DOWNTOWN-Thursday night’s Downtown LA Neighborhood Council (DLANC) Executive Committee meeting was abruptly cancelled. While no official reason was given by DLANC, those close to the situation have indicated that it was due to recent illegitimate Board of Directors’ votes.
The legitimacy of multiple board votes is in question because of one Board member who is also on the DLANC Planning and Land Use committee -- Robert Newman.
Newman recently shared on his personal Facebook page that he no longer works for Skid Row Housing Trust, stating that he “left [the] job at Skid Row Housing Trust.” He qualified for one of DLANC’s Social Service Provider seats as an employee of SRHT. Newman has served on this Board since 2012 and is fully aware of the rules that qualify a person for that particular Board seat. It is unclear as to what his motives were for not stepping down.
Now that multiple grievances have been filed, it must be determined how many DLANC votes were tainted. It appears as though at least two consecutive months of votes, including Letters of Support for various development projects Downtown, will be affected. If a LOS is still desired from the DLANC, these developers (as well as all other projects) will need to go back before the planning committee and then to the full Board. This means it will take a minimum of another two months before the first batch of projects will be able to resume their development plans.
Letters of Support from a neighborhood council are imperative to fulfill the City’s requirement regarding a project’s potential impact on the community.
With the massive influx of Downtown development in recent years, this setback exposes just the latest of numerous blunders by the DLANC.
Countless grievances have been filed over the years and over 50 grievances against DLANC have been accepted by DONE (Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.) Illegal Board meetings have been held in venues which failed to secure lease agreements with the City; there have been matters in which Board members should have but refused to recuse themselves. The DLANC has had many close calls with decertification, a consequence that would instantly bring Downtown development to a screeching halt.
Adding to all of this is the Skid Row community’s lack of inclusion, something that has prompted the collective effort to create the Skid Row Neighborhood Council.
A separate grievance, filed at the same time as the others, has resulted in the Skid Row resident director Board seat being empty -- due to the fact that Ron J. Smith has left his job at SRO Housing Corporation. As a manager, he had been provided on-site housing by the company. But now that Smith works for a new company, that housing is no longer available for him, thus making him unqualified for a resident Board seat.
The timing for this sudden departure is even more interesting because there is a proposed development in Skid Row to convert buildings that were previously used by Salvation Army (photo) to provide housing and services to homeless and formerly homeless. The developer now wants to change it into an adaptive reuse project which plans to provide market-rate, micro-unit housing to students and workforce members -- in the heart of Skid Row!
Skid Row residents are livid because they currently don’t have any Board representation to represent their voice.
The question now becomes, will DLANC be forced to hold special elections to fill these new Board seats before it can re-vote on the Letters of Support for all the development projects -- including the ill-timed adaptive housing project in Skid Row?
If so, this could significantly slow development projects with fast-approaching hearing dates because, by not having a LOS from the local NC, their applications will not be complete and subject to delays which also incur cost increases.
DONE is already severely understaffed. The last thing they need is all of these problematic issues that warrant priority status in the eyes of the Downtown business sector. And who’s supposed to log-in all the extra hours necessary to undo the current mess at the DLANC?
One thing’s for sure, this was not the fault of Skid Row; it was not the fault of the residents of Downtown; and it isn’t City’s fault.
That said, for the sake of NC political correctness, and now that the truth is out, maybe the finger pointing will stop. We need corrective measures!
(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
Vol 13 Issue 99
Pub: Dec 8, 2015