- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

LOS ANGELES

A community of squat, futuristic domes once billed as a utopian refuge from life on the streets is itself facing homelessness.

The silvery, igloo-like fiberglass structures, packed tightly on a downtown lot, are being sold online to the highest bidder.

Such is the unceremonious end to Dome Village — activist Ted Hayes’ model of a self-governed, self-sufficient community for the homeless. Since its founding in 1993, the village has been visited by celebrities, but has gone largely unnoticed by thousands of commuters buzzing past on the freeway nearby.

Mr. Hayes said a big rent increase — from $2,500 to $18,330 per month — is forcing the village from its site near the downtown Staples Center. The partnership that owns the land said the increase reflects soaring downtown property values.

Residents, who must leave by next month, were saddened by the decision to sell.

“We have such a family here,” said Graham Foster, 51,who arrived three years ago after living several months in a battered motor home. “Closing down is almost like an explosion.”

When Dome Village was founded, Mr. Hayes envisioned a cooperative of 30 homeless working and living together, and counseling one another through tough times.

About 450 people have occupied the village over the years, living in the domes and using community kitchen, laundry and bathroom facilities on the 1.25-acre lot.

Proceeds from the EBay auction will help replicate the village elsewhere in Los Angeles, Mr. Hayes said. In the meantime, families have been placed in shelters across the city.

Mr. Hayes, a Republican, blamed politics for the village’s demise. He said Democratic landlords raised the rent two days after he appeared at a meeting of a Bel Air Republican women’s club. An attorney for the landlords denied politics was at play.

“It’s just not financially viable for us to allow them to remain there,” lawyer Mike Sidley said.

Dome Village was built with the help of a $250,000 grant from the Los Angeles-based oil company Atlantic Richfield.

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