Frustrated over what they said is a lack of attention and slow process to upgrade utilities at a Skid Row hotel housing very-low-income and homeless people, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Friday criticized Los Angeles city officials and the Department of Water and Power for the delays.
The 208-room Madison Hotel was purchased by the foundation in 2017 and opened in mid-2019, and AHF officials said they’ve poured almost $11 million into the building — $8 million to purchase it, $2.4 million to renovate rooms and $150,000 on elevator improvements.
But the foundation’s representatives said they’ve experience shoddy electricity and a circuit breaker that constantly blows out, and the hotel needs improvements to its plumbing, maintenance that AHF claims has been put off by the city.
Michael Weinstein, president of AHF, said the building was supposed to receive “concierge service” from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, but people have had to leave because the elevator hasn’t worked and other issues. AHF officials said just under half of the Madison’s rooms are currently occupied.
“We were notified that there was a lawsuit filed regarding the conditions at the Madison,” Weinstein said. “The tenant concerns are legitimate. The conditions and the circumstances at the Madison must be improved.”
Weinstein said the conditions of the building were not uninhabitable, and an AHF attorney said that claims made by some people have been “exaggerated.”
“The other thing that’s tragic is, literally, there’s so many people sleeping in the shadow of the Madison,” Weinstein said, adding that all of the rooms they provide are not shelters. They are permanent housing units that go for an average $400 per month, and there are payment plans tenants can enter if they can’t afford the rent.
He said the main reason they can’t fill the additional rooms is because of the elevator problems, and they don’t want their elderly tenants and residents who are in poor health to walk the old hotel’s five flights of stairs.
DWP officials said one of the utility’s inspectors went to the site Friday and found that a contractor for AHF was still completing work. Once that’s completed and the city’s Department of Building Safety has approved the work, DWP can start on its utility improvements, such as running street conduits to connect the hotel with more reliable electricity.
When asked by reporters what’s keeping the building half-empty, Weinstein said they would be able house more people if the city would act.
“I’ll say that there was an issue with the permits, but that was a long time ago, and if we made mistakes, we wanted to correct them,” Weinstein said. “But the reality is, it’s sitting there unused, and we’ve corrected some small issues. Again, the mayor stood in (the hotel) four to five months ago and said he would help us, and we are where we are today.”
Weinstein also criticized the pace at which the city has built permanent supportive housing units for homeless people through Proposition HHH, through which the AHF did not apply for loans.
Although AHF began as an organizations to combat the AIDS crisis in the late 1980s and 1990s, it has since become an organization involved in various issues, such as homelessness and local development.
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