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Skid Row, the “heart of darkness” of the astonishingly revitalized downtown Los Angeles

In the centre of one of the world’s most high-profile cities lies a concentration of desperate poverty unlike any other in the developed world. Los Angeles’s Skid Row, a common name for a once-common form of down-and-out quarter in American cities, persists as the last neighbourhood of its kind.

Skid Row’s very existence illustrates a major planning mistake the southern Californian metropolis made in the past. The struggles over what to do with it now reveal the extent of the challenge facing LA in its current transformation into a denser, more traditionally urban city. It’s no exaggeration to call Skid Row one of the main battlegrounds for the future of Los Angeles.

The neighbourhood went from metaphorical to literal battleground last Sunday when, on a rare rainy day in this city, an altercation with Los Angeles Police Department officers resulted in the death of a 45-year-old resident. Known locally by the name “Africa” or “Cameroon”, he was shot by several officers after allegedly grabbing one of their guns; beyond that, facts about the precise sequence of events have been slow to emerge.

We know the victim lived in a tent; he’d pitched it near the corner of San Pedro and 6th street. Every Angeleno has seen these tents – always between the hours of 9pm and 6am, when police look the other way about camping on the streets. One wrong turn out of a trendy night spot or the Disney concert hall and you can find yourself in another world, where encampments of the drug-addicted and mentally ill spill out on to the sidewalk for block after block after block.

Read the whole thing at The Guardian.