Jennings

I still love L.A. and don’t want to live elsewhere. But I am angry at others’ desire to consume and purchase unnecessary items. Few people listened to the second stay-at home order. I wish it would have been a full lockdown. Perhaps then the medical workers would not have been so overwhelmed. — Nora Greer

Illustration of a facemask with L.A.'s iconic palm trees and skyline projected onto it.
“People are less friendly and less willing to become involved with their neighbors.”
(Jamie Sholberg / Los Angeles Times; Getty)

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What specific changes have you seen in your neighborhood?

Lots more people out for walks in the morning, during lunchtime and after work. Having the Slow Streets Palms initiative was really nice. Having much less car traffic through neighborhood streets made the area feel more like a community. — Hemanshu Patel

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I’ve seen tall apartment buildings go up in all directions and the nearby homeless encampment double in size. I’ve seen restaurants go under and plant shops take their place. I’ve seen people working from home walk their dogs in the middle of the day and others board the bus from the back with masks on and six feet apart. — Cameron Goldbeck

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Enormous growth in the local homeless population, with no updates from the city or county on when people may be helped — Tyler Lindberg

More closed-down business, more depression and anxiety. More people trying to get out any way they can. — Bradley Breest

I’ve noticed people have been moving out. I see the rental signs and the furniture sitting on the curb. — Amy Ma

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Everyone in our neighborhood seems to be remodeling. There are new roofs, new landscaping, new paint jobs, new termite tents and eventually new “For Sale” signs with ever-escalating prices. We wonder where they are going. We try to predict who will move in. — Mary Camarillo

Passersby are more friendly, implying “We’re in this together.” — Michael Barnard

Leimert Park is an amazingly resilient place. The pace of change here is fitful, and that has not changed during this pandemic. On the positive side the Metro Line continues its tortoise pace toward completion. On the negative side gentrification and its cultural insensitivities continue. — Hassan Abdul-Wahid

I am more scared of things like wildfires since I don’t know where I’d go if one came close. And I miss all the good stuff like Fringe Festival. — Corinna Bechko

Halloween was much different this year. Instead of kids having to go door to door, people in our neighborhood did creative setups in their yard making it more of a neighborhood walk experience. I really enjoyed it. — Linda McOmber

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Our neighbors decorated their homes more for holidays with over-the-top Halloween displays and festive flags for Valentine’s Day. One particular “Nightmare Before Christmas” display with an inflatable Sally and Jack Skellington and piped-in music and lights somehow made lockdown more bearable. There are messages on the sidewalk in chalk, pastel wishes for greater kindness and goodness. There is a greater awareness of each other, a bit more kindness and sharing. —Cynthia Prochaska

People are less friendly and less willing to become involved with their neighbors. There is a huge lack of the idea of community. — Cynthia Lerner

If anything, due to the contagious nature of the pandemic, I feel that everyone tends to keep to themselves. On walks, I try to smile at passersby, but I’m not sure how much my expression reads under my mask. — Demi Chen

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I bought my home in North Hollywood the summer of 2015 and didn’t expect to know my neighbors. Then came the March shutdown. One month in, I saw a produce truck pull up in front of our house, so I went out and found our neighbor, Monica, had arranged it to come for her and a small group of neighbors who knew each other. The truck became so popular, Monica started a group text to coordinate shopping times. It quickly evolved in a WeChat group with around 40 people representing more than two dozen households. We communicate with each other all the time. We share fruits and vegetables from our home gardens, share photos, videos and personal stories, and organized a socially distant outdoor Halloween parade for kids. We’ve staged outdoor concerts with several neighbors who are professional musicians. Now we’re banding together to make sure our neighborhood gets its promised sound wall along our 1,000-foot frontage of the 170. They are a wonderful group of people. The connections we’ve made will stay, even after the pandemic wanes. — Kevin Marcus

People are walking more, including me. I see more of my neighbors than I have ever seen in the 10-plus years I’ve lived here. — Nancy Sutley

A lot of stores and restaurants have closed, and there are a lot more “For Rent” signs. — Zach Moore

I recently moved back to Koreatown from Los Feliz, and I can’t say there seems to be too much of a difference. Traffic has 100% returned to normal. The one thing that’s been maintained since the early days is more people out on walks. — Eric Nyren

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I’m in part of the San Fernando Valley that’s hardest hit by COVID-19, and I’ve seen people become very cautious. But over time, people have started to become fatigued and are not wearing masks on the street. — Tasha Vest

I see neighbors looking out for each other more. I notice more people out of their homes and taking pride in our neighborhood. — Scott Uhlfelder

Restaurants struggling, businesses struggling, people struggling. — John G. Hill

A facemask with an image of people playing at the beach projected onto it.
“I would like to go to the beach and not feel nervous.”
(Jamie Sholberg / Los Angeles Times; Getty)

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What are you looking forward to doing in and around L.A. when some semblance of normalcy returns?

I am looking forward to jobs and opportunities opening up because so many L.A. locals have lost work due to COVID-19. — Meztli Cruz

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I miss theatre and look forward to the day we can support our visual and theatrical artists in person. Seeing and hugging my friends and my daughter will feel like a miracle. — Cynthia Prochaska

I want to go to a Dodgers game and let our team know how proud we are of their 2020 World Series win. — Susan Jennings

Going for a drink at Oldfield’s and the Wellesbourne — Hemanshu Patel

I’m most looking forward to visiting my parishioners who live in assisted-living facilities. It’s been so difficult to be separated from them for the past year. — Caleb Crainer

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I am looking forward to settling into a darkened theater for a big dumb movie with popcorn, a hot dog and a cherry Icee. Afterwards I’ll go to a bar with friends and laugh, drink and talk about the big dumb movie. — Hassan Abdul-Wahid

Hugging. And hugging some more. Going out to public places without fear. Hiking, camping, going to gardens. Going to church. Going to the zoo. Having birthday parties and potlucks. Traveling home to Texas to see my dad. — Beth Owen

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I look forward to concerts! I miss the Greek Theatre, the Hollywood Bowl, Hotel Cafe, etc. I miss restaurants — the last place I ate at was Norm’s in Van Nuys on March 10, 2020. I miss movie theaters. I miss shopping for new clothes. I look forward to all those things and finally going to the Broad. — Kevin Marcus

I would like to go to the beach and not feel nervous. —Nora Greer

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I look forward to visiting coffee shops for writing and people-watching, bars for mingling with friends and friends-to-be, and clubs for dancing. — Michael Barnard

I want to get back to sword fighting — I practice historical European martial arts, longsword and sidesword mostly. My last competition was in February 2020, and I was excited to see how much I would improve over the course of a year. But with all this seclusion, my body is falling apart. I’m looking forward to hosting and attending historical fencing events again. — Sean Ellis

I’m looking forward to taking part in services at our synagogue again. — Alan Bernstein

I want to visit the Japanese garden at CSULB and the Shoseian Teahouse in Glendale. I also want to start volunteering at a garden, either Robinson Gardens and/or Shumei Hollywood. — Amy Ma

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I’m looking forward to the return of spontaneity the most. Every part of my life feels planned to a T these days, and even though I’m able to find joy in many smaller ways, I do miss not knowing exactly what could happen. — Eric Nyren

I can’t wait to see a movie at Hollywood Forever and eat pancakes in a diner. Go bar-hopping and take a Lyft home. Take my son to a museum or a live performance. — Scott Uhlfelder

I look forward to singing in my chorus again and going to restaurants and eating someone else’s cooking with service. — Victoria Paterno

I’m excited to be able to watch a movie in a cemetery, ride Twisted Colossus and share a table at Wurstküche, all with other people. — Cameron Goldbeck

We are HUGE foodies, so dinner with friends is top of list. — Gary Weiss

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Can I say everything, anything? I want to revisit my favorite places and try all those restaurants on my bucket list. I want to catch a movie in a fully packed theater, caught up in the energy of the audience, reacting at all the moments collectively. I miss people-watching, anywhere. — Demi Chen

I’m looking forward to seeing friends and family, celebrating milestones, enjoying great meals at restaurants, supporting local business and having my voice and vote count to make L.A. a great city. — Clarissa Cervantes

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