Panel Urges Saving Skid Row Hotels for Residents, Relocating Homeless

Times Staff Writer

A panel of experts commissioned by the mayor and other city leaders called Friday for Los Angeles to adopt a comprehensive policy to preserve hotels for low-income Skid Row residents and to help homeless people settle in other locations.

The 11-member panel, which spent five days conducting more than 100 interviews in the Central City East area, concluded that residents of hotels on Skid Row can coexist with local merchants, despite signs of growing tension between the two groups.

Some business owners, favoring commercial development of Skid Row, have advocated demolishing the subsidized, single-room-occupancy hotels, called SROs, and dispersing the poor to other parts of the city and county. But Mayor Tom Bradley recently proposed a one-year moratorium on the demolition of the old Skid Row hotels. The moratorium is now before the City Council for approval.


Bradley, the Community Redevelopment Agency and the ad hoc Select Committee for Housing and Services for Skid Row Residents had sought the present study as a guide to formulating a lasting shelter policy. Housing and land-use experts from around the country--all members of the Washington-based Urban Land Institute--participated in the research.

Harold S. Jensen, the group’s chairman, said the panel was encouraged by Bradley’s proposed moratorium and added that the majority of people who live in the 6,500 SROs in the 50-block Central City East area do not pose any problems to local businesses.

“We think that a key message, something that we have learned, is that there is a distinct difference between the SRO community and the homeless community,” he said. “The SRO community that has existed there historically is relatively stable, very poor and with very limited resources, but it is not a threat to neighboring uses.”

Jensen added that it is “the invasion of the homeless that threatens both the stable SRO population and the businesses in the immediate area.”

To address the problem of sheltering the homeless, Jensen and his colleagues on the panel said the city, other governmental agencies and private groups should cooperate in providing housing at locations other than the Skid Row area.

In an oral presentation Friday and a brief written statement, the panel did not comment on specific kinds of shelter, such as the temporary outdoor camp that the city has set up for the homeless near downtown on South Santa Fe Avenue.


The committee, which will issue its final report in a few weeks, also recommended tighter police security on Skid Row, a renewed effort to find more funding for the poor and homeless and an amended community plan that would incorporate a permanent housing policy for the poor. The panel also asked that a special deputy mayor for housing be named.

Deputy Mayor Grace Davis currently spearheads such efforts in the Bradley administration, although she does not hold a formal title as the mayor’s housing specialist.

“It gives us a focus, something to point to,” Davis said of the committee findings.

Christopher Stewart, vice chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency, also praised the committee’s work.

“I think that what they’re recommending is that the mayor’s office has to be the focal point to bring all the interested parties together,” he said, “and I think that’s going to be the real challenge to the mayor.”