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LOS ANGELES-City officials, Jones Lang LaSalle and some key telecom players held a press conference Tuesday to explain how Downtown’s machine-filled, largely “peopleless” buildings will change to create a vibrant atmosphere in the heart of America’s second-largest city. Unfortunately, fewer than two-dozen people–mostly bureaucrats and PR folks for real estate companies–bothered to show up.

The poor turnout for the heavily hyped event, which included speakers from Jones Lang LaSalle and other real estate concerns, exemplifies what some experts say is LA’s perhaps hopeless battle to breathe new life into its Central Business District. The reinvigorated Times Square in New York enjoys ’round-the-clock action, and even much-smaller San Diego can boast of its vibrant nightlife.

Yet, Los Angeles’ CBD still becomes a “ghost town” around 6 p.m., after the last of its office workers jump into their cars and head for their homes in the suburbs. “There’s no reason for me to hang around after it gets dark,” says Susan Langley, a Downtown office manager who lives in nearby Pasadena. “Downtown sucks, and it will never get better. Nothing happens Downtown after the sun goes down.”

Part of the problem, Langley and real estate experts say, is that so many buildings in LA’s CBD are occupied by tenants in the telecommunications business. While the steady flow of telecom companies into Downtown has helped to absorb some of the area’s huge amount of vacant commercial space, the fact that telecom users fill their buildings with computers and cables rather than human beings–people who can support local businesses or at least walk the streets–prevents the city from developing a night-life of its own.

The poor turnout at Tuesday’s press conference overshadowed a somewhat ambitious plan by LA officials to encourage more retail development Downtown. The city says it has reached an agreement that will make some Downtown building owners dedicate at least a portion of their space for retail purposes.

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