Demolition crews began tearing down the historic Californian Hotel last week after it sustained severe structural damage in a Nov. 28 fire allegedly begun by transient squatters trying to keep warm.
Shut down in July after the city issued several citations for building and safety violations, the five-story 1920s masonry structure at 1907 W. 6th St. has been the site of three fires in five months.
Low-income families had been living in the pest-infested 200-unit structure under slum conditions, surrounded by fire hazards, said Tony Perez, press deputy for Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Hernandez, who oversees the area.
Squatters had occupied some of the building’s vacant units under the blind eye of management, and drugs were sold in and around the building, Perez said.
Although several efforts were made by the city to contact the hotel’s absentee owners so they could correct the problems, they were not found. After its residents were relocated, the building was boarded up.
Hernandez had hoped the city could find the owners so they could either fix the building themselves or allow the city to take over, make repairs and preserve the building for low-income housing.
But as the search for the owners continued, the abandoned building continued to deteriorate. Although Perez said the hotel was securely boarded, transients broke in and took up occupancy. As temperatures began to drop, the squatters began trying to keep warm.
After the most recent fire, the old hotel was rendered an irreparable hazard, and a motion to destroy it was unanimously approved by the City Council.
For now, the city will absorb the cost of demolition until the owners are found, Perez said. There are no immediate plans for the site.