LOS ANGELES—South Los Angeles families planned a rally on Aug. 16 outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters and City Hall to demand the city immediately fix their damaged homes and hold officers accountable for a destructive fireworks blast set off by a bomb squad on June 30.
The families are seeking immediate repairs for their homes, immediate financial assistance for everyone affected by the explosion, and a written guarantee from the city that it will pay for housing until repairs are complete and it is safe for the families to return home, along with other demands.
“More than six weeks have passed since the LAPD fireworks explosion in our community and the city of L.A. has not even started to repair our homes,” Union del Barrio organizer and South Central Neighborhood Council Vice President Ron Gochez told City News Service ahead of the rally.
“Most of the windows on our block continue to be boarded up. We demand that the city speed up the repairs.”
Gochez also said residents don’t have access to the pool, gym and other parts of the hotel where they’re staying, and that they’re treated like “second-class citizens.” They fear being removed from the hotels without having another place to go.
“We were told that we could stay at this hotel for 30 days, but now that time is up and we have no idea how long we will be able to stay here. That’s why we are demanding a written statement from the city clearly stating how long we will be housed at this hotel,” Gochez said.
Councilmen Curren Price and Mike Bonin co-introduced a motion Aug. 11 asking for a report on the city’s protocols for providing compensation to victims of city-caused disaster. The motion claimed discrepancies in the city’s response to compensate nearby residents after the fireworks explosion and a July 11 sewage spill on the westside.
“The discrepancy of these two responses, with (LA Sanitation and Environment) subsidizing residents to relocate due to the Hyperion sewage spill, versus households displaced by the LAPD explosion being left to wait for assistance found by their council member, lays bare inequities in the response by city departments to various communities throughout the city,” according to the motion.
The June 30 detonation on East 27th Street, near San Pedro Street, sent 17 residents and first responders to hospitals, destroyed a bomb squad truck, and damaged 22 residences, 13 businesses, and 37 vehicles.
A preliminary investigation into the blast by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives’ National Response Team found that the LAPD bomb squad significantly underestimated, based on a visual assessment, the weight of explosive material being loaded into the containment truck for detonation.
Displaced families were initially housed in local motels through Councilman Curren Price’s office, which also established a $1 million emergency fund, but the city later rented 29 “corporate housing” units fit for long-term residency. As of last week, more than 80 people from 25 households were living in the units.
Two families blamed the blast for the death of two older men in the weeks after the explosion. Auzie Houchins, 72, and Ramon Reyes were evacuated from their homes without their oxygen tanks, according to Gochez, who said that both men already suffered from illnesses.
“When Houchins was taken to the motel, where the families were relocated to, the family says the food that they were provided by the city was really unhealthy and they had a lot of really sugary snacks. So, he was a diabetic and that really didn’t help at all and his blood pressure went through the roof,” Gochez told City News Service on Aug. 2.
On July 11, 17 million gallons of untreated sewage flooded the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant and discharged one-mile into the ocean. To help residents’ quality of life amid the bad odor during cleanup and repairs at the facility, Los Angeles offered residents reimbursements for either air conditioning units or a hotel room from July 22-29.
“While this LASAN compensation is welcome and appropriate, the same level of assistance and compensation has not been offered by other city agencies in other circumstances,” Price and Bonin’s motion stated.