Why You Can't Stay At The Cecil Hotel From Crime Scene — Yet

The Cecil is undergoing an overhaul in attempt to scrub its nefarious reputation.

A Cecil Hotel key in 'Crime Scene,' via Netflix press site.

Netflix's new docuseries Crime Scene largely focuses on the mysterious 2013 death of Elisa Lam, but at the heart of the case is the creepy hotel where she vanished: the Cecil, which is located in downtown Los Angeles and has had a notorious reputation practically since its inception. For those obsessed with the macabre, yes, the Cecil Hotel is technically still open, but you can't exactly stay there. At least not yet.

Though the murders and supernatural sightings that have happened at the hotel are so infamous that it served as inspiration for American Horror Story: Hotel, the Cecil is currently closed to all visitors. Developers are hoping to give the site a total overhaul, and the Cecil's doors have been shut for the last few years pending construction. Per Curbed LA, the Cecil attempted to rebrand as Stay on Main, a budget-friendly hostel, in 2011, but its eerie reputation was unearthed again after Lam's mysterious 2013 death. The building was then sold in 2014 to New York real estate developer Richard Born, who owns numerous boutique hotels like the Bowery and the Greenwich. In 2015, Simon Baron Development entered a 99-year lease with the property owner to overhaul the entire building, which has 299 hotel rooms and 301 single-room occupancy residences.

"We are gutting the entire building," president Matthew M. Baron said, per Los Angeles Times. “We are going to redevelop it from the doorway to the roof and everything in between." Their goal was to turn the Cecil into a pricey boutique hotel, while the rest of the building would become 150 to 325 square feet micro rental units.


Construction was supposed to begin in 2017, but according to Curbed LA, Simon Baron Development still hadn't secure funding for the project as of September 2019. On top of all that, Baron's plans to overhaul the building to cater to the increasingly gentrified area has drawn criticism from housing advocates. While the Cecil was originally built in 1924 as a luxury hotel, the Great Depression soon made it a home for those who couldn't afford to stay elsewhere and it has continued to serve as such over the years. Per the LA Times, there was an effort to permanently turn most of the Cecil into housing for those experiencing homelessness, but those plans collapsed after strong opposition from downtown business leaders.

Baron's initial vision for the building was the exact opposite. For example, the firm wanted the building to have guest lecturers and rooftop meals prepared by up-and-coming chefs. The units wouldn't come with kitchens, but for around $1,500 a month they would include Wi-Fi and cable. By 2019, however, the city and developers had agreed that 10 of the units would be kept as affordable Single Room Occupancies (SROs). The rebranded Cecil was projected to open its doors in October 2021, but now it's unclear if and when the building will ever be completed.