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A Royal Visit, A Trashy Parking Lot, and Downtown's Cleanup

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, July 12, 2011, at 08:04AM
Hill Street Trash Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Trash litters the sidewalk on Hill Street just north of the Mayan and Belasco Theatres

A silly war of words broke out on Monday when L.A. Times writer Patt Morrison took to the paper's opinion section to defend the honor of Downtown Los Angeles from the stinging attack of Zooey Deschanel.

Outside the Saturday night BAFTA event that brought Prince William and Catherine to the Belasco Theatre, Deschanel opined that the venue's neighborhood might not be up to royal standards.

"I just don't want them to see the worst of L.A," the actress was quoted by USA Today as saying.

Morrison took offense, jumping in to defend Downtown—and managing to call the "500 Days of Summer" star a "snobby cow" in the process.

Deschanel [took to her blog to clarify that she meant trash-strewn parking lots around the Belasco.

I NEVER said that Downtown LA was “the worst of LA”. I did make a reference to a parking lot adjacent to the theater that had a lot of trash in it in an attempt to be humorous. I simply said, “It’s funny they brought royalty here, there is a parking lot with trash around the corner.” It wasn’t an opinion. It was true. There was indeed a parking lot with trash around the corner. I thought that the juxtaposition of British Royalty and trash was amusing in a high-brow + low brow sort of way, but I never said that I, personally, didn’t like downtown, the Royals, or even trash.

As for Morrison, she's since backpedaled, calling Deschanel a talented and charming actress.

While both may now be attempting to wave the comment off, Downtowners should take note of Deschanel's words: The actress and her comment were exactly right.

The historic Belasco and Mayan theatres sit in a Bermuda Triangle of Downtown trash, tucked between four business improvement districts but covered by none of them. Collectively, the four spend $6.5 million annually on "clean and safe" operations, picking up trash and sending around bike patrols that provide extra eyes and ears for LAPD.

None of that goes to Hill Street south of 9th.

It's a funny situation when property owners have to tax themselves extra to get the sidewalk swept and the trash cans emptied, but such is the reality in a city that struggles to stretch its budget.

Hill Street's unserved stretch does not get the attention the Toy District did when property owners there declined to cheap out and not renew their business improvement district, leading to piles of trash on many corners. The stretch is relatively quiet—a royal visit excepted, of course—and the YWCA's Job Corps program and AT&T Center both do an admirable job of keeping their corners of the district clean.

Still, Monday's dustup should provide a good reminder that it isn't acceptable for Downtown's cleanup to have blind spots. The central city is in the spotlight now, and everyone needs to take part in making sure that the area looks its part.

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