City far from bringing families home after the LAPD fireworks explosion

Los Angeles city officials admitted Tuesday that there is a long way to go before residents and business owners recover and return home after the Los Angeles police bombing a block in South LA in the summer.

Almost three months after the June 30 explosion, which occurred after members of the bomb squad misjudged the firepower of seized fireworks, only 26 of about 200 claims filed with the city were paid, officials said during a police commission meeting Tuesday.

The explosion sent out a blast that made some homes uninhabitable, badly damaged, and blew up others’ windows, causing further damage to several blocks. Dozens of shops, residential buildings and vehicles were damaged, officials said.

In addition to the 26 claims paid, the city attempted to complete payment on an additional 25 claims and has requested additional information from 128 other claimants, officials said. The officials made no monetary value on these claims. Those affected by the blast have six months to file claims, so additional claims could be made, officials said.

Nearly 90 people remained evicted from their homes, with the city continuing to pay for 29 rooms in a downtown hotel to house them, officials said.

According to the contracts reviewed by The Times, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been set aside to pay for these rooms at the Level Hotel, but city officials have so far declined to provide total charges or bills as payment has not yet been completed.

The latest figures were presented by members of an inter-agency task force set up to coordinate various efforts by the city to keep an eye out for displaced persons and other affected residents and business owners while the city processes claims, repairs homes, and other services offers that community members have requested – like therapy for children who are dealing with the consequences of the explosion.

The update followed a report by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, released by the LAPD last month, that found the explosion occurred after members of the LAPD bombing squad miscalculated the firepower of a store of illegal fireworks that were off a house on the 700 block of East 27th Street was confiscated.

The members of the bomb squad did not weigh the explosives, but instead eyed them before putting them in a “total containment vehicle” designed to contain the detonation of the fireworks and the resulting explosion, the ATF noted.

The vehicle was blown to pieces and its door shot in the air before landing several blocks away.

Since the explosion, the LAPD has had a patrol car at the crime scene to ensure security and prevent looting. LAPD officials said Tuesday they are continuing to work with members of the community to restore confidence and restore some normalcy to their lives.

“We still have a lot to do,” said LAPD deputy chief Al Labrada.

Members of the LAPD’s task force, the city’s emergency management department and the new community investment department for families said their goal was to do good to those affected by the blast and that they would do everything in their power to make progress to ensure. But they also acknowledged the frustration among the people they try to serve.

“The community is frustrated. They are worried. They want answers, ”said Carol Parks, the city’s emergency manager.

Local residents and community activists have questioned the city’s commitment to getting people back to their homes quickly, criticizing the LAPD for causing the explosion in the first place. Some said Tuesday that they are tired of hearing city officials say they are working as soon as possible to repair the damage caused.

“I’m at a breaking point. No matter how beautiful the hotel is … I’m just sick of it. I just want to go home, ”said Natalie Quintanilla, who was evicted from her house on 27th Street with her three children.

“They say so many different things and nothing is done,” she said. “Everyone is pretty excited.”

Ron Gochez, a Unión del Barrio community organizer who helped organize residents, said he was in the partially boarded-up block Tuesday morning and saw a craftsman at work and a single new window.

“At this rate, they’ll be ready in 50 years or so,” said Gochez. “I still don’t think this has the urgency it deserves.”

After the task force’s presentation, members of the Police Commission questioned the pace of progress and asked what hurdles stand in the way of a leaner house repair process.

Finding that residents of around 30 houses had been evicted, Commissioner Steve Soboroff asked for a breakdown of the reasons why not every house had already been repaired.

“Where are we stuck? Are they contractors? Soboroff asked.

Parks said some residents and landlords have been advised by legal counsel not to accept repairs in the city until legal claims are resolved, while others are unsure about the safety of returning to damaged homes.

“Each of the affected lots is a separate scenario and each has its own story,” said Parks.

Soboroff called for a “bottleneck report” with the main reason for lack of repairs to be submitted in every home where residents are evicted.

“If we say that there is a unique bottleneck for each of them, I think we should find out” what it is, “said Soboroff.

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