Skid Row Neighborhood Advocacy Amid the Downtown LA Community Plan Update

Diego Gomez (Urban Planning) in partnership with Los Angeles Poverty Department

The Los Angeles Poverty Department, founded in 1985 in Skid Row as the first arts program for homeless people in Los Angeles and the first performance group in the nation made up principally of homeless people, has organized to raise the Skid Row community’s concerns to the City of Los Angeles regarding the new Downtown Los Angeles Community Plan. Through art exhibits like Back 9: Golf and Zoning Policy in Los Angeles and How to House 7,000 People in Skid Row, the LA Poverty Department has brought together Skid Row service providers, grass roots organizations and community members to champion their vision to the Department of City Planning. Through this process, the LA Poverty Department with other Skid Row community organizations have formed a coalition known as the Skid Row Now & 2040 Coalition to advocate for a humanitarian land use policy for Skid Row.

The research fellow worked with the Coalition to prepare community responses addressing the Coalition’s Vision Plan demanding neighborhood preservation, health and wellbeing, neighborhood engagement and participation, and development opportunity enhancement and investment. The responses were shared with Skid Row residents and advocates as issues to present to the Department of City Planning’s public hearing on the Downtown Community Plan. The responses highlighted the community’s concerns to the various community plan drafts released in June 2019, Summer 2020, and Fall 2020. The drafts incorporated community feedback; however, they did not address many critical issues facing the Skid Row community. The public hearing was the final opportunity for the Skid Row community to express their concerns to the Department of City Planning and petition for changes before the Community Plan is approved and reviewed by the Planning Commission. The Skid Row community’s efforts to revise the community plan is critical not only for Skid Row and Downtown LA, but the entire city. The community plan will influence the policies, plans, and implementation programs that frame LA’s long-term priorities, and the Downtown Community Plan is the first community plan in the city to apply new zoning tools developed as part of the comprehensive update to the City of Los Angeles’ Zoning Code, which will affect all neighborhood community plans once they are updated.