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The buildings of a homeless housing non-profit organization lie in shambles. Intervention in city plans.


The deteriorated state of the Sanborn Hotel apartments is evident from the sidewalk. Holes have been broken in the wire-reinforced windows on its front. doors AND one of the latches doesn’t work, leaving the building open to intruders, who roam the halls at night turning doorknobs, trying to get into the open apartments.

Inside, a stale odor permeates the hallways, begging for Lysol. The manager’s office is dark and empty, as the residents say from the the last occupant left last summer. In bathroom No. 2 on the second floor there is no water in the toilet but a lot of human waste.

Former tenant James Porter, 75, right, complains about dirty floors and an unsafe environment at Sanborn Hotel Apartments.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

the sanborn it is one of 29 buildings owned by the Skid Row Housing Trust, a non-profit organization that has been a model for housing for the homeless for more than 30 years. But the same model that helped it revive some of the older downtown hotels is now bringing it down.

Earlier this year, trust leaders revealed deepening financial shortfalls that made maintenance of those buildings impossible. His solution, guided by the Los Angeles Department of Housing, was to turn the entire portfolio over to other housing organizations, a process that, at best, would take months of difficult negotiations.

Conditions at the Sanborn, observed last week by The Times, show a much more urgent crisis.

He trust Interim CEO and Chief of Staff Joanne Cordero said in a statement that she is confident the plan remains feasible.

“We remain focused on transitioning our properties to providers who are willing and able to provide ongoing housing and services to our residents,” he said. “We are inspired by our staff who work tirelessly to keep properties and services available to our city’s most vulnerable people. We believe that with adequate funding and the support of key public and private stakeholders, we can successfully transition properties.”

but city Housing officials acknowledged in an interview that Sanborn and other trust buildings are in a state of distress that requires immediate intervention.

Ann Sewill, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Housing, said she will seek authorization from the City Council to exercise the city’s power as creditor to take control of at least some of the trust buildings and provide security and management as needed. .

Sewill said his staff became aware of the emergency while conducting an inventory of the trust buildings to document their financial and physical condition for potential future owners.

What they found, Sewill said, suggested the trust was so starved of cash flow and staff that day-to-day supervision of its buildings was breaking down, a condition exemplified by Sanborn.

The only supervision there was a young man standing on the sidewalk outside. He was wearing a jacket with the emblem of a contracted security company. The residents said that he is the janitor and complained that he was not doing his job.

Jarian Jovan Banks, kneeling, is seen through a broken glass panel of an exit door at Sanborn Hotel Apartments.

When Jarian Jovan Banks, 44, moved into the Sanborn Hotel Apartments in 2016, he said, “There was a receptionist. There wasn’t a lot of foot traffic.” But now, “it’s so bad I don’t feel safe.”

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Jarian Jovan Banks, who has lived in the building since 2016, said it was different when he moved in.

“There was a receptionist,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of foot traffic. You felt safe. Now it’s bad. It’s bad to the point where I don’t feel safe.”

Kris Trattner, co-owner of Nickel Diner, next door to Sanborn, said she has seen a steady escalation of problems since the former manager left.

“I’ve dealt with the riffraff on the street for 14 years, so I know how to play with that,” he said. “But it has risen in the last six months.”

Trattner said she knew several women who chose to leave the building because they felt unsafe. “Non-residents are walking up and down the halls swinging their doors trying to get in,” she said.

Banks said he was involved in an altercation about a month ago when the fire alarm went off at night. Residents found the kitchen filled with smoke and an intruder sitting on a sofa in the dark while something on the stove was burning.

“’Why don’t you turn off the burner so the fire alarm doesn’t go off?’” Banks asked. “He doesn’t live there and he doesn’t care.”

Thirteen of Sanborn’s 41 units have been declared uninhabitable by the City of Los Angeles Housing Authority after tenants left.

Residents said they have little contact with case managers and some tenants cause trouble for others. On the third floor, behind an open door with a roll of toilet paper, a young man looked up from a mattress on the floor, unable to cross his tiny room through a waist-high pile of items, a bicycle on his back. the top. .

The Sanborn, in the 500 block of South Main Street, is one of the trust’s earliest acquisitions and probably its most problematic building. But he is not the only one in crisis. Tenants of two other buildings have filed lawsuits alleging uninhabitable conditions.

In mid-February, the Apartments Dewey Hotel, two blocks south of Sanborn, came under the scrutiny of housing officials after rainwater seeped through its roof and caused mold. So a fire broke out on the second floor. The Housing Authority moved the remaining 22 residents to vacancies in other trust buildings. The Los Angeles Fire Department is investigating the fire as arson.

Due to a recent fire, Dewey Hotel Apartments boarded up and closed.

The Dewey Hotel Apartments, another Skid Row Housing Trust property, has red tags and boarding since mold was discovered and a fire broke out there last month.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

But the Dewey, with its red tags and boards, isn’t entirely unoccupied, housing officials said. The squatters have found a way in through the Senator Hotel, another trust building next door.

The Dewey, built in 1911, and the Sanborn, from 1908, reflect the challenge of maintaining properties that are both old and dated, modeled after the early 20th century hotel model of tiny rooms and communal bathrooms and kitchens. The Sanborn was renovated in 1992 using tax credit financing that involved outside investors with a financial interest in keeping the building in good condition. But those investors walked out on the project after about 15 years, leaving the trust the sole owner with long-term loans owed to the city and state.

Twelve of the trust’s 29 buildings fit that category, said Daniel Huynh, deputy general manager of the Housing Department.

Their age, poor condition and lack of capital investors make them unattractive to the other housing organizations that are being asked to take over the trust’s portfolio.

In recent years, the trust has expanded its portfolio with new construction that has brought architecturally striking facades to slums and provided more up-to-date floor plans with individual bathrooms.

PATH, a statewide homeless service provider and housing developer, is one of the organizations evaluating whether it can take over any of the trust buildings. Executive Director Jennifer Hark Dietz said PATH is looking at 11 buildings, but only the newer ones that still have equity investors.

Even those new buildings can be affected by mechanical and human breakdown.

“We would need to have the capital and operating funds to ensure that the building operates at a livable level,” Hark Dietz said. “It’s not clear in those places where the money would come from.”

Yolanda Cunningham Smith sits in a chair with her walker in front of her.

Yolanda Cunningham Smith, 67, says she was confined to her fifth-floor room at 649 Lofts, a Skid Row Housing Trust property, for two weeks when the lifts broke down.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Yolanda Cunningham Smith, a Navy veteran whose arthritis and nerve damage make it difficult for her to get out of her chair, said she was trapped for more than two weeks on the fifth floor of one of the trust’s newer buildings, the 649 lofts, after the elevator broke down.

The building has a resident manager, a concierge and uniformed security. But its location in the heart of the slum puts its management under stress.

“At night there is no security,” Smith said.

While she was stranded in her apartment one night, she said, the fire alarm kept going off. Each time, a strobe light would flash in her room and the public address system told her to evacuate and not use the elevator.

“It was a new building when I moved in,” he said. “I wouldn’t have even imagined this,” Smith said, adding that the elevator has broken down multiple times.

After spending 16 days in his room, Smith said Thursday the elevator had been fixed Wednesday night and he could return to his job as a tax analyst for H&R Block.

Trespassers are also common at 649 Lofts.

“The other day I went to the garbage dump,” Smith said. “I opened the door. There was someone inside the room. They were hitting the pipe.”

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