Housing / 2013
Skid Row 2050
Skid Row 2050 will re-imagine how Skid Row can be transformed into a thriving and sustainable neighborhood that embodies social equity and urban revitalization. Our goal is to create a community-driven housing and neighborhood development plan that prioritizes people and place-making. As the homeless capital of the country, Skid Row is often perceived of as the landmark of social and physical blight: there needs to be a new focused effort to reframe Skid Row as a community of permanently housed residents rather than a space of transition or social isolation. With thousands of long-term residents who call this place home, the neighborhood can no longer be a remnant of the city, shaped by unplanned and unintended development. By re-visioning this area in a cohesive and impactful way, we can begin to stitch Skid Row back into the fabric of Los Angeles.
Our proposed project will lay the groundwork to create a neighborhood development plan through the following three phases- 1) community engagement and research with current and local residents 2) design sessions with national leaders in community development and design, and 3) public exhibition of the community process and visions for Skid Row in 2050.
Phase 1: Community Engagement and Research
The first phase is comprised of interactive design workshops with community members to get their priorities at the core of research. We will develop engagement tools that include a mobile planning kiosk, graphic surveys, and models for interactive design sessions. The outreach and research will serve as a needs assessment for housing, essential public amenities, necessary social services, and public safety. We will look for threats that weaken the social structure and jeopardize the stability of the neighborhood, preventing continuous and positive growth. We will evaluate existing resources and cultural assets, exploring the positives that exist today in the area, something that is often under-exposed. Using the participatory research from Phase 1, we will create a programmatic framework of opportunity for community and housing development.
Phase 2: Design Sessions with Leaders and Community members
The second phase will be a series of design and policy workshops to create a vision of Skid Row in the year 2050. Using the eight indicators developed by LA2050 as a framework for conversation, we will invite thought leaders and community members to brainstorm how the neighborhood priorities would physically manifest in the built environment. We will also design funding opportunities and generate policy recommendations needed to implement the development plan. We plan to invite cross-disciplinary leaders in the field of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, financing and lending, philanthropy, and policy. From the working design sessions, we will produce drafts of a comprehensive neighborhood development plan for Skid Row 2050.
Phase 3: Public Exhibition and Dialog
The third phase will be a public exhibition of the process of developing Skid Row 2050. On display will be the engagement tools, direct community input gathered, and synthesized plans from the working sessions. We plan to curate a series of lectures and community events alongside the public exhibition.
The proposal starts with big ideas and speculation on the possibilities of the future of Skid Row, but we seek to map out concrete steps needed in the short-term, so that we can attain the 2050 vision. Skid Row can embody all the positive indicators of a flourishing city, composed of sustainable affordable housing, safe attractive public spaces, and economic opportunity, that is connected to the larger region.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
The project is spearheaded by the Skid Row Housing Trust, a non-profit affordable housing developer that has been building homes in Skid Row for more than twenty years. Our greatest achievement to date is the development of over 1,600 units of high-quality, sustainable, and affordable homes for the lowest income, formerly homeless, and disabled population. The Star Apartments, currently under construction, builds on our successes by pushing innovations in social service delivery, architectural design, and construction. The Star will be the home to 100 formerly homeless individuals. In addition to a full medical clinic on the ground floor, the Department of Health Services will be headquartered on-site. By implementing pre-fabricated modular housing, the project uses new construction methods for cost-savings and time-efficient construction. With the inclusion of over 15,000 SF of community building activity space, the Star will be the hub for social interaction between all the Trust’s projects. The project will be the first of its kind for supportive housing in Los Angeles.
We believe that shelter alone is not enough to break the cycle of poverty; by providing intensive on-site social services along with therapeutic activities such as yoga, gardening and art classes, we have been able to see personal transformations within our resident community. We have successfully partnered with many financing institutions, public agencies, council members, service organizations, foundations, and other community stakeholders to develop our housing projects.
In addition to service-rich environments, we have partnered with leading architects and designers, such as Michael Maltzan Architecture, Koning Eizenberg Architecture, and Killefer Flammang Architects, to bring high design and high-quality homes to our residents. Our projects push for design equity and bring design excellence to populations who need it most. Our work has won accolades from AIA/LA, Westside Urban Forum, SCANPH, CSH, and others and include an AIA/HUD Secretary Excellence in Affordable Housing Design Award. Our projects have been included in numerous publications including the NY Times, LA Times, Architectural Record, NPR, Atlantic Cities, the Wall Street Journal, Dwell Magazine, local news channels and beyond.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
During the community engagement portion, we will work with local partners, including the Downtown Women’s Center, in addition to the Skid Row Housing Trust Resident Ambassadors for outreach to participants. Urban design charrettes led by James Rojas (www.placeit.org) will facilitate the community’s articulation of the needed elements necessary to create home and place. We will conduct surveys and street outreach to get a comprehensive understanding of the community and their needs. We will work with Rosten Woo (www.wehavenoart.net) to develop graphic materials that synthesize the research to ensure legibility and public consumption. Additional collaborators are anticipated and will be announced.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
The project will be evaluated on participation, process, and product. We will use both quantitative and qualitative metrics to monitor the project’s success. For the engagement phase, we will rely on meaningful participation of the Skid Row population. To monitor our success in facilitating this inclusion, we plan to keep a scorecard of participation through all three phases, tracking the number of people in the workshops and levels of participant satisfaction, to ensure the community felt their voices were heard. We plan to use several engagement tactics with a goal of reaching at least 2,000 participants through workshop attendance and surveys. For process improvement, we will include feedback loops between attendees and facilitators. We will use evaluation surveys for input after each session to understand what exercises were successful and effective. To ensure successful product delivery, the exhibition will include a participatory element that will allow the public to comment, critique, and enrich the conversation. At each phase, we will measure success by attaining a 75% participant satisfaction rate, based on content, inclusion, and engagement. We plan to hold multiple sessions in each phase, building upon feedback to confirm high-impact events.
This community development plan is envisioned as a concrete way of holistically addressing the social and physical problems of the area and a way to begin creating pathways to permanent solutions. If we can bring larger dialog and attention to this problem, with community support, we see this as a successful project. Homelessness is a social issue that no Angeleno can avoid. The project will begin the conversation on how to end homelessness, unit by unit, block by block, one neighborhood at a time. Success will be realized when stakeholders begin to account for the validity of the voices from those already on Skid Row who consider the neighborhood their home.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
The goal of the project is to create an inclusive and consensus-based model for healthy community development. We plan to develop policy suggestions and design possibilities of the built environment in Skid Row, transforming the lowest-income area of Los Angeles. Additionally, we want the existing population in Skid Row to have a vested interest in their community and increase a sense of ownership and buy-in for the area.
The ultimate goal of this project is to create a living product that creates an infrastructure for development and inclusion that fosters growth and transformation in the area. This community plan will raise awareness to a part of Los Angeles that has constantly been swept under the rug. This project will bring attention to a problem that is often marginalized and seen as someone else’s problem thus perpetuating the social injustice. By bringing homelessness and the lack of affordable housing to the forefront, we can begin a dialog that puts the most vulnerable at the center of the conversation. The Downtown Renaissance has never included Skid Row; this is an opportunity to make sure it does not continue to be left out of the conversation.
We aim to expand the dialog around the impact and possibilities of housing. Rather than just defined as a roof over one’s head, we hope to activate and push the performative aspects of housing. We want to redefine housing as intentional components of daily life that have been thoughtfully designed, developed, and operated. We strive to serve as an example of how housing and the built environment can transform lives and be an active part of the fabric and identity of Los Angeles.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
A successful project will get multiple, thoughtful visions for a sustainable Skid Row in 2050 based on community engagement and community priorities. The goal of the project is to visually represent and create solutions to what a successful 2050 will actually look like. We don’t just want to talk about it, we want to collectively envision solutions and create a feasible and comprehensive road map to get there.