Los Angeles’ Infamous Cecil Hotel Turned Into Affordable Housing

One of the world’s creepiest hotels has just been turned into an affordable housing complex.

The infamous Cecil Hotel at 640 S. Main St. in Downtown Los Angeles was acquired by Simon Baron Development in 2015. Last month, the building was converted to 100% affordable housing in partnership with Skid Row Housing Trust. Assemblymember Miguel Santiago and Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de Leon attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony on December 14.

“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.”

The Cecil Hotel first opened in 1924, just steps from Skid Row. Its legacy seemed doomed from the start. It was envisioned as a destination for traveling professionals, but the building was turned into a budget hotel soon after the Great Depression hit.

The hotel quickly developed a reputation for unsavory characters and intrigue following more than a dozen sudden or unexplained deaths, including two confirmed murders. Serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger were both guests at one time. Throughout the years, people would claim to have ghostly encounters at the Cecil.

In 2013, a university student from Canada named Elisa Lam disappeared while staying at the hotel. Her body was later discovered in a large water tank on the building’s rooftop. Her death was ruled an accident, with mental illness as a contributing factor.

Video surveillance prior to Lam’s disappearance showed her behaving erratically in the hotel’s elevator, appearing to hide from an unknown figure. Her body went undiscovered in the cistern for weeks even as residents complained of discolored tap water with a foul odor and taste.

Lam’s disappearance and the hotel’s sinister history inspired the series “American Horror Story: Hotel,” starring Lady Gaga. In 2021, Netflix released a documentary about Lam and the Cecil called “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel.”

After years of mystery gloom, Simon Baron and city officials hope the Cecil will become a beacon of hope for Skid Row and hundreds of its homeless residents. But dwellers beware: you may hear things go bump in the night.


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