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Demolition Is a Sight for Sore Eyes : Property: Landowner welcomes the tearing down of a house where an illegal squatter had lived for four years.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The bulldozer was a welcome sight to Connie Aguirre as it knocked down the last of the house that had become the bane of her existence.

Aguirre, 58, of Arleta had been locked in a four-year property dispute, but now she could finally claim land that for years had been the eyesore of the neighborhood.

Before it was demolished, the house on Osborne Street was filled with trash and human feces. But even more noticeable were the tires. Fifteen feet in some places. More than 35,000 tires covering most of the land. Mountains of tires so high a few cars were even found underneath.

“I would rather see it as a vacant lot than the way it looked before,” said Aguirre, as she watched workers clear a small area amid the tires.

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The small two-bedroom house had been occupied by David Bass, Aguirre’s former brother-in-law, who had become an illegal squatter.

After years of trying to evict him, Aguirre finally learned Bass was arrested Friday on felony warrants that charged him with possession of drugs and stealing electrical power, police said. He was evicted from the premises along with five of his friends, who were also arrested on various charges, including drug use and possession. He was being held at the LAPD’s Van Nuys station in lieu of $35,000 bail, police said.

Aguirre first asked Bass to leave the house four years ago, when James Bass--her former husband and Bass’s brother--died. Aguirre and James Bass had bought the house in 1973 as a business investment, and they remained co-owners after they divorced. James Bass, who used the house to repair his catering trucks, had allowed his brother to stay there occasionally.

But after her ex-husband’s death, Aguirre said, David Bass took over the house while it was in probate, refusing to move. He sold off his brother’s expensive tools and machinery and began charging auto-repair companies to dump used tires there.

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When Aguirre tried to force him out by having the power turned off, Bass hooked it back up illegally with jumper cables connected to a live power line, she said. She got a court order to evict him. He didn’t comply. Police carted him off at least three times. But each time he came back.

“He knew all the ins and outs,” Aguirre said. “He wasn’t stupid.”

The climax of Aguirre’s saga came early Saturday when it was decided by police, fire and safety officials, along with James Bass’ probate lawyer, that the lot was a fire hazard that must be cleared.

“If these tires were to catch fire, it would be dangerous,” said Los Angeles Police Officer Minor Jimenez, who helped organize the cleanup. “Not only because of the smoke, which would cause an evacuation of the neighborhood, but the tires would melt and be an extreme hazard.”

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After the house was demolished and the tires pushed into a heap in the center of the property, Aguirre said the lot will be gated. Now she just needs to figure out how to get rid all the tires, which require special recycling.

“I don’t know how to get rid of these tires,” said Aguirre, “But if anyone wants 35,000 tires . . . “


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