Citing discrepancies in the city’s response to compensate nearby residents after a July 11 sewage spill on the westside and a destructive fireworks explosion on June 30 in South Los Angeles, Councilmen Curren Price and Mike Bonin co-introduced a motion Wednesday to instruct a report on the city’s protocols providing compensation to victims of city-caused disasters.
“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.”
The motion — which was also co-introduced with Council President Nury Martinez — would instruct the Department of Civil + Human Rights and Equity’s Office of Racial Equity to report on an equity framework for all departments to use when providing victim compensation in the event of a city-caused accident or disaster. That framework would take a “culturally informed approach” and include considerations of public notifications in accessible languages and forms.
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 Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad significantly underestimated, based on a visual assessment, the weight of explosive material being loaded into the 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 Tuesday, more than 80 people from 25 households were living in the units.
Two families blamed the blast for the death of two elderly men in the weeks after the blast. Auzie Houchins, 72, and Ramon Reyes were evacuated from their homes without their oxygen tanks, according to South Central Neighborhood Council Vice President Ron 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, impacting less affluent communities and communities of color,” the motion stated.