BLUE BOOK – GREEN PAPER

EXHIBITION designed by Robert M. Ochshorn curated by LAPD / SRHM&A’s John Malpede.

Nov. 22, 2022 – Jan. 28, 2023
OPENING RECEPTION: Nov. 22, 5-7PM
Skid Row History Museum & Archive
Open Tue, Thu: 10am -5pm and Sat: 2-5pm.

PRESS CONFERENCE: Nov. 22, 2022

The Skid Row Now & 2040 Coalition releases its policy paper Containment and Community: History of Skid Row and its Role in the Downtown Community Plan with the exhibit Blue Book – Green Paper. The Blue Book’s vision, written in 1976, saved Skid Row’s housing.

About the Exhibition

Bunker Hill, the triumph of capital over community. Tens of thousands displaced.  Get ready for Bunker Hill 2 –the sequel. A plan to raze Skid Row.

That was the situation in 1973 when Tom Bradley took office. The plan had been adopted before Bradley took office. People didn’t like it. Residents didn’t want to lose their apartments, housing activists were beside themselves, Developers in other parts of town wanted those redevelopment tax dollars for themselves.

Mayor Bradley Stopped the process.
Out of nowhere an alternative plan appeared. The Blue Book. In it, community activists laid out a plan to save the housing in Skid Row –and to protect it from development. City Council adopted this plan: no market rate housing would be allowed between Main and Alameda, 3rd St. and 7th St.

Now you can see the Blue Book plan come to life.
One Book, one table. See the activists who made the plan emerge from the Book. Turn a page and Catherine Morris jumps out of the book, her image appears on the table and she tells us how she got the idea to intervene in the planning process. Turn another page and thematically linked photos, videos, audio, and paper documents, pop up, and are projected. The show is designed by Robert M. Ochshorn curated by LAPD / SRHM&A’s John Malpede. Ochshorn is the co-founder of San Francisco based, REDUCT, Inc. where he designs media interfaces for extending human perceptive and expressive capabilities.

Why Now?
A new plan for downtown is about to go to City Council. It will define what’s possible in downtown development for the next 20 years. Now, there’s a sequel to the Blue Book Plan — The Green Paper (‘cause it’s got a green cover). Skid Row Now & 2040, a neighborhood coalition of grass roots organizations and residents, has been in dialogue with the planners to ensure that the final plan will benefit current residents of Skid Row: including housing for everyone, neighborhood amenities and no displacement. These concerns and recommendations are articulated in our paper, Containment and Community: The History of Skid Row and its Role in the Downtown Community Plan.

Come see The Blue Book come to life and get yourself a copy of The Green Paper. Help ensure this successor to the Blue Book is adopted and has a long, and fruitful life.

About the Exhibition

This exhibition Blue Book – Green Paper, is a sequel to our 2015 Blue Book / Silver Book exhibition. Read all about it and a more detailed account of that history, below.

Can Urban Design Empower a Low-Income Neighborhood?  (April 2015)

In 1948 Los Angeles business and political leaders established the Community Redevelopment Agency for the purpose of reversing the decline of Bunker Hill, a previously upscale neighborhood in the heart of Los Angeles.  On Oct 31, 1951, the CRA officially designated Bunker Hill an Urban Renewal project. November 7, 1956, the “Tentative Plan for the Bunker Hill Urban Renewal Project” was adopted by City Council and 11 years later amended by the Council on October 30, 1967.

In 1966 Mayor Sam Yorty asked Downtown businessmen to confront the blight of Skid Row, by forming, The Central City Development Committee.   In 1968 they generated their plan for the area, “The Central City East Project”. Mayor Yorty’s Central City Development Committee had proposed cajoling and coercing the skid row population and downtown’s missions to consolidate in a 3-block area at 6th Street and Central Avenue. According to the report this consolidation of Skid Row would make possible and engender “massive development” in the remainder of the Skid Row area.

The city asked the Community Redevelopment Agency to create a redevelopment project area for the entire Central City. In developing their plan for central city redevelopment, the CRA commissioned an academic study of Skid Row that implicitly critiqued the assumptions, perceptions and conclusions generated by the Central City Development Committee. (eg. Vanderkooi) While the CRA was developing their plan, a second ad hoc committee of civic leaders was formed and in 1972, The Committee for Central City Planning, Inc. after 18 months of study released their own refined, and tempered report in 1972. Their report, Los Angeles 1972/1990futuristically imagined the city as it would be in1990, if their plan were realized.  The report, produced by a hired firm of consulting architects and urban planners was designed in a coffee table book format, with a bold silver cover, it became known as the “Silver Book”.

Instead of concentrating Skid Row on 3 blocks of Central Ave as the Central City Committee Plan would have – The Silver Book simply proposed the creation of a detoxification / rehabilitation center, more centrally located near San Pedro Street, and claimed, from its 1990 futuristic vantage point, that all Skid Row residents would be “rehabilitated”, within a few years and disappear into the general population: and so, Skid Row would be disappeared –but, magically, no one would be displaced.

Tom Bradley was elected Mayor in 1973.  He also backed downtown redevelopment, and on JULY 18, 1975 the LA City Council Approved the CRA’s Plan for the Central Business District Redevelopment Project, which was generally in accord with the Silver Book Plan.

However, despite its adoption, the plan had engendered significant opposition from large and small property owners in other parts of Los Angeles. They had witnessed the urban renewal of Bunker Hill and didn’t like the Community Redevelopment Agency’s broad authorities: to condemn private property, their ability to resell it to private developers, and their power to keep the augmented taxes from development in their areas to spend as they saw fit, rather than being returned to the general funds of the City, the County, and the School District.

Though coming from a far different place politically, affordable housing activists were also outraged by urban renewal projects, like Bunker Hill, that displaced entire communities and they doubted the CRA’s determination to create equivalent housing elsewhere. They viewed tax increment monies going to the CRA as funds that would otherwise go to the County’s social programs.

Five months after the plan’s adoption, on on December 11, Mayor Bradley wrote a letter to the City Council that proposed a moratorium on the  Central Business District Redevelopment Project, and the appointment of a Citizen’s Advisory Committee to advise on the projects future. On December 19, 1975, on the recommendation of its planning committee the City Council voted to enact the moratorium. The 19 member Citizen’s Committee was comprised of 4 citizens appointed by the mayor and one each by L.A.’s 15 City Council members. The Committee was charged to address seven specific questions about the alleged economic benefit to be derived from the development and to offer other recommendations on the plan. They wrote their own report, and with qualifications and advice, they ultimately signed off on the development plan.

In working toward their findings, the Citizens Advisory Committee conducted public hearings. A group of young activists and planners concerned with changing the conversation about the future of Skid Row appeared and testified at the public hearings.  They then brought Leonard Blumberg of Temple University, who’d written extensively on skid rows, to Los Angeles to look at Skid Row LA and meet with willing Citizens Committee members. Blumberg wrote a report with Jeff Dietrich and Catherine Morris from the Catholic Worker, Chuck Elsesser of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Gary Squier of The Community Design Center, and The Public Inebriate Program Director Ron Peterson that they addressed to the Citizen’s Advisory Committee and distributed to City Council. The activist plan proposed saving the housing in Skid Row and in so doing it established boundaries for the neighborhood that would become generally recognized. The activists argued that no miracle cures were at hand and that without housing in Skid Row people would be displaced to other communities, Westlake, Long Beach, San Pedro, and other LA communities. 

In writing their report, The Citizen’s Committee offered a series of recommendations to the city that went far beyond the seven specific economic benefit questions they were charged to answer. Importantly, their analysis of the Skid Row situation was taken directly from the recommendations of the activists. The activists’ entire study, (including chapters written by Blumberg, Jeff Dietrich of the Catholic Worker, Gary Squire of Community Design Center, and Ron Peterson of the Public Inebriate Program) was submitted as an appendix to the Citizens Advisory Committee’s blue covered report (thus becoming “The Blue Book”.) The Citizens Advisory Committee urged the city in the strongest possible language to enact the activists’ ideas.

When the Central City Redevelopment Plan again moved forward, with adoption by LA City Council, the activist ideas –of saving the housing on Skid Row and recognizing the boundaries of the neighborhood to prevent development—were incorporated in the new plan.

Mayor Bradley appointed the progressive Ed Helfelt as CRA director, and he creatively oversaw the implementation of the plan’s mandate to save the housing. A range of housing was created from temporary emergency housing to permanent supportive housing. Initially the CRA, provided funds to several private hotel owners, to renovate individual hotels, including The Brownstone and The Lorane, but quickly recognized this as a misstep. The CRA then created SRO Housing, Inc. a non-profit and a much more reliable partner.  Created in 1984, SRO Housing began buying hotels the following year and their first renovated hotel The Florence came online in 1986. Several years later (1989) Alice Callahan and others formed Skid Row Housing Trust, a second non-profit whose mission was to buy up, renovate and preserve the low-income housing within Skid Row. The Trust focused on acquiring properties that would preserve the boundaries of Skid Row, with their first three acquisitions being hotels on Main Street.

John Malpede
April 2015

Press Conference

The Skid Row Now & 2040 Coalition releases its policy paper Containment and Community: The History of Skid Row and its Role in the Downtown Community Plan with the exhibit Blue Book – Green Paper. The Blue Book’s vision, written in 1976, saved Skid Row’s housing.

The new community plan for Downtown has been signed off on by the City’s Zoning Commissioners with the next stop being City Council’s, Planning and Land Use Management, (PLUM) committee. The final version of the City’s DTLA 2040 community plan is expected to be signed into law in early 2023. Skid Row Now & 2040, a neighborhood coalition of grass roots organizations and residents, has been in dialogue with the planners to ensure that the final plan will benefit current residents of Skid Row: including housing for everyone, neighborhood amenities and no displacement. These concerns and recommendations are articulated in our policy paper, Containment and Community: The History of Skid Row and its Role in the Downtown Community Plan. Historian and author Dr. Cathy Gudis and Skid Row Now & 2040 Coalition members from Los Angeles Poverty Department, United Coalition East Prevention Project, Los Angeles Catholic Worker, Los Angeles Community Action Network and other Skid Row residents and leaders will address these concerns at the press conference.

This press conference advocates for:

  • Retaining the IX1 Zone, which allows only affordable housing to be developed within a designated portion of Skid Row, from 5th to 7th Streets and east of San Pedro Street to Central Avenue.
  • Expanding the IX1 Zone to represent the historical boundaries of Skid Row, from 3rd to 7th Streets and from Main to Alameda Streets.
  • Establishing a Skid Row district council for self-representation by residents (housed and unhoused) and workers within the historical Skid Row boundaries.
  • Supporting elements of DTLA 2040 that foster a healthy and sustainable Skid Row neighborhood.
  • Further developing the City’s new inclusionary zoning study to complement DTLA 2040’s proposed Community Benefits Program in order to achieve transformative levels of acutely low-income housing units.

Our call to action is based on the history of Skid Row and community efforts to preserve low-income housing as envisioned in the 1976 Blue Book Plan (the subject of the exhibition on view). Containment and Community uses the Blue Book as a historical touchstone. Importantly, it debunks the false narratives exploiting this history that are being employed to create market rate development throughout Skid Row, and to displace and subjugate current residents. The paper, Containment and Community, evidences the vitality and achievements of the Skid Row community and how and what the community needs to continue its development.

“Skid Row, as a historically multiracial and working people’s neighborhood, has remarkable grassroots social networks, cultural assets, and housing that spans income levels and serves majority minority community members,” claims Cathy Gudis, UC-Riverside professor of history and Skid Row Now & 2040 Coalition member. “Our goal for DTLA 2040 is to achieve the greatest amount low-income housing with the highest quality of life for all, without dismantling existing social infrastructure or displacing existing residents, both housed and unhoused.”

An equitable plan for the future of Downtown Los Angeles must include present and past Skid Row needs that have never been met. – Charles Porter, United Coalition East Prevention Project

Lecture - Containment and Community: The History of Skid Row and Its Role in the Downtown Community Plan

LECTURE – Nov 17, 2022, 6:30pm @ The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
Containment and Community: The History of Skid Row and its Role in the Downtown Community Plan

Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) is a multidisciplinary arts group whose artists live and work in Skid Row. At MOCA’s and Judith F. Baca’s invitation LAPD has focused this evening to weigh in on the City’s forthcoming new community plan for downtown.

Skid Row Now & 2040 is a coalition of Skid Row grassroots groups and residents, including LAPD, that has been in dialogue with the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, the City’s Planning Commissioners. and City Council for the past five years, as the City has been developing its new zoning and downtown community plan, “DTLA 2040 Plan,” that will go to City Council for approval in the near future. The Skid Row Now & 2040 coalition was formed to ensure that the concerns and vision of current Skid Row residents are incorporated into the City’s plan. While many of Skid Row Now & 2040’s concerns, articulated by Skid Row residents and workers, have been incorporated into the DTLA 2040 Plan, more still need the City’s attention. The unique history of Skid Row, which includes previous planning decisions that saved the low-income housing in the neighborhood and prevented displacement, remains as important today, as the City grapples with creating housing and neighborhoods for people currently unhoused.

Working with the Skid Row Now & 2040 coalition, University of California, Riverside Professor Dr. Catherine Gudis, Scholar in Residence at Los Angeles Poverty Department’s Skid Row History Museum & Archive, has just released a paper, Containment and Community: The History of Skid Row and Its Role in the Downtown Community Plan, that articulates this neighborhood history and the reasoning behind Skid Row Now & 2040’s vision for Skid Row’s future.

Dr. Gudis will be joined by Skid Row Now & 2040 coalition members, Coach Ron Crockett of Skid Row Brigade, Charles Porter, United Coalition East Prevention Project, and John Malpede, Los Angeles Poverty Department. Together they will unpack the history of Skid Row and detail the coalition’s work and goals.

Judith F. Baca conceived of World Wall: A Vision of the Future Without Fear as “an arena for dialogue” for the greatest challenges we face and the solutions we imagine when we think and act collectively. Judith F. Baca: World Wall Public Programming looks to embody these ideals of activism and imagination. The series of free programs, which takes place within the space of the exhibition itself, highlights the intersection of environmental and social justice across many disciplines and draws attention to activists, writers, organizers, and artists working to instigate real change within the city.

Judith F. Baca: World Wall is organized by Anna Katz, Curator, with Anastasia Kahn, Curatorial Assistant, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Admission to Judith F. Baca: World Wall is free courtesy of Carolyn Clark Powers.