Price calls on city to expand support for victims of LAPD fireworks explosion

Just weeks after being publicly reprimanded for scolding residents displaced by a Los Angeles police firework blast, councilman Curren Price on Wednesday introduced a motion calling on the city to continue to support families still living in a hotel.

Price’s motion would authorize $2.37 million to help with housing for those whose homes have been badly damaged. This follows heavy criticism of the council member, who recently told a Times reporter that some residents living in downtown Level Hotel are “playing the system a bit”.

Price later apologized for what he called ‘insensitive’ comments and said his office was seeking additional funding to allow the victims to stay at the hotel ‘for an extended period’ beyond March 31 deadline.

On June 30, 2021, the LAPD bomb squad botched the explosion of a cache of fireworks discovered in the backyard of a 27th Street home. The resulting explosion injured 17 people and severely damaged homes. More than 80 residents have been displaced.

After the explosion, 89 people were moved to the Level Hotel, which was paid for with taxpayers’ money. Last month, 57 people occupied 20 rooms there.

“I want to be clear, my office has never given up on these families in this time of crisis and we never will,” Price said at a city council meeting on Wednesday. “The reality is that (Council District 9) has inherited a terrible tragedy and my community needs the continued support of the entire city, including our council. The city has an obligation to these residents, and I will ensure that those obligations continue to be fulfilled with compassion, care and urgency.

Price’s motion was introduced on Wednesday, having been signed by him and seconded by council member Heather Hutt at Tuesday’s meeting. Price intended to formally present the proposal on Tuesday, but it was not accepted by the City Clerk’s Office due to a technicality after the meeting was adjourned early, Price’s office said.

It must now be heard by the budget and finance committee before returning to the city council for approval.

The motion would authorize the allocation of $2.27 million to the Department of Community Investment for Families to extend the contract at the level through June 30, with an option for a six-month extension. This extension will be done on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with all affected parties, according to the department.

He would also authorize the transfer of $100,000 to the Los Angeles Department of Housing to extend his contract with Overland Pacific & Cutler through January 23, 2024, for continued relocation assistance.

However, some have expressed concern that residents are not receiving relocation assistance and that the hotel extension is not long enough.

“We made it clear to Price’s office that our request was for indefinite housing for tenants and landlords until they are returned to their repaired homes or permanent affordable housing,” said Ron Gochez, an organizer Unión del Barrio community that helped organize residents of 27th Street. “I’m pretty confident that won’t happen by June.”

In a January letter, city officials informed the families that the temporary housing assistance contract would end on March 31. Residents would be responsible for all hotel charges after that date, the letter said.

In interviews last month, city officials blamed unresponsive residents and their legal counsel for delays in transferring or returning families to their homes.

After criticism mounted, Price pushed back the deadline.

“We will work with families until they find suitable housing or accept resettlement funds,” he said in a statement. “The City of Los Angeles will not abandon them and rest assured that they will not be subject to any type of eviction that may cause further pain and trauma.”

The city received 414 claims related to the fireworks explosion and reached settlements in 129. Payments totaled $475,209.

On March 1, following the announcement of the extension, about 20 tenants and landlords gathered for a community meeting to discuss their needs. A representative from Price’s office was also present.

“Why isn’t Curren Price here?” asked Cindy Reyes, who is helping her mother pay the mortgage on their home on 27th Street.

Reyes, whose family have taken steps to repair their home, stressed that each family must be assessed individually. She also requested that the families receive an official letter telling them that their stay at the hotel would be extended.

Other residents expressed concern that Overland Pacific & Cutler had yet to contact them.

Asked about the results of that meeting, Price spokeswoman Angelina Dumarot said the city was finalizing a letter to send to residents notifying them of the extension.

Dumarot added that the office has asked Overland to do everything possible to contact the families, including through phone calls, emails and hotel visits. Price would also like to start seeing weekly reports from them, she said.

Times editor Julia Wick contributed to this report.

Los Angeles Times

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