City officials, developers and restaurateurs in Los Angeles are touting the renaissance of the city’s once-blighted downtown thanks to an explosion of trendy eateries, chic hotels and luxury apartments that have attracted thousands of new – and generally financially well-off – residents to the neighborhood in recent years.
But just a few blocks south of the area where a set-course sushi meal costs around $200 per person – wine or sake not included – is perhaps the country’s most notorious tent city and a neighborhood that has been labeled the epicenter of homelessness in America: Skid Row.
The area — which has been plagued by vagrancy, high crime rates and unsanitary conditions almost since its development in the 1880s — is an unorganized collection of warehouses, wholesale storefronts and decaying low-rent hotels. Its trash-strewn streets are lined with the blue tarps and fraying tents of those residents unable to afford a solid roof over their heads.
But as development in Downtown Los Angeles steams forward unimpeded, city officials and developers are eyeing Skid Row as possibly the next “up-and-coming” neighborhood – a move causing tensions with advocates and community outreach workers who wonder what this means for the thousands of homeless and itinerant people who currently call the rundown area home.