Rent Hike May Force Novel Dome Village to Find a New Home

Times Staff Writer

Dome Village, the experiment in alternative housing for the homeless, may have held its last Christmas party Saturday at the downtown Los Angeles site near the Harbor Freeway that it has occupied since 1993.

Ted Hayes, an advocate for the homeless who founded the village of white geodesic fiberglass domes not far from Staples Center, said a rent increase would force the group to move next year.

Earlier this month, Hayes said, he received a note from Milton Sidley, one of the property owners, announcing that the rent was being raised to $18,330 a month, plus property taxes, on June 1. Since the village’s inception, Sidley’s partnership has charged Dome Village monthly rent of $2,500, plus property taxes. This is now considered well below market rate for the 1.25-acre site on Golden Avenue.


According to Hayes, Sidley raised the rent because Hayes recently announced that he had registered as a Republican. The property owners deny this.

An article in The Times on Dec. 4 detailed Hayes’ announcement, at a meeting of the Bel-Air Republican Women’s Federation, that he was a Republican.

Two days later, Hayes said, he received a letter from Sidley announcing the rent increase.

Hayes said he spoke with Sidley after receiving the note. Sidley told him, “This Democrat is tired of taking care of Ted Hayes. If you’re such a Republican, you let the Republicans help you out from now on,’ ” Hayes said.

Dome Village Executive Director Katy Haber said Sidley had made similar statements to her.

“I said, ‘But Milt, I’m a Democrat,’ ” Haber said she told Sidley.

Still, Haber said, “They’ve given us a decent rent for many years. We can’t complain.”

Mike Sidley, the attorney for the limited-liability partnership that owns the land, and son of Milton Sidley, confirmed the rent increase but vehemently denied it had anything to do with politics.

“For 12 years, they’ve allowed [Dome Village] to remain there at below-market rent,” Mike Sidley said Saturday. No one has ever come forward to attempt to purchase it at a market value and donate the land to Dome Village, he added.

Sidley said his clients were upset that Dome Village was announcing the rent increase close to Christmas, placing his clients in a bad light.


“When no one else would step up to the plate [to help Dome Village], my clients did. But there was never a thank you. Never a Christmas card. Nothing,” he said. “No one in the city of Los Angeles ever stepped forward.”

Now, Sidley said, property values have risen downtown.

“The economics of the time now do not allow them to support this organization any longer,” he said.

Hayes said he couldn’t afford the rent increase and would not contest it.

“We believe in the right of private ownership of his property,” Hayes said. “I would like to get us out of here by March 31.”

Hayes said he would be speaking with officials with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority soon to come up with an alternative site for the village and its 35 occupants.

When it opened in 1993 with a $250,000 grant from Arco, Dome Village was viewed as a visionary attempt to solve an entrenched homeless problem in downtown Los Angeles.

Unlike typical homeless shelters, the village emphasizes individual choice and tenant self-rule, and was meant as a model for similar villages around the county.


Since then, it has enjoyed support from government agencies but had problems at times.

Money and donated clothes have been stolen. Some residents were ejected. Two residents were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and rape.

In 2001, a county audit found that Dome Village had not verified that tenants were actually homeless before they were allowed to move in, and that tenants had stayed in the village for longer than two years. Dome Village managers corrected those problems and were able to retain a $700,000 federal grant.

“It really makes me sad that this won’t be here next year,” said Haber, surrounded by hundreds of people eating and listening to music at the Dome Village Christmas party Saturday. “Nobody thought this place would last. Due to all the hard work of a lot of people, this place had stood since 1993.”

Hayes, however, said the village’s long-term effect on the homeless problem has been negligible, due largely to the heated real estate market that now appears to be forcing the village’s relocation.

“There are not enough affordable houses in decent neighborhoods. It’s just not there,” he said. “No matter what we do to rehabilitate people, there’s no place for them to live. As far as mainstreaming people, we have not done that.”