Saturday, July 07, 2007
First time I had ever taken part in SCI-Arc's RIDE-Arc. For July, this architectural and urban anthropological tour of downtown Los Angeles looked at Homelessness, Gentrification and Incarceration. From SCI-Arc's L.A. River adjacent location, about 200 of us biked south to an area between the 4th and 6th Street bridges where the homeless of L.A. were sweeped up by the LAPD, then we traveled further south to the Biscuit Company Lofts for a surprising dose of gentrification. (The whole downtown loft explosion is exciting but I wouldn't want to live so far from downtown, Metro Red Line, etc. while having a gazillion factory and manufacturing buildings as neighbors), next we traveled west into Skid Row. Although our numbers caused some attention and concern from the area's residents we had a great informational lecture in front of the Midnight Mission from the night manager and a current resident. Someone asked the resident how long he had been living there and after he yelled back that he'd been there since October, he got applause from everyone which I thought was touching and beautiful. We biked east to the Hart Hotel, an SRO upstairs that has a non-profit clean needle exchange program on the street level. Since the sweeps of homeless people downtown, these non-profit clean needle exchange groups have a harder time helping those people wishing to exchange old needles for new ones. Because of this, the clientèle has shifted to middle class people coming from the suburbs wishing to exchange old needles for new ones rather than from the homeless population.
We then continued west up 3rd Street to Hill Street where we drove past the backside of Grand Central Market, the hopefully someday will be resurrected Angels Flight and ended up in the South Park neighborhood at the soon to open Ralph's. Our numbers in front of this yet to open supermarket made both the store's security guards as well as the neighbors in the balconies across the street question everything.
From there we rode into the Civic Center all the while reclaiming streets from cars to end up across from the new jail opening next door to the LAPD's Parker Center. Finally we ended up at the Twin Towers Men's Jail adjacent to the MTA Building.
I have to share that this was a powerful experience to bike throughout my favorite neighborhood of downtown L.A. But also there was a sense of responsibility I felt I had to learn about what one might think are 3 separate issues that actually overlap considerably...
(photos to come...!)