Will Skid Row Sue Los Angeles if Denied a Neighborhood Council?

15 CANDLES

SKID ROW-There is talk throughout Skid Row about the anticipated creation of a neighborhood council in an area commonly known as “the homeless capitol of America.” As the Skid Row NC- Formation Committee continues to reach out to fellow stakeholders and field questions, there is a growing concern about whether the City of LA’s NC certification process will actually support this much-needed governing body. 

Presently, Skid Row is part of the Downtown Los Angeles NC and has been since DLANC’s inception in 2002. Unfortunately, while the rest of Downtown has benefited greatly from a frenzied revitalization effort (Including Downtown City Council rep Jose Huizar’s “Bringing Back Broadway”) which is also embraced by the DLANC, Skid Row has suffered greatly as homelessness has expanded across the city during the 14-year existence of the DLANC. 

Because Skid Row is already part of an existing NC, a “subdivision” vote including all DLANC stakeholders, will determine whether Skid Row is “allowed” to separate and form its own NC. 

What happens if Skid Row’s NC efforts are voted down? 

Is a lawsuit the next step? Where’s Skid Row’s evidence to present in court? 

A governing document for Neighborhood Councils, “Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils,” is used by DONE, the city’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (also known as EmpowerLA) to oversee each of the current 96 NCs. Under Goals and Objectives, it states in #4: “Ensure equal opportunity to form NC’s and participate in the governmental decision making and problem solving processes.” In #5 it is stated, “Create an environment in which all people can organize and propose their own Certified NC so they develop from the grassroots of the community.” 

Further, in Article II, under Desired Characteristics of NC, it says in #2, “Certified NC’s…may not discriminate in any of their policies, recommendations or actions against any group on the basis of race, religion, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital status, income or political affiliation.” 

Now, if all the above “evidence” is truly the case, why should Skid Row be subjected to a subdivision vote where they are at the mercy of all DLANC stakeholders, the majority of whom have never stepped foot in Skid Row? How can they be well-versed enough to partake in such a significant vote that will have such a huge effect on the lives of Skid Row’s residents and stakeholders? 

This week, at the DLANC Planning Committee meeting, a strong turnout of residents who mostly live in South Park and the Historic Core are expected to attend to oppose two different proposed brand-new construction projects creating low-income residential housing buildings in Skid Row that are needed to alleviate the overwhelming lack of homeless housing. Yet, in the same breath, these very same folks want the City of LA to put an end to all the homeless tents and encampments. It can’t be both. 

Obviously, the best way to get rid of tents and encampments is to create more housing, which is exactly what these new housing projects intend to do. But it’s this continuous back and forth confusion that has created a perplexing stagnation making it virtually impossible to put a significant dent in the massive homeless numbers, let alone “end homelessness” altogether. It’s well-documented that the DLANC only listens to their most affluent constituents regarding new housing construction in DTLA. The City of Los Angeles must intervene before homelessness thwarts LA’s own 2024 Summer Olympics hopes. 

Knowing what we know about DLANC and the selfish desires of a handful of “Downtown’s inner circle” who want to control all of DTLA forever -- even to the point where homelessness has expanded into more populated areas across the city -- should Skid Row be subjected to a subdivision vote led by these insensitive “down-lookers”? 

Shouldn’t the City of Los Angeles create an “alternative process option” which would ensure the Skid Row community will have an “equal opportunity” to create its own NC? 

And YES, there’s much more evidence to present in a court of law. 

For the City of LA not to adhere to the “Plan for a Citywide System of NC’s” document is to violate the Los Angeles City Charter and Administrative Code, specifically Article IX-Department of Neighborhood Empowerment-Sections 900-914. 

This “Plan” document was first approved and adopted into the City Charter in May, 2001 and has been amended nine times, the latest being in December, 2013. In addition, Section 1, Division 22, Chapter 28, Subsections 22.800-22.814 of the Administrative Code should be examined. That’s all that can be said publicly at this time. 

Skid Row community leaders are indeed prepared to file a lawsuit. Fourteen years under DLANC’s control and not one Community Impact Statement (CIS) concerning Skid Row has been officially filed by the DLANC stating its collective position on matters related to Skid Row and homelessness. Is this because they don’t want to be exposed? 

The City Council passed the City’s “Comprehensive Homeless Strategic Plan” in January of this year and the DLANC was silent. Also, a “State of Emergency” declaration regarding homelessness was publicly discussed on separate occasions by both Mayor Garcetti and the LA City Council. Again, DLANC remained silent. Surely, a Skid Row NC would have submitted a CIS form because the previously mentioned topics speak directly to what is hands-down Skid Row’s priority issue – homelessness. Most importantly, the solutions that come out of Skid Row from its own NC could also be examples of what should be done across the whole City. 

But can Skid Row afford to wait another fourteen years for the DLANC to finally act? Or should the City of LA work to bypass a DLANC stakeholder subdivision vote and willingly accommodate a Skid Row NC request to certify? 

This is a life or death situation for the Skid Row community – one that requires immediate action on behalf of the City of Los Angeles. 

Skid Row ‘bout ta get lawyered up ya’ll!

 

(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles. Jeff’s views are his own.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.