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Architecture & Design

Skid Row L.A. Trash, Belongings Pile up Third World-Style After Court Tells City It Can't Take Homeless' Stuff

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Tue, Nov 1, 2011 at 7:03 AM

click to enlarge Don't let the bed bugs bite. - COURTESY CENTRAL CITY EAST ASSOCIATION
  • Courtesy Central City East Association
  • Don't let the bed bugs bite.
The flurry of coverage about the horrific conditions on Skid Row started in 2004 with an LA CityBeat cover story and soon flourished with Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez's observations, which culminated in the movie The Soloist.

Much of that coverage focused on San Julian Street, just a block from the LAPD's downtown station, which had become an open-air drug market. The city quickly cleaned up the street and cracked down on drug use and sales, so much so that some alleged that L.A. was steamrolling the homeless to make way for gentrification and loft dwellers.

Things on the row appear to have made a u-turn:

Trash and the belongings of homeless have festered on the row between Los Angeles and San Pedro streets, between Third and Seventh streets.

San Julian is said to be particularly bad.

click to enlarge Don't let the bed bugs bite. - COURTESY CENTRAL CITY EAST ASSOCIATION
  • Courtesy Central City East Association
  • Don't let the bed bugs bite.

Some of the local business improvement districts are even taking turns cleaning up around the Los Angeles Police Department's Central Division at 251 E. Sixth Street, where even feces has ended up on its walls, Estela Lopez, executive director Central City East Association (BID) tells the Weekly.

The problem isn't a return of the early '00s heroin and crack scene. Rather, as blogdowntown first reported, a court injunction preventing the city from seizing the property of the homeless means that it piles up and sometimes festers.

The city is challenging the ruling, but meanwhile mounds of stuff endure, and it's not clear who will clean it up -- or when.

Lopez:

You have mountains of blankets and chairs and discarded food and you name it, it's out there. A lot of things on the sidewalks have HIV-tainted blood, tuberculosis, vermin infestation -- from people living on the street. If you saw this in another country you would say, 'Why isn't somone doing something?' It's about human beings, health, and the public right of way.

The Central City East Association's area east of San Pedro has so far been relatively immune to the build-up of refuge and belongings because it allows homeless to check their stuff into a warehouse storage facility on East Seventh Street that it sponsors.

Good thing. The area is known as L.A.'s bread basket -- home to fish markets and the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market.

Still, Skid Row is a magnet for homeless because it was designed that way during the administration of former Mayor Tom Bradley. Health, social and addiction services were located there.

About six or seven years ago, however, as downtown's transformation into hipster town was gaining steam, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority embarked on a new effort to place homeless services in far-flung communities around the county so they could serve locals instead of pushing the homeless downtown.

So far, as we can see by the belongings heaped on the streets, that doesn't seem to be working.

"The big question," Lopez says, "is are these things abandoned or not? Are they possession or trash?"

[Added]: Becky Dennison, co-director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, reached out to us to emphasize that the judge's decision ...

... Does definitely not prohibit the City from picking up those stacked mattresses you show in the photo provided by CCEA. It does not prohibit picking abandoned articles - it just prohibits destroying abandoned articles if they don't present a health hazard.

She claims that "the business community" has an "interest in portraying the community in this biased way" (e.g. filled with trash).

Read more about the Network's side of things here.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]

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