Skid Row Neighborhood Council inches closer to reality

“General” Jeff Page, who is known to L.A.’s homeless as “The Mayor of Skid Row.
Jeff in front of a Skid Row mural he helped get installed on San Julian Street in the middle of Skid Row.

Los Angeles City Hall got Skid Row activists fucked up.  After less than 100 votes stopped the formation of a Skid Row Neighborhood Council (SRNC) activists challenged the election and according to the LA Times, are one step closer to brining much needed financial resources to the areas many nonprofits.  Kudos to friend of the blog General Jeff and Skid Row supporters like Ice Cube for leading the charge.

From the LA Times:

A Los Angeles panel late Wednesday recommended that the city award skid row a separate neighborhood council or order a new election in the epicenter of Los Angeles homelessness.

During five hours of discussion and comments that referenced both Martin Luther King Jr. and attorney Johnny Cochrane Jr., homeless and other skid row residents accused the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council of using a “front group” called Unite DTLA to illegally campaign against their bid to break away from the rest of the central city and form their own board. Advocates contended that Unite used the downtown council’s logo, database and server to send out emails urging a no vote on their proposal, which was narrowly defeated last month.

At the hearing, downtown council President Patti Berman protested that her group had nothing to do with the email campaign, and said she and other downtown residents were as much dupes of Unite DTLA as the people of skid row.

“Someone seems to have attempted to emulate a valid [downtown council] email,” said Berman, adding she had replied to the email by demanding the sender stop using her council’s logo. “No one would like to find out more than me who’s responsible for this.”

But panel members noted that neither Berman or other council members had investigated who sent the emails or directly repudiated the implication that they endorsed stopping the skid row secession.

“The endorsement went out and it was never retracted,” said panel chairman David Greene, past president of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council.

Panel members also expressed reservations about online balloting, which is banned in neighborhood council races citywide but was allowed in the skid row vote. Carlos Ferreyra of the Greater Valley Glen Neighborhood Council said online voting disadvantaged homeless people who have no ready access to computers or smart phones.

“I would like to see the election redone, but my concern is we might have the same result if we don’t address online voting in a much more equitable manner,” Ferreyra said.

“We’ll be looking at this very closely,” said Grayce Liu, the neighborhood empowerment office’s general manager. “It’s rare for a challenge to affect a whole election.”

General Jeff Page, who led the skid row secession effort and filed the challenges, called the decision “exciting” but added, “Unfortunately we may have to drag out whole community through this whole vote again.”

Berman left before the meeting ended and could not be reached for comment.

During the April election, skid row residents argued that their refurbished welfare hotels and tent cities had been sadly neglected as the rest of downtown boomed, while opponents said the central city was stronger if it spoke with one voice.

The vote came at a tipping point for skid row. As many as 2,000 homeless people and their tents and belongings line the sidewalks in what service providers and police describe as the most squalid conditions in recent memory. At the same time, developers are eyeing moderately priced housing and retail projects in the impoverished neighborhood.

An upscale residential project, the Topaz apartment complex, is under construction between Main and Los Angeles streets. While Main has undergone significant gentrification, Los Angeles — just one block over — has seen little to none. Even deeper into skid row, a live-work loft project is proposed at the old Catalina swimwear headquarters on San Pedro Street across from the Downtown Women’s Center.

The skid row election was the first test of a new city ordinance allowing neighborhood councils to split up. Although some analysts dismiss the city’s neighborhood councils as purely advisory bodies, they have shown flashes of political muscle at City Hall.

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