Councilmember Huizar’s “Complete Streets Day” Resolution Rings Hollow in the Completely Disregarded Streets of Skid Row

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                               
 Contact: Pete White, Los Angeles Community Action Network (213) 434-1594

Councilmember Huizar’s “Complete Streets Day” Resolution Rings Hollow in the Completely Disregarded Streets of Skid Row

LOS ANGELES — This morning Councilmember Huizar introduced his Complete Streets Day Resolution at the Los Angeles City Council meeting. In doing so, he also introduced the many contradictions embedded in his political rhetoric that plague Council District 14—the district he is responsible for.  Today City Councilmember Jose Huizar confirmed what his low-income and homeless constituents already know – that while his district covers all of Downtown LA, he is keenly and solely interested in representing the affluent and business community.

“Complete Streets,” the resolution reads, “by improving public safety and democratizing transit options, connect neighborhoods, create destinations, support a vibrant street life, encourage active lifestyles and contribute to green space and strategies for dealing with trash, storm weather and water pollution.”  Yet not one street nominated by Councilmember Huizar for prioritization in his recent Downtown LA newsletter is among those prioritized by Skid Row residents for urgent attention and investment.

Huizar’s support for Complete Streets Day highlights the growing divide – a Dirty Divide – in Council District 14 that separates Skid Row and the “New Downtown.” West of Main Street you find basic amenities such as trash cans and clean sidewalks, as well as luxury amenities including public parking spaces that have been converted into recreation areas for the affluent. You actually find foosball tables, his and her swings, tables, barstools and benches along many streets and sidewalks.  Police enforcement of people on the sidewalks is practically non-existent, with restaurant and shop owners legally and illegally placing tables and chairs on the public sidewalk, oftentimes blocking most of the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, in the Skid Row community, simply sitting down to rest on a public sidewalk puts you at risk of being cited or arrested. The irony, of course, is that no street furniture is made available for the residents of Skid Row leaving them no choice but to fall prey to laws that are selectively enforced.  There are no bus benches, few trash cans, and limited/non-working public restrooms.  As one Skid Row resident said, “I guess they expect us to stand up all day…but that is impossible.”  Residents know all too well the penalties for placing a chair or crate on the sidewalk:  jail, citations, loss of personal property or all of the above.

In April 2013 LA CAN released its report entitled, The Dirty Divide in Downtown Los Angeles: A Call for Public Health Equity in Skid Row, to highlight the vast public health inequities faced by poor and homeless residents living in Downtown LA. The report, complete with recommendations, provides a framework to address the lack of public health infrastructure in Skid Row. Additionally, LA CAN members and other community residents joined the Skid Row Working Group convened by Council District 14 staff in hopes of working collaboratively to fulfill the promise of “complete streets.” Sadly, months have passed and the absence of street furniture and basic public health amenities still remain…so much for complete streets in the areas most in need.

We believe Downtown LA – and all of the resources that come with it – can and should be used to uplift and benefit all residents. Poor downtown residents know all too well the trappings of political sound-bites and experience something toxically different than the public proclamations uttered by politicians. This Dirty Divide along Main Street in Downtown LA takes us back to a Los Angeles where redlining and restrictive covenants were the norm and we can ill afford to return to that place.

The Dirty Divide: A Call for Public Health Equity in Skid Row
Map: Trash Cans of Downtown Los Angeles, April 2013
Map: Redline Amended Map March, 2013


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