LA CityBeat Nov. 6, 2003 By Dennis Romero Cover photo by Steve Appleford Losing the mural, it seems, was a sign of the times. In 2002, when the city renovated the recreation center at Stoner Park in West L.A., the last remnants of the Westside's Latino gang culture were told that the building's big Chicano-era mural would be temporarily removed to accommodate construction, but then returned. The big tableaux from the side of the building was an homage to the Mexican flavor of the neighborhood, and a point of homeboy pride. But when Mayor James K. Hahn presided over ribbon-cutting ceremonies celebrating the completed makeover last summer, the mural was absent, and the homies still haven't seen it. (A council district field deputy who keeps his eye on parks in the area said he has no idea what happened to the artwork.) Today, a few survivors of the Sotel 13 gang, which has claimed the park since the early 1950s, still congregate at the rec center each weekday at 3 p.m.
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Dennis Romero is a third-generation journalist who covers national news for NBC News Digital . He has reported on the housing crisis, wealth disparity, police and crime, popular culture, youth culture, raves, electronic dance music, ecstasy abuse, cannabis legalization, surfing and skateboarding. He's been a features staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and local and national magazines. He's covered the Los Angeles Police Department from its headquarters newsroom. And he was recently a contributor to the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times. His work as also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, and the Guardian. His byline has appeared on MSNBC multiple times. He's appeared on CNN, Investigation Discovery, E! News, and Reelz. His late father Fernando Romero worked at the San Diego Tribune and Los Angeles Times. Fernando's eponymous father was a television reporter, anchor and sports announcer in Tijuana,
LA CityBeat Feb. 5, 2004 By Dennis Romero Cover photo by Steve Appleford The curb along San Julian Street is more than a metaphor, it's the real deal - the ultimate backstop for a life's downward slide, the end of the row, even for Skid Row. It's lined with runners hissing out drugs for sale, men taking naps, and newly minted homeless teens passing a joint. On a recent afternoon, the smell of skunkweed mixes with the vapors of human waste. The gutter is filled with murky puddles, scorched blunts, a pink backpack, and tattered trash bags full of abandoned clothing - signs of throwaway lives. A worker at the nearby Volunteers of America shelter says she tosses out seven bags of belongings every day because owners fail to retrieve them from storage. The city's weekly street-sweeping crews bring along a trash truck just to deal with all the curbside refuse on San Julian. "Rats as big as cats" prowl the blocks, as one social worker puts it. Some men walk ba