I’m not sure how long these signs have been up in my neighborhood- but I just noticed them recently. There are two on either side of San Pedro Street near the building where I live.
I’ve written about this particular map before. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see this thing. I will try writing about it. How thoroughly thoughtless the DTLA business community was in putting this thing together and leaving out the most troubled community in all of America. How dare they! This was obviously a highly calculated maneuver- and one that I disagree with. I don’t write this out of anger or resentment- I write this as a plea for their help and guidance. Visionary thinking is called for now that we have all eyes on downtown- some results based business savvy is what I am asking for. Throwing money at this “Skid Row problem” is not the answer either- hundreds of millions of dollars filters through this community and our streets are still not clean or safe.
If the DTLA business community wants to come into Skid Row proper, and put up maps for tourists to help them find their way- they damn well better understand that leaving us off their map is highly offensive. To them I say,
“Until your turn your attention towards addressing some of the entrenched and profound problems in Skid Row- please put us on your map. We are not ready to be erased yet- there is still work to do here! Pretending like we don’t exist is not going to make our issues magically disappear.”
I have made comparisons with Skid Row to the Tenderloin district in San Francisco before on this blog, and here I will do it again. San Francisco puts the Tenderloin on many of its “official” maps.
The below entry I found on Wikipedia:
There are a number of stories about how the Tenderloin got its name. One says it is a reference to an older neighborhood in New York with the same name and similar characteristics. Another is a reference to the neighborhood as the “soft underbelly” (analogous to the cut of meat) of the city, with allusions to vice and corruption, especially graft. There are also some legends about the name, probably folklore, including that the neighborhood earned its name from the words of a New York City police captain, Alexander S. Williams, who was overheard saying that when he was assigned to another part of the city, he could only afford to eat chuck steak on the salary he was earning, but after he was transferred to this neighborhood he was making so much money on the side soliciting bribes that now he could eat tenderloin instead. Another version of that story says that the officers who worked in the Tenderloin received a “hazard pay” bonus for working in such a violent area, and thus were able to afford the good cut of meat. Yet another story, also likely apocryphal, is that the name is a reference to the “loins” of prostitutes.
The reason I share this information about San Francisco, is because much like the Tenderloin- Skid Row has what could roundly be called an unsavory past as well as present. Yet, unlike the Tenderloin- which garners an actual shout-out on Bay Area maps- Skid Row is something all of Los Angeles, and even it seems, the business elite of DT, would rather sweep under the rug. For shame. It won’t be that easy.
Skid Row is still the homeless capitol of America– holding steady with about 4,000 individuals either on the streets or sleeping in the Missions on any given night. By all accounts these numbers are set to increase this year because of the still struggling economy and the early Parolee Realignment Program, AB 109. Skid Row is widely believed to house upwards of 600 convicted sex offenders within its 50 blocks. Mention kids in Skid Row to any of the local stakeholders and watch them get cagey real fast. I’m still trying to figure out what the City’s official position on children is here. Thousands of addicts of all sorts live in Skid Row, which in turn keeps a steady stream of drug dealers, needle exchange facilities, alcohol and narcotic rehabilitation services and “harm reduction” housing in play.
The trash on our streets is positively third world- as is the wildly out of control rat population which pours out nightly from the many uncovered storm drains to feed upon the discarded food clogging up our utterly filthy gutters.
Homelessness does NOT have to mean trash clogged public spaces- the trash comes mostly from illegal dumping of local wholesale Toy district businesses’ and curbside food distribution from otherwise well-intentioned charitable groups who often pass out large Styrofoam containers with food that ends up on the ground because of a lack of trash cans.
Let me take this moment to further expound on Skid Row being the City of Los Angeles’ homeless food distribution center- how can we- as a city- as a new and revitalizing downtown, make this work in a more ecologically sound manner? Feeding the thousands of people who live here in the Missions and on the streets daily should really be newly scrutinized so as to make sure people are being nourished properly but ALSO that WE are being good stewards of the land. There is precedence for mass feedings in a large city we might look to for guidance- there is a place in India called the Golden Temple, Amritsar- and within this temple a “community kitchen” called Guru Ka Langar which provides round the clock meals for roughly 50,000 visitors and pilgrims daily.
Food and tea is constantly being prepared round the clock. I have not been to this temple- but I am extremely curious as to the sanitary conditions in the surrounding neighborhood where such crowds come to be fed.
Since this temple has been feeding such large numbers of people since the fifteenth century- predating our Skid Row Missions by hundreds of years—what can we learn from them about feeding large numbers of people daily, yet keeping the neighborhood orderly and clean? I have a feeling a lot.
Feeding the hungry is a sacred task that should be supported by the City in a more efficient way that does not leave the district filthy and rodent infested.
Public urination and defection are common in Skid Row- so common as to leave a stench on many sidewalks so strong than even lengthy rainstorms can’t wash away the smell. While recently walking these 50 blocks with another Skid Row resident- we found over 60 street lights out before we called it a night and gave up counting. We have several LAPD video cameras in known high crime areas which could be valuable tools in keeping the neighborhood safe- yet, come to find out- they have not been in use for years??? W.T.Frick???
None of the problems I just laid out are unfixable. Skid Row was designed as a place to put all of LA’s problem people- it can be redesigned- and I’m not talking about pushing the homeless people out either- I’m talking about basic city services that are not being maintained. Lighting, garbage, rodent control, monitoring video cameras—let’s start with these things- where are you at DTLA business community? Where ARE you at on this stuff, huh? I’m looking at you….and you are erasing us off your map! And these mostly cosmetic issues just scratch the surface- they are the low hanging fruit…because this blog only deals with what happens in the public space in Skid Row. Some of the deeper more structural problems here, while of interest to me, are things I am still learning about.
For the record, I certainly do have neighborhood pride- as do countless others I have encountered who live here. We all want the best for our community. We want not to be ignored. We want a bright vision for our future. For starters, we want to be on the map.