Incident #0031: What or Who Fueled I-10 Arsonist? Pt 2
11-13-22 – State Fire Marshal Daniel Berlant gave limited information on the investigation but did reveal it was determined the fire was set by an arsonist, they know where the fire started, and what caused it. Tips or leads can be sent anonymously to the CAL FIRE Arson Hotline at 1-800-468-4408 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
So how did the homeless become a part of the media report of the I-10 fire & discussion?
- An attorney, Mainak D’Attaray, for the lessee mentioned it to the press on Wednesday, four days after the fire.
- 16 homeless people living in an encampment, in and adjacent to the leased property were taken to shelters.
Apex Development - Calabasas
- CEO - Ahmad Anthony Nowaid
- Has three additional "air-space" leases with the State of California also along the I-10 freeway
- Originally leased the 1361 Lawrence St (LAFD identified the fire as 1745 E 14th St) property, from the State of California/CalTrans in 2008
- The lease for 1361 Lawrence St expired in 2015 and was now month-to-month
- Had not paid the State since 2022 for the lease of 1361 Lawrence St. A lawsuit was filed by CalTrans against Apex/Nowaid in August 2022 for eviction
- Was in violation of the lease for a decade and another lawsuit was filed by the State in September
- Also naming Nowaid, two of his companies, and other businesses subleasing a total of five freeway properties, according to the court records.
- Additionally, an extensive investigative report by the East Bay Times details those violations; using images thru Google Maps Company leasing site of 10 Freeway fire hadn’t paid rent in more than a year, illegally subleased spaces
- Sub-leased to six other companies at the Lawrence Street property, details made public include:
- Eagle Wood Services, a wood pallet business. Owner Luis Cartagena, asserts theft of product caused him to no longer store there, over a year ago; in addition to the homeless, drug dealing, and prostitution.
- Rudy Serafin, lost $800,00 worth of inventory related to the garment industry. He has stored his property, there since 2009, paying Apex $4,500 a month for his recent lease charges. He suggested he was uninsurable because of the risk from open-fires the homeless were known to use for heating and cooking. In an interview he admitted to storing hand-sanitizers, left over from 2021, but also qualified the fire did not start in the area they were stored; rather the fire started in the middle of his shop.
- All the sub-lessee’s had received notices in May 2023 of the non-payment by Apex, from the California Department of Transportation
- The sub-lessee’s stopped paying Apex and claimed APEX DENIED them access to their property. They also assert they tried to work with the State but nothing materialized, because contracts were with Apex not the sub-lessee’s. They were allowed access when they paid Apex.
- Attorney, Mainak D’Attaray for Apex, said on Wednesday (4 days after the fire)
- Apex had complained to L.A. City officials about fires started by homeless “people on or near the property”.
- They had been denied access since October but did not divulge who was involved.
- Caltrans inspected the premises periodically, at least once a year, CalTrans was fully aware of the sublessee's and their operations.
- The State of California’s Fire Marshall had inspected the premises.
It should be noted the leases between Cal Trans & Apex did not require proof of Fire Insurance!
State of California
Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency and directed the state Department of Transportation to request assistance from the federal government. "The state is mobilizing resources and taking steps to ensure any necessary repairs are completed as soon as possible to minimize the impact on those traveling in and around Los Angeles," 11.11.23-I-10-Freeway-Fire-proclamation.pdf (ca.gov)
Shailen Blatt, the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), also surveyed the site today and emphasized the federal government is working closely with the state to quickly and safely reopen the 10 Freeway. This work is likely to be eligible for federal reimbursement under the FHWA emergency relief program. FIX THE 10: Governor Newsom Highlights Efforts Underway to Repair Major LA Freeway | California Governor
Governor Newsom called Apex “bad actors” for subletting to unauthorized tenants. And revealed Apex is in litigation over $78,00 (other sources suggest it is as much as $600,000) in back rent to the State. A court date is scheduled for February. He also suggested “The structural integrity of the deck appears to be much stronger than originally assessed….That does not mean that we are moving forward without consideration of a demo.”
now has full site access to shore up support pillars & begin repairs. We are working 24/7 to get LA's traffic moving.” tweet by CalTrans
Governer Newsom said the state would reassess the practice of leasing land under roads to bring in money for mass transportation projects. He directed questions about whether the state has any regular inspection protocols to state transportation officials. Caltrans, has not answered questions about inspections or how many properties the state leases.
Izzy Gardon, of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the fire (arson) started “in a fenced-off area that Apex was responsible for maintaining while they continued to assert rights under the lease,” This was reiterated by Governor Newsom in his press conference.
· State Assemblymember Santiago, one of downtown Los Angeles representatives, commented about what officials should disclose:
- How many sites are leased
- Terms of contracts
- How much money the program generates
- How the state ensures companies comply with the contract requirements.
Caltrans’ Airspace and Telecommunications Licensing Program — “is responsible for leasing and managing those properties or sites held for a transportation purpose that can safely accommodate a secondary use,”
Caltrans District 7 photos CALTRANS - District 7 (@caltransdistrict7) • Instagram photos and videos Updates are on CalTrans website page: Fix the 10 | Caltrans
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