The effort to create a neighborhood council representing residents of DTLA's Skid Row failed in an April special election, but a city panel this week gave hope to advocates who challenged the result.
The panel of officials from other neighborhood councils recommended Wednesday that the city create the Skid Row Neighborhood Council or hold another election, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The April election rejected the proposal by just 60 votes, and advocates led by General Jeff Page said the vote was tainted, KPCC reported.
- Board members of the Downtown LA Neighborhood Council interfered in the election through a front organization called "Unite DTLA," which sent an email blast opposing the proposal under the council's logo and address, Page argued. (Downtown council members said they had nothing to do with the emails.)
- The election allowed online voting, which is banned in other neighborhood council elections. Advocates said that the homeless people who make up a large portion of Skid Row's residents were disadvantaged by such voting, since they may not have access to computers or smart phones, the Times reported.
The panel accepted the advocates' challenges to the election in making its recommendation, the Times reported:
... the panel — made up of officials the city selected from other neighborhood councils — noted that Berman and other downtown council members had not investigated who sent the emails. Nor did they repudiate them, allowing the impression to stand that the downtown council — which took no position — had opposed the breakaway bid, panelists said.
Right now, Skid Row falls under the Downtown Los Angeles and the Historic Cultural neighborhood councils. But Skid Row residents say they don’t have enough of a voice in these groups. They want to bring more facilities to the 50-block area’s unhoused residents—more public restrooms, subsidized housing, showers and parks.
“We want our own independent voice," Charles Porter, a member of the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation committee, told LAist. "The community has been asking for more green space, more resources for homeless families. They want development, safe spaces, social spaces, a community center. They're what people in any neighborhood would want.”
But some developers are nervous about a Skid Row Neighborhood Council fighting new real estate projects. Scott Gray, director of operations for Downtown developer Capital Foresight, told LA Downtown News that he’s warning people in the community that the creation of a Skid Row Neighborhood Council would “be a huge symbolic blow against growth and development.”
It's now up to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment to decide whether to accept the recommendations. It has 60 days to decide whether to proceed with an investigation or a new election, KPCC reported.