Larry (Flash) Jenkins was working on an anti-drug movie last week when his television production company in the Crenshaw area was burned to the ground in the wake of verdicts in the Rodney G. King beating case.
"They burned the whole building" at Washington Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Jenkins said Friday. "The building is in ashes. People didn't care. It was all part of that anger over Latasha Harlins and Rodney King."
Jenkins, who is black, relates to the anger of rioters but plans to rebuild his business, Flashwork Productions, in the San Fernando Valley instead of South Los Angeles.
"It's more convenient for me to be based in the Valley," said Jenkins, who lives in Panorama City but said he originally started his business in South Los Angeles to be in the black community. While convenience is the main reason for his decision, Jenkins said safety is also a factor because tensions are still high.
"This thing is not over with yet," he said. "We don't know what may happen down there."
Jenkins was among 22 people--all but one of whom were business owners--who took advantage of a federal disaster relief center that opened Friday in Pacoima to assist San Fernando Valley residents affected by the riots.
The center offers access to representatives of the federal Small Business Administration, American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Los Angeles County assessor's office, Veterans Administration, California Board of Equalization, San Fernando Valley Legal Services and the Internal Revenue Service.
Unlike Jenkins, David Yaughouebzadeh of Reseda plans to reopen his Retail 98, which was burned to the ground last week, on Vermont Avenue near 24th Street.
"I have a lot of good customers down there," Yaughouebzadeh said. "Not everyone there doesn't like me. A lot of people down there have said they hope I come back."
But after discussions with several representatives of several disaster relief agencies, Yaughouebzadeh has no idea how soon he can get back on his feet.
"I hope to get back in business in a month or two," he said. "But realistically, I don't think so."
The center, at the David Gonzales Recreation Center at 10943 Herrick St. near Van Nuys Boulevard, is scheduled to be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Representatives of city, county, state and federal agencies were available Friday to provide assistance and information.
For most of the day Friday, the 30 agency representatives, who included paid staff members and some volunteers, sat waiting patiently at tables for people to help. But almost no one showed up.
"It's really, really been slow," said Jimmy Wheeler, who manages the center for the federal emergency agency. "Sometimes it's slow because people don't know what's available. But if we don't get a lot of people Saturday, we might not get that many at all here."
The only busy places were the Small Business Administration and IRS tables, where Jenkins and several other entrepreneurs sought information on emergency loans and possible tax breaks for riot-damaged businesses.
For example, Noel Young of the IRS said many people don't know that 1991 federal tax returns can be amended to include losses from the 1992 rioting.
"There's more flexibility than people realize," he said, because President George Bush has declared the area a federal emergency zone.
Unlike Jenkins and Yaughouebzadeh, many of the business owners interviewed said they were unsure of their next step. Some were confused by the paperwork, and most were still shaken by the rioting.
John Kim, 57, whose Pico Athletic Shoe at West Pico Boulevard and Vermont Street was looted of $270,000 in merchandise, said he desperately needs help. "If I receive funds from SBA I will reopen. If I can't get a loan, I will not reopen," Kim said. "It's a terrible situation."
Kim, a North Hills resident, is still too upset about the rioting to decide where he might reopen a store. "I can't think about that now," he said.
Henrietta Royzman, 42, owner of A&A; Pawn Shop at 13168 Van Nuys Blvd. in Pacoima, suffered about $40,000 in damage, but she said she has no choice but to try to reopen there.
"It's my building. I just bought it. I don't think I can find anyone to rent it, so I'll have to reopen it," she said.
But Royzman, who immigrated from Moscow in 1981, was worried that she stretched herself too thin to open the pawnshop two months ago and may be unable to get financing.
"I still don't know if I qualify for a loan. I'll try, but I don't have much equity. I refinanced my home to buy this building," she said.
"They gave me a lot of papers and I'm still trying to figure this out."