Six hundred unhoused Angelenos will soon have their own small apartments in downtown Los Angeles. Adaptive reuse will transform the historic Cecil Hotel into very low-income single-room occupancy rental housing.
The eco-conscious practice of adaptive reuse includes repurposing existing structures instead of using resources to build new developments. For the Cecil, this means turning hotel rooms into small studios ranging from 160 to 176 square feet. Most units will share bathrooms. Residents can also use communal kitchens and gathering spaces.
To qualify, single renters need to earn less than 60% of L.A.’s median income. The project especially wants to serve extremely low-income renters who earn 30% or less of the median income, which is $24,850 a year in Los Angeles. Publicly-funded housing vouchers will help tenants make the $900-1200 per month rent — that’s pretty darn steep for a tiny studio.
The hotel could be a stable residence for “those that have maybe been in shelters for quite some time, who went through programs and have vouchers, but were unable to find suitable housing,” said Sierra Atilano, chief real estate officer at the Skid Row Housing Trust, as reported by LAist. The trust will manage the building. While unhoused people often qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers, many landlords don’t want to rent to them.
In 2011, the Cecil was renamed Stay on Main, though much of the old signage remained, so it went by both names. New York-based development company Simon Baron bought the hotel in 2015, planning to turn the property into a combo of apartments, affordable housing and a hotel. Thwarted by the pandemic, the developer approached Skid Row Housing Trust about dedicating the building to very low-income renters.
Whenever the Cecil comes up in the news, tales of its dark past resurface. The hotel first opened in 1927. Percy Ormond Cook shot himself in the head that same year, the first of a long string of Cecil suicides. Throw in the murder of a baby, two serial killers who were short-term residents, and the mysterious 2013 drowning death of a Canadian student in the hotel’s rooftop cistern, and you can see how the hotel got the nickname Hotel Death. There was even a Netflix show called “Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel.”
“This is the best use possible for this particular space, and really can bring a lighter side to the darkness that the building had originally,” Atilano said.
Lead image via Jim Winstead