Friday Corner of Shame: Burned-Out Structure Knocked Down, Remains Unremediated for a Year

A two-story apartment building in Watts burned down over a year ago. The collapsed structure has yet to be cleared from the lot. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
A two-story apartment building in Watts burned down over a year ago. The collapsed structure has yet to be cleared from the lot. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Riddle me this: A dilapidated two-story apartment building in your neighborhood burns so brightly that as many as 70 firefighters from 36 units are dispatched to put down the fire. The structure becomes unstable. It is eventually knocked down so as to prevent it from collapsing on its own.

How long will the pile of toxic, sharp-edged, and otherwise dangerous rubble sit unguarded on the lot, spilling over onto neighborhood sidewalks and the yard next door?

A week?

A month?

Frustratingly, for those who live in Watts, the answer appears to be, “At least a year.”

The hot mess pictured above, located at 9254 Central Avenue, burst into flames at around 10 p.m. on April 17, 2015.

The cause of the fire was not known at the time. The building had been sold just one month prior for $460,000, and may have only had one occupied unit. [A call to the Fire Department has not yet been returned.]

Video captured that night by onscenevideo.tv, gives you a sense of how unstable the structure was – one side appeared to be buckling. The Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) was called because the structure was at risk of collapse and, according to the fire department, a private contractor later arrived to stabilize it.

Despite what appeared to be imminent danger, the house sat in its burned-out state for several months. I recall first passing by it last spring and hoping families hadn’t been displaced. Then, as the months wore on, I wondered at what point something was going to be done about the structure. It was boarded up, but otherwise not safeguarded in a neighborhood that was full of kids.

 The structure was still standing, but boarded up, in July of last year. Source: Google maps.

The structure was still standing, but boarded up, in July of last year. Source: Google maps.

Over the winter, I noticed it appeared to have been knocked down. But instead of shrinking, the pyramid of rubble seems to have grown a bit. Dumpers who have no scruples about adding to blight have found it a convenient place to toss furniture and other bulky items.

Calls made this morning to city agencies have yielded little information. A message left with Councilmember Curren Price’s office went unreturned and the one person I was finally directed to at LADBS (after calling four different people) is out of the office today. A look at LADBS’ records weren’t much help, either. The site appears to have received service requests for inspection five times, but there seem to be no pending actions which will move the clean-up process forward.

Inspections made seem to have yielded few results. Source: LADBS
Inspections made seem to have yielded few results. Source: LADBS

To add insult to injury, it appears the owner is also behind on their property taxes.

Recent efforts to catalog blight determined that not only were South L.A. streets some of the dirtiest, they were also some of the slowest to be cleaned up when complaints were made. [Which should be no surprise to anyone – we have catalogued that extensively here, here, and here, to name a few.]

But this seems to be a new low.

Hopefully, when calls are returned next week, we will have more information on where action on this property stands.

In the meanwhile: FOR SHAME.

  • Matt

    Sahra, welcome to the City of Los Angeles where unions rule the roost and inefficiency is the name of the game. The owner should clear the site though not the City. Eventually, the City can gain control of the site if they don’t pay their taxes and do whatever they need to, but probably a ways off.

  • sahra

    Yes, the owner obviously bears the responsibility, but what I was trying to figure out was why there had been no urgency in getting them to do so. LA may be slow to move on things, but this level of lacksadaisicalness is unusual. I hope Monday will yield more in the way of answers.

  • Matt

    I think you would be surprised then on much of an unorganized beaucratic mess the City is.

  • sahra

    The site was cleaned up as of Sunday morning, so it can organize when it needs to…

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