Skid Row Today and 2040 [excerpts]
by L.A. Community Action Network
LA is one of the most expensive cities in the US, right behind NY and SF. Rents are rising, forcing 1000s more into the streets every year. Housing is a basic human right, the key to solving this crisis, and criminally scarce in a city with our resources.
With simple changes to our land use policies, we can build a city where homelessness isn’t common or lethal. LA is updating all 35 community plans that form the city’s General Plan. Each Community Plan reflects a vision for neighborhoods and designates land for uses including jobs, housing, manufacturing, transportation, open space and amenities.
In October 2016, the Dept of City Planning proposed to rezone parts of Skid Row to include market rate housing as part of the Downtown community plan update, or DTLA 2040. No one who lives, works or shares a stake in Skid Row gave input to this plan. In response, we formed Skid Row Now & 2040 to include community groups, non-profits and individuals who believe everyone deserves a home and a voice in the future of their neighborhood.
Skid Row Now & 2040 wants generations of families and Skid Row residents to lead full, vibrant lives in Downtown LA, so we’ve created the following guidelines for the City Planning Department, District 14 and the Mayor’s Office. No displacement of extremely-low-income residents should occur; policies that promote the Human Right to Housing should be enacted. The DTLA 2040 update shouldn’t include any policies or zoning changes that harm low-income communities of color. This includes policies that lead to criminalization. If adopted, this approach will prevent displacement of current Skid Row residents, enrich lives and show the way to ending homelessness in all 35 communities. We’re waiting to hear a response from City Planning, Jose Huizar and Mayor Garcetti.
- No Net Loss – All existing units must be protected with the inclusion of a No Net Loss policy to ensure baselines of affordable housing units remain in DTLA.
The city’s community plan update must mirror and support other city policies that have been passed to ensure a baseline of affordable housing units existing in Downtown.
- Inclusionary Zoning – The DTLA 2040 concept map proposes to change Skid Row’s light manufacturing zone into a traditional housing zone, boosting land values tremendously for Developers. Skid Row Now & 2040 is recommending the creating of a 25% set aside to generate 7,000 new units.
- Affordable (Low Income) Housing Creation – With much of the cities’ affordable housing funding being lost with the dissolution of the Community Redevelopment Agency, Skid Row Now & 2040 suggests the creation of funding sources for affordable housing in Downtown, such as Developer fees and a new 1% impact bond for rental subsidies. Assess the feasibility of various financing mechanisms and establish a suitable tax-increment financing district in the Downtown/Skid Row neighborhood.
- Vacancy Tax – 1% of a vacant building’s value for every year vacant towards affordable (Low income) housing, charged annually.
- Anti-Displacement Protections – Tenant legal representation to fight evictions, end discrimination by landlords against housing voucher recipients, and create anti-harassment penalties for landlords.
The DTLA 2040 update should support the human and economic development of the Skid Row Community while preserving its culture, well-being and values, such as through increased accessibility to parks and open space, social services, health care services, pedestrian and bike-friendly amenities.
Increase land zoned for social services for homeless and/or extremely low-income residents, with new social services sites linked to social spaces like parks, community centers, and transit stops.
Skid Row crosswalks and street lights should be better timed to acknowledge the needs of disabled and elderly neighborhood residents. Improve pedestrian safety by upgrading lighting, signage, and crosswalks and by introducing speed-bumps on the numbered streets, plus a bike infrastructure plan to ensure ZERO traffic fatalities.
The Refresh Spot model will be expanded to provide 24/hr restroom attendant services in all Skid Row parks. All 311 trash and bulky item pick-ups in Skid Row will be handled by Skid Row residents employed by the city to minimize trauma created by strangers throwing away resident’s critical possessions such as medicines, identification and shelter.
Skid Row is one of the largest recovery communities in the nation. Yet bars and off-sale alcohol outlets are often proposed and permitted to generate upscale development that is out of range for our community. No new bars, “alcohol sale permits”, or new marijuana dispensary/cannabis stores shall be permitted in the Skid Row neighborhood.
The permit process, tax incentives, transit access and public walkways relating to grocery stores, farmer’s markets and healthier food options will be incentivized and streamlined to prioritize access to nutrition and better living.
Over many years Skid Row has emerged as a neighborhood with a number of profound and important values that are reflected in daily life and celebrated and further imagined in neighborhood manifestations of arts and culture. Exemplary cultural values of the neighborhood include: empathy, looking out for each other, sharing, second chances, recovery, inclusion, tolerance, and embracing difference. Community emphasis is on making and sharing art rather than solely being a relatively passive audience member.
Skid Row business owners will be charged a mandatory bond towards resident-created murals on Skid Row, which will be repayable by hosting murals on buildings’ exteriors or widely visible interior blank walls.
Skid Row will be an open market similar to Venice Boardwalk where anyone can advertise and conduct business on the street without fear of police harassment.
A Skid Row Neighborhood Council will ensure Skid Row residents have a voice in future decisions about land use, law enforcement policy and everything else within the domain of a standard Los Angeles Neighborhood Council.
Reduce law enforcement personnel and budget by 20% over four years in Skid Row, using the savings to increase personnel and budget for health care workers. Skid Row needs fewer police and more doctors.
In order to build a Skid Row for today and for 2040, the Department of City Planning must ensure that the community plan update recognizes, affirms and strengthens the history and culture of Skid Row. DCP must work with the community of Skid Row to ensure displacement does not occur. The city has the opportunity; to develop creative solutions to both the housing and homelessness crisis through preserving Skid Row.
Please contact the Los Angeles Community Action Network to add your name to our growing list of supporters and learn how you can get involved in the fight for Skid Row’s future.