Skid Row Testimony via Hollywood by Tom Grode

On Tuesday January 8th I picked up a copy of the new LA Weekly and read the cover story.  Later on I went to the public monthly Board Meeting of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council and was one of the thirty people or so in the audience.

As I’ve reflected on this cover story I have some thoughts I’d like to share in hopes it helps spur dialogue.

Hollywood's Urban Cleansing (from the LA WEEKLY)"12,878 mostly Latinos are pushed out by City Hall, high rents and hipsters"  By Patrick Range McDonald Thursday, Jan 3 2013

Hollywood’s Urban Cleansing (from the LA Weekly)
“12,878 mostly Latinos are pushed out by City Hall, high rents and hipsters”
By Patrick Range McDonald Thursday, Jan 3 2013

I moved to DTLA from Santa Monica in May 2012 and live in what’s called the Old Bank District.  Since my orientation is west, not east, it took several days for me to even realize Skid Row and the Old Bank District are neighboring communities.

I became involved in a Skid Row/Los Angeles community volunteer effort called Operation Facelift Skid Row which for me just meant on Saturday for a couple hours I helped sweep the streets.  Over the months I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with some of the Skid Row community leaders .  Because of my experience over the past several months, this LA Weekly article did more than speak to me, it practically yelled at me.

What I got out of the article was when Hollywood was a mess (prostitutes and teenage runaways lining the streets, drugs, gangs), there was also a large and unified Hispanic family residential population doing a heroic job working to keep the area stable and safe.  I lived in North Hollywood during that time and all I knew about was the mess.

When “big money” started coming into Hollywood based on city leaders deciding Hollywood needed a major face lift because of it’s historic and cultural importance, during this transition over the past ten years, Hispanics have gradually been moving out mainly due to major jumps in rent.  Them leaving means the healthy rooted community of Hollywood leaving.

For now and in the near future, Hollywood is a huge success story compared to what it was fifteen years ago, but the clear implication in the article is eventually Hollywood will pay a heavy price for her healthy community infrastructure to be so weakened.

This article is ringing in my ears since it so closely parallels my own experience in Skid Row/DTLA since May 2012.

Living in Santa Monica, my understanding of Skid Row was a chaotic and dangerous mess on the streets; some large non-profits creating a safe world in which to operate from and it’s good for outsiders to come down for a special event like helping feed the homeless on Thanksgiving but only a fool would actually walk the streets.

My experience these past months has been the exact opposite.  I personally wouldn’t want to be on the streets of Skid Row at midnight but not only do I feel comfortable on the streets from morning to about eight at night, I feel privileged walking about on streets that have such a profound sense of love and community.  I don’t think many people know this is happening on the streets of Skid Row in the midst of all the serious challenges facing both the people and the streets.

Many non-profits, community groups, coalitions, individuals, and initiatives/projects in Skid Row are bearing good fruit (figure I better put in a tree reference).

In looking at what I’ve experienced in Skid Row as well as downtown as a whole, and what was in this LA Weekly cover story, my question is to what extent is the same tragic mistake made in the development of Hollywood in the process of taking place in DTLA.

By Tom Grode

Blogger’s note: The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Trees on San Pedro Street Project editrix, Ms. McNenny. This is a Community improvement blog and not faith-based.

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