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The Real Deal Los Angeles

DTLA interests spar over possible Skid Row Neighborhood Council

Voters will decide Thursday whether Skid Row should have its own neighborhood council
April 06, 2017 12:20PM

Mel Tillekeratne and Skid Row

The residents, workers, business owners, and homeless inhabitants of Downtown Los Angeles will decide Thursday whether they support the creation of the Skid Row Neighborhood Council.

While Skid Row is currently represented by the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council as well as the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council, homeless advocates are pressing for their own platform to better vocalize concerns about Skid Row’s digression as the rest of Downtown flourishes.

Bounded by Main, Alameda, 3rd and 7th streets, Skid Row has seen overcrowding and worsening conditions in recent years due to L.A.’s homeless crisis, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Police and social service providers told the paper that up to 2,000 people now inhabit the area’s tent encampments. New market-rate developments, such as the under-construction Topaz apartments on Main and Los Angeles streets, are inching closer to Skid Row — and some advocates say that will make the encampment area denser, and the conditions worse.

“It’s like a slow landslide; it just keeps going down,” said Mel Tillekeratne, who runs Monday Night Mission, a pantry for skid row residents.

The new council’s supporters say a separate neighborhood agency would better address the need for family housing, bathroom access, cleanups, and other facilities for these residents.

Meanwhile, opponents argue that Skid Row would be better off if it were integrated into the rest of downtown, because mixed-income housing and retail projects would lift the neighborhood out of squalor. Opponents on Downtown-related Facebook message boards voiced concerns that Skid Row activists have successfully fought developments and businesses entering the vicinity in the past, and would have even more power as an organized voting body.

A new council would only lead to more tents, Scott Gray of downtown developer Capital Foresight told the Times.

“The tents are more likely to expand,” he said.

If the measure passes Thursday, opponents will likely challenge the council in court. Former City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo of the group United Downtown L.A. is already preparing a possible lawsuit, he told the Times. [LAT]Cathaleen Chen