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Improvements to Lot May Get OK in 40 Days

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Government and business leaders met in April to discuss what to do with a vacant lot across the street from Los Angeles City Hall that had become a haven for drug users. They decided to turn the eyesore into a terraced landscape by the end of the summer.

It hasn’t happened yet. The drugs are gone, but the eyesore remains.

The 30 or so inhabitants of the property have moved, their cardboard shacks swept away, a chain-link fence installed to keep others out.

“It’s just taking longer then expected,” said Les Detweiler, management analyst of the county’s chief administrative office.

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Landscape designers have developed a preliminary plan that could be completed by the end of the year, Detweiler said.

He estimates the landscaping would cost $250,000.

The government action was prompted by a Times story detailing the rampant heroin and crack use within view of City Hall.

One of the reasons for the delay is that the site--bounded by Broadway, Spring Street, 1st Street and the Criminal Courts Building’s parking lot--was considered a possible new home for St. Vibiana’s Cathedral.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese announced last week that another downtown site had been chosen. As a result, movement on the lot could begin within 40 days, said Gerry Hertzberg, chief legislative deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina. The county and state each own 50% of the lot.

“I think it is a shame this lot has been empty for seven years,” said O’Malley Miller, a downtown lawyer who is a member of the Civic Center Authority.

“But, I do applaud any attempts by the county to get it cleaned up.”

In the wake of The Times’ article on the area, news media and government homeless agencies descended on the camp.

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“A lot of people were frightened off by the television cameras that showed up after the story ran,” said Carol Trudeau of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. “Of the 30 people there, three sought our help, which is about average.”

One man was extremely ill and hospitalized. Two others were placed at shelters downtown. One of them stayed at the shelter for a month, saved his money and now has his own place, Trudeau said.

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