WeHo knew this house was a fire hazard

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Two weeks ago, Public Safety Commissioner Adam Eramian sounded a warning about the abandoned home at 1030 Sierra Bonita Avenue in West Hollywood and the fire hazard it posed to the neighborhood.

“The concern of the neighbors who live directly next door to that property is that there’s a lot of dry rubbish, dry trees, and they’re concerned that anyone who goes in there could start a fire that would lead to the neighboring apartment building that houses, I believe, nine units,” Eramian said during the Nov. 13 meeting.

His dire prediction came true last night as the house went up in white hot flames right as families were celebrating Thanksgiving, scorching its neighboring building.

Video footage shared with WEHOonline by Derrick Sanders shows the intensity of the blaze, and photos taken by WEHOonline today reveal the frightening extent of the damage to the home, its guest quarters and the residential complex next door.

@wehoonline House fire in #weho ♬ September (Dreamy Version) – JU$t

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WEHOonline has contacted the City of West Hollywood, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and Chief Drew Smith, who was present at the Public Safety Commission meeting, for information about how the fire started and what steps were taken to address the dangers since Eramian started asking questions two weeks ago. The inquiry process for the Fire Department will likely require a subpoena, a protocol discussed on the department’s website.

“Code Compliance has been on the scene numerous times,” Eramian said during the meeting. “The Sheriff’s Department has been there numerous times. Station 7 has been there numerous times. What can we do to finally mitigate that, so we could have that house locked up, or something could be done to that property at 1030 North Sierra Bonita? Because it’s a constant, daily visit either from the Sheriff’s Department, Code Compliance, security ambassadors, or Fire (Department).”

Eramian was trying to express the urgency of the matter to Danny Rivas, director of the city’s Community Safety Department, who promised action but left doubt as to whether it would lead to a solution. 

Rivas gave Eramian an extended overview of the complicated steps it would take to address the problem, and the implication, intended or not, was that it would be something of a pain in the ass.

 

“I can definitely check in,” Rivas replied. “I don’t know the status of that case or if we do, in fact, have a code enforcement case, but I’m assuming from what you’re mentioning, if code enforcement staff have been out there, then I would assume that there is an active, ongoing case. You know, vacant properties at times pose a variety of challenges. If a property owner is absentee, if there are issues that do occur intermittently, but if time passes and if it’s just merely a property maintenance-related issue, it sounds like maybe there’s more going on here. But we’ll definitely connect with our code enforcement team and the manager, get staff out there.”

“There is a lengthy administrative process  involved with that. And so that could be anywhere from the city pursuing what’s called a public nuisance abatement process, to having our city prosecutor’s office file a criminal and/or civil complaint on a property, but these take several months of work and documentation to showcase, because ultimately, you’re having to go to a court, and you’re having to prove, right, that the property is, in fact, a nuisance, it’s a potential danger to members of the community, and that we’re allowed to take action, you know, from the different things that I mentioned.”

Unsatisfied with his response, Eramian pressed Rivas for clarity.

“I think what the neighbors want is that property boarded up,” Eramian said. “There was another property across the street from that, at 1021 Sierra Bonita. It’s the same developer, but they finally tore down that property, and it’s all fenced up now, and they used to have a security guard there 24/7, but since the building’s been demolished, there’s no reason to have a security guard there. How do we go about maybe having that developer, the same developer as 1021, get a security guard there, at least fence it up, board it up to prevent any access from the unhoused or anyone from the outside going in there?”

“Our vacant property ordinance does allow us to, you know, order that there be security at different times, even up to 24 hours, seven days a week, but that threshold is difficult to accomplish,” Rivas said. “And so, as I mentioned, not knowing the background, but if there are a lot of confirmed calls for service that we could acquire both from our fire department and from our West Hollywood Sheriff Station, then all of that is helpful information, right, to help justify when the city does make an order. You know, many times when we do require security, it’s contested. It’s appealed by the property owners. And so that goes through a hearing process, and it could even end up in court. So we want to make sure, right, when we do order security, that we have the support, you know, to do so from a legal perspective.”

“And so we’re consulted with, I am consulted with, when it gets to that point from our code enforcement manager, and then we consult with our city attorney’s office as well, just to make sure that we have a strong case, right, in terms of pursuing different elements of that. So we’ll definitely look at that, but having security is by far, when you’re having a lot of trespassing going on, boarding up, or even fencing a property, in my professional experience, does not prevent folks from accessing a property. It really takes having that security there on site to act as that deterrent. But there’s a pretty difficult threshold to kind of meet in order to do so, but we’ll look at that.”

This story is developing.

 

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Leila
2 months ago

Check out the website with up to date fire photos
http://1030nsierrabonita.com/

Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
2 months ago

Another case of WeHo putting citizens last.

Lynda
Lynda
3 months ago

The only way to solve this issue is 24 hr. Security should be enforced on all vacant properties.

Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
2 months ago
Reply to  Lynda

That’s an insurmountable cost to the public, and rents are too high so they can’t be rented out, and then there’s the “affordable housing” scam.

A. Lee WALKUP
A. Lee WALKUP
3 months ago

Mikie FREIDMAN’s comments are spot-on germane! Rick WATTS did speak before Council in November 2023 regarding the on-going similarity with the abandoned residential property at 1280 N. Sweetzer Ave in West Hollywood, in the second block north of City Hall! That property is the third building away from ours: that of Mr. WATTS and myself. We cringe every time there are Santa Ana winds, which could spread embers up and down the 1200 and 1300 blocks of N. Sweetzer Avenue, if it catches fire, AGAIN! It has caught fire from a vagrant fire started in the center of the building’s… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
3 months ago

After the fire that almost destroyed the 10 freeway, we need to take a way more proactive approach to this issue. With problem properties such as the one on Sierra Bonita and on Sweetzer, they should be referred to the City Attorney to have misdemeanor charges filed for public endangerment. Arresting an uncooperative real estate speculator might get their attention.

Singleguywh
Singleguywh
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Staff dropped the {expletive} ball on this.

Legal Eagal
Legal Eagal
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

And there is the problem. Why do we have such an inept City Attorney? Way over her head! Nice, but nice is not what weho needs.

Put that contract out for bid!

Uron
Uron
3 months ago

Let’s not forget about the vacant dilapidated commercial properties where the developer only wanted the entitlements and then worry about finding investors later. Now that the funding collapsed, we have Roberson Lane and French Market as urban blight and a security risk too.

John Arnold
John Arnold
3 months ago

I very much appreciate Commissioner Ermanian’s efforts to address public safety concerns. However, I am troubled that many of the Public Safety Commission’s comments seem to have been disregarded by the city. Could someone please explain the purpose of having a Public Safety Commission if its input is not seriously considered?

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
3 months ago
Reply to  John Arnold

Actually during a neighborhood walk about with Council member John Erickson several months ago, Adam pointed this house out to City Staff and the Sheriff’s Department, citing issues of lack of maintenance and homeless camping. So this was not a problem that suddenly came into being. The City needs to start assuming that all vacant and boarded up properties are hazards and take proactive action, including working with property owners and neighbors, to prevent this sort of result. This is far from the first abandoned or vacant property that has been a public safety issue over the last ten years.… Read more »

BEBEsmallz
BEBEsmallz
3 months ago

c o r r u p t i o n

Outraged
Outraged
3 months ago

A disaster because the City Council and its minions are on the take from developers and let them get away with anything because money talks louder than the voices of City citizens and their interests?? So what else is new?

Developer?
Developer?
3 months ago

Dan Mick now with the City of Santa Monica, formerly WeHo Code Compliance Supervisor, was very attentive to issues of this type. He diligently followed up on several properties of concern that were in the development pipeline and kept me well apprised of all issues large and small. Since his departure, we hear a litany of protocol with out any sense of immediacy at Public Safety Commission Meetings. Mr. Rivas appears to be following the PR approach of Kristin Cook.

Left Field
Left Field
3 months ago

Once again the city has failed to take basic public safety seriously. They
could have posted Block by Block ambassadors in front of the property to prevent this. Instead we got a song and dance about legal perspectives.

Cy Husain
3 months ago

The white hot flames 🔥 look like the kind generated by an accelerant like ammonium perchlorate NH4ClO4 used by professional arsonists. I hope the fire scene is looked over by a good Forensic Arson Investigator.

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