“Foul play” suspected in vote against formation of Skid Row Neighborhood Council

Vote could now be reversed, giving Skid Row a larger voice on development-related issues

May.May 05, 2017 02:30 PM
Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles

The vote for a separate Skid Row Neighborhood Council was closely watched by real estate interests, who feared its formation would stifle development in the area. Its fate seemed sealed when Downtown residents voted against allowing its secession from other central city groups last month.

But a panel made up of officials the city selected from other neighborhood councils called for an investigation this week into complaints of foul play and recommended that either the vote be reversed or a new vote be held.

Supporters allege the opposition group Unite DTLA illegally used the logo, database and server of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) and its P.O. box address in email campaigns to confuse voters and swing the election against the formation of a separate Skid Row council, the Los Angeles Times reported. Existing neighborhood councils are not allowed to weigh in on subdivision votes.

Patti Berman, president of DLANC, said its council had nothing to do with Unite DTLA or its emails.

“No one would like to find out more than me who’s responsible for this,” Berman said at the meeting. “It’s caused an awful lot of problems.”

The panel sided with skid row council organizers and recommended the city investigate whether Unite DTLA’s campaigning impacted the election and if so, reverse the results – allowing for the formation of a skid row neighborhood council.

However, if a determination can’t be reached the panel asked the city to hold a new vote in 90 days, without online voting. Internet voting is not typically used in council races but was used for the Skid Row vote — which critics say could have cut some homeless residents of Skid Row, many without access to the online polls, out of the voting process.

The city’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which oversees neighborhood councils, will decide whether to accept the panel’s recommendations.

Proponents of forming the council argue that the neighborhood’s homeless situation has been aggravated by Downtown’s renaissance, with new boutiques and bistros pushing thousands of homeless people into dense encampments. A council would give Skid Row a larger voice in development related decisions. [LAT] [DTN]Subrina Hudson

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