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Flophouse or refuge for the poor: Inside the debate over a Skid Row hotel

Travelers Hotel

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Nancy Jimenez moved into the Travelers Hotel seven years ago and worries that if the hotel closes she'll be living out of her car.

Travelers Hotel

Mae Ryan/KPCC

The City Council is considering shutting down the Travelers Hotel at 533 Ceres Ave. near Skid Row.

Travelers Hotel

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Claudia Ayala, who has managed the Travelers Hotel for thirteen years, holds Sade on the first floor of the hotel.

Travelers Hotel

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Balubhai Patel, the owner of Travelers Hotel, admits that his property is not in compliance with the city's conditions for operations.

Travelers Hotel

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Residents are supposed to drop off their keys upon leaving, but the rule is not always enforced at Travelers Hotel.

Travelers Hotel

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Originally from Guatemala, Cesare Augusto Monroy works in demolition in Los Angeles to support his family.

Travelers Hotel

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Nancy Jimenez, a resident at Travelers Hotel, keeps birds and her dog Toto in her room.

Travelers Hotel

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Balubhai Patel, the owner of Travelers Hotel, says that having a full time security guard on the premises would be too expensive.

Travelers Hotel

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Teachers and parents from Para Los Ninos, a preschool located next to Travelers Hotel, claim that they often see illegal activity in the hotel's alleyway.

Travelers Hotel

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Alfredo Alvarado distributes flyers around Los Angeles and has lived in Travelers Hotel for three years.


There are some places that few loudly claim as their home. In this slice of Downtown L.A., Kevin Michael Key is one of the few and the proud.

“I live, work and got clean and sober in the world’s largest recovery community, Skid Row, LA,” he says, by way of introduction.

Driving around the area after dark, one recent night, Key pointed out the big landmarks: a mural a local nonprofit put up on a wall they had to build to keep needles and condoms off a playground; and the office where he works, trying to rid Skid Row of what he calls “nuisance” businesses that take advantage of the mentally ill, the addicts, and the poor. As he drives, Key slows down at a business he’s heard fits the bill: the Travelers Hotel, a residential hotel where rooms rent for about $500 a month at 6th and South Ceres streets

“Yep, this is the one,” he says. Back in his addict days, Keys says he would have been attracted to this spot. “There’s always somebody hangin' out the window or on the fire escape,” he says. “There’s a lot of in-and-out activities. All of which don’t amount to criminal activity as such, but your street antenna tells you that if you’re looking for some action, that’s one of the places you would go.”

The Travelers has been a neighborhood sore spot — the “ugliest wart” in a neighborhood full of warts, Key says — for decades. For almost as long, the city has been trying to get it to clean itself up, imposing conditions of operation on the Travelers, like meeting with police, hiring a full-time security guard, and instituting a check-in system for room keys.

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