Last month, a long-vacant property at the old Valley Plaza shopping center was engulfed in fire, requiring the response of more than 100 Los Angeles firefighters to extinguish the blaze — at risk to their lives and at great expense to the City. At similar locations throughout the city, vacant and neglected buildings are a blight on their neighborhoods, becoming a magnet for squatters and criminal activity as well as a fire hazard for neighboring buildings.
In the first council session of the new year, Councilmember Paul Krekorian introduced a motion, seconded by Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, calling for an ordinance requiring property owners to install fire safety equipment and enhanced security at any building that remains vacant for more than 180 days. Councilmember Krekorian’s motion further instructs the Fire Department and the Department of Building and Safety to report on a proactive inspection program for vacant buildings. These requirements will pressure owners of vacant property to put it to productive use, or if they fail to do so, to bear the expense of keeping it safe and preventing harm to the surrounding community.
With regard to the specific incident at Valley Plaza, Councilmember Krekorian also requested that the City Attorney endeavor to recoup the costs of the fire from the property owner and ensure that the owner eliminates blight and preserves public safety at the vacant shopping center. Remarkably, just hours after the motion was introduced, another fire erupted in a different building at the Valley Plaza site, again imperiling lives. The City must act to hold negligent property owners accountable and to prevent further expense to the City and danger to the people of Los Angeles.