Tuesday, March 21, 2006


We used to call them “affordable accommodations”. They were seedy rundown fleabag hotels in the urban areas where rent was cheap and there used to be a million of them. You could rent by the day, week, or month to month and all you needed was cash on the line and any name would do. They didn’t care about your past, your credit references, your job, your bank account, your rental history. If you could pay you could stay and the less they knew about you the better. A lot of times their upkeep was marginal and if you didn’t blow the whistle on them they would do the same for you. They were the kind of place you came to after you descended the economic scale from renting houses to renting apartments to overnight in a motel room while you try to find some place else to live. They became a natural habitat for misfits, alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, petty criminals, ex convicts, mentally ill, elderly and disabled that made up the soft underbelly of the LA underworld. People who landed there for one night and ended up staying permanently. It began as everybody’s worst nightmare but for those who didn’t fit the upwardly mobile financial profile, it quickly became a kind of heaven because the other people who lived there formed a community, a kind of extended family, who looked out for one another and grew to love each other. And there was a sense of security there too, far outweighing bank loans and mortgages, because if one thing led to another and you had to move, there was always a list of similar places available which, even if not well kept, at least were ‘affordable’.

This natural habitat in recent years has become endangered and with it the population who lived there. In Hollywood, while I lived in a sense of false security at the College Hotel, unknown to me, one by one the other hotels either closed, were torn down, or due to the Hollywood Revitalization, tripled their rent and instituted 28 day residency policies, so that even if you could pay the exorbitant rent, you couldn’t live there permanently. The Vine Lodge, once $20 a night, became $180 a week, $190 with TV, The El Nido was $185 a week with three weeks residency. The St. Moritz was $180 and it was still a dump. The Gilbert Hotel, where I had once lived for $420 a month, was $50 a night and $200 a week. That’s $800 a month but they would let you stay indefinitely. Because they knew me, eventually they offered me a deal for $600 a month. I almost took it although it left me less than $200 a month living expenses on my fixed income. By the time I lost my room at the College Hotel, there wasn’t one place left in Hollywood that I could go to. I became a displaced person. (Rent control is a mixed blessing, because with the rent kept artificially below market value, rent control tenants become a target for unethical management to use any ploy, legal or otherwise, to get them out.) I suffered the same fate as many in my predicament. I had to sleep in a parking lot and live out doors. After I found the Alexandria Hotel, for six months I had to move out every 28 days (and take all my possessions with me or I would lose them). When they finally accepted me full time I was so grateful I will always love this old hotel.

Also lost with this habitat is a lot of culture, natural American culture where human beings lived and loved and died. Without this habitat for it to flourish, a lot of values, American values of freedom and self determination, will be lost also.


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