BIDs Rousting Skid Row Homeless: LA PROTEST blocks traffic FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 8 May 1999 16:11:48 -0700 (PDT)


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http://www.latimes.com/excite/990506/t000040681.html
FWD  Los Angeles Times - Thursday, May 6, 1999

ACTIVISTS CLAIM SKID ROW BIDS ARE ROUSTING HOMELESS

Marla.Dickerson - Times Staff Writer

Homeless advocates blocked traffic for nearly two hours in Los
Angeles' bustling Toy Town area Wednesday to protest what they claim are
attempts by the area's two new Business Improvement Districts to oust
street people from the heart of Skid Row.

The activists claim that the new business-funded cleanup and security
teams are rousting the homeless from the sidewalks, dumping their
belongings and urging police to crack down on Skid Row residents for a
variety of petty offenses.

The complaints come just weeks after Toy Town property owners began
funding private sanitation and security crews to begin patrolling the
eight-block area bounded roughly by 3rd, Los Angeles, 5th and San Pedro
streets and an adjacent 32-block warehouse district.

Police made no arrests in the mostly peaceful protest, but BID
organizers fired a member of their red-shirted bicycle security team
after the guard cursed and threatened a protester. BID officials said the
incident was an isolated one and they deny that their security guards are
harassing the homeless--an assertion that was backed up by the Los
Angeles Police Department.

"I've seen nothing to indicate that [BID security] is violating
anyone's rights or breaking any laws," said Sgt. Joe Sanders of the
LAPD's Central Division.

But protesters said the confrontation, which was captured on
videotape, is proof of the strong-arm tactics being employed by the "red
shirts" in Toy Town.

"A private police force should not be in control of public space,"
said the Rev. Alice Callaghan, director of an area community center who
organized the protest.

The protest underscored the inherent tension between the rights of
merchants and homeless people in urban areas. Homelessness itself is not
a crime, but merchants complain that when the homeless block sidewalks,
urinate in public and leave debris, they are breaking the law.

"My heart is with the homeless people," said Ava Tengco, owner of
Drecar Crafts. "But the red shirts are making this area cleaner and
safer."

Los Angeles has become a leading center for BIDs, which are
geographically defined business districts where merchants or property
owners agree to pay a special assessment to provide extra services. The
city has 20 active BIDs, with 24 more in the planning stages, putting it
on pace to surpass New York City as the nation's BID capital.

The Toy Town BID and its companion Downtown Industrial District BID
are two of L.A.'s newest, with more than $1 million in combined funding.
Their red-shirted safety and sanitation crews hit the streets last month
as part of an effort to polish the area's image.

Callaghan and others worry that means moving the homeless out. She and
about a dozen other activists blocked traffic on Los Angeles Street by
repeatedly crossing at an intersection with a banner reading "Private
Security Guards = Homeless Harassment."

No victims of the alleged harassment showed up to verify the
protesters' claims. But at least two bystanders watching the action said
they had seen private security guards clearing the sidewalks of homeless
people or their possessions over the last month.

Tracey Lovejoy, executive director of the Central City East Assn.,
which oversees the Toy Town and Downtown Industrial District BIDs, denied
that the private guards have engaged in any aggressive actions.

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**



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