In a break with the city's earlier confrontational stance, Los Angeles' chief administrative officer Monday proposed a $3.7-million skid row cleanup program that would increase 24-hour bathroom access for homeless people and expand storage for their belongings.
The proposal, which must be approved by the City Council, calls for setting aside part of a skid row parking lot where homeless people can check their shopping carts and small bins for the day. The plan would also expand a seven-day storage operation by 500 bins, and move a 90-day storage facility east of Alameda Street into the heart of skid row.
The increased round-the-clock bathroom access would be funded by the city at existing skid row shelters and social service agencies. A stepped-up street cleaning and inspection schedule and a modest increase in street trash cans would also be provided.
Administrative Officer Migual Santana, in his 10-page report, said the expanded services were in response to an "overwhelming increase in need and decline in resources" since the Great Recession. The Los Angeles County Department of Health in 2012 and 2013 cited the city for an immediate public health threat because of unsanitary conditions including feces, urine, rodent infestation, garbage and debris in the streets of skid row.
Santana said 3,463 homeless people live in shelters and on the streets in the roughly 50-block district.
The city since 2011 has been fighting a court injunction preventing police and other officials from seizing and destroying homeless people's unattended property. City Atty. Mike Feuer recently announced he was dropping the latest appeal of the order, but officials have declined to settle the underlying lawsuit.
Civil rights attorney Carol Sobel, who sued on behalf of eight homeless people, said the new plan is "at best inadequate" to meet the needs on skid row.
"It's great adding new storage units, but these will fill up very, very quickly," she said. "And it's got to be open when people need it."
Under a separate court settlement, homeless people can sleep on city streets overnight but must be up and out from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sobel said her understanding was the storage would operate in regular business hours only.