The infamous Cecil Hotel, 640 S. Main St. in Los Angeles, has found new life as affordable housing.
On Dec. 14, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the 600-room historic hotel, which was acquired by Simon Baron Development in 2015 and has recently been converted to 100% affordable housing in partnership with Skid Row Housing Trust.
The hotel now consists of single-room occupancy units and efficiency studios between the sizes of 160 and 176 square feet. It includes secured entry, a community kitchen, laundry facility, a recreational room and on-site case management services provided by SRHT Health and Social Services.
Sierra Atilano, chief real estate and investment officer of SRHTrust, said, “The Cecil Hotel is a perfect example of the bold and creative solutions needed to make a dent in the homelessness crisis. We are proud to partner with Simon Baron Development to welcome home 600 neighbors who are currently unsheltered, unhoused, or housing insecure.”
SRHT is a nationally recognized developer and operator of permanent supportive housing, helping hundreds of individuals experiencing homelessness, often struggling with disabling conditions, get off the streets each year. To date, the trust has developed approximately 30 projects, creating more than 2,000 safe and healthy homes. The housing is permanent: residents may stay as long as they like as long as they are responsible tenants.
“Unlike other affordable and permanent supportive housing developments, this project was funded and will operate as self-sustaining with private capital,” said Matt Baron, CEO of Simon Baron Development. “We are really excited to bring this solution to the growing number of people who are suffering on the streets and are in need of a home.”
Simon Baron is a prominent New York-based developer with select projects on the West Coast.
Participants in the ribbon-cutting included Assemblymember Miguel Santiago and Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de Leon.
The hotel received renewed notoriety last February due to a Netflix docuseries titled “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,” which focused on the death of Elisa Lam, a Canadian tourist.
Directed and executive produced by Joe Berlinger (“The Ted Bundy Tapes”), the four-episode series looked at the events behind Lam’s disappearance with interviews with hotel employees, guests and investigators. The case gripped the public due to the strange circumstances surrounding it.
Lam disappeared in late January 2013 and by mid-February, authorities released the last-known closed-circuit TV footage of Lam, dated Feb. 1, taken inside the hotel elevator. She made odd movements and gestures for no apparent reason.
During the investigation, hotel guests began complaining about low water pressure and the water’s color and taste. Lam’s body was then found in one of the hotel’s water tanks. The coroner’s report listed accidental drowning as the cause of death and her bipolar disorder as a factor. However, many have questioned how Lam gained access to the staff-only rooftop and managed to get inside the water tank by herself.
“As a true crime documentarian, I was fascinated in 2013 when the elevator video of Elisa Lam went viral and legions of amateur detectives used the Internet to try to solve the mystery of what happened to her, a 21-year-old Canadian tourist on her first trip to Los Angeles,” Berlinger said. “So, when journalist Josh Dean, who is also a producer on the project, brought us his research into this case, we realized there was as an opportunity to do something different by not just telling the story of Elisa’s disappearance, but to create a series that explores a particular location’s role in encouraging or abetting crime — or the perception thereof.”
In addition to Lam’s death, “The Vanishing” looked at the history of the Cecil Hotel, which has been the location of deaths, violence and even rest stops for serial killers like Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger.
A reviewer for CNET condemned the show as “bloated, dull and confusing. It’s irresponsible and dishonest, indulging conspiracy theories that put already vulnerable victims at further risk.”