Netflix's newest true crime docuseries, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, takes a deep dive into one of Los Angeles' strangest cases. It tells the story of Elisa Lam, a student from the University of British Columbia, whose trip to California ended with her tragic and mysterious death. Bizarrely, this was not the first horrific news story to involve the hotel, which leads many to wonder whether the Cecil Hotel is still open.
Warning: Spoilers for Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel follow. The Cecil has been sketchy ever since the Great Depression. Any hope of regaining its 1920s-era glory has been marred by a reputation for the murder and death of people who stayed there. It was the location of the 1964 "Pigeon Lady of Pershing Square" murder, which, like the Lam case, has never been solved. Plus, infamous serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger both operated out of it in the 1980s and '90s. It became so infamous, in fact, it was the inspo for American Horror Story: Hotel.
Lam's disappearance in 2013 was merely the latest in a long line of terrible events associated with the Cecil Hotel, made so much worse when her body turned up inside the hotel's rooftop water tank almost a month after she disappeared.
Unsurprisingly, the owners sold the hotel not long after the Lam case. A company called Simon Baron Development secured a 99-year lease on the property in 2016.
Despite the Cecil's reputation and the laundry list of horrible things that have happened there, the building itself isn't to blame. And as a historical relic, it's the kind of 100-year-old building most cities would be proud to preserve. In fact, the building's style of "Beaux Arts" architecture was deemed worthy of receiving a "Historic-Cultural Monument" designation in 2017. By then, the developers had already planned major renovations that would bring the hotel back to its original glory days.
But by 2019, Simon Baron still hadn't begun construction due to funding issues. Moreover, there's been pushback from affordable housing advocates, as The Cecil has been a one of L.A.'s historic places for those experiencing homelessness to stay for decades.
Original plans suggested a grand reopening would happen by 2021, but it's not clear if that will happen. Netflix's new series will at least bring attention to the property again, although perhaps not in the way the owners would like.