3 years later, families impacted by LAPD's botched fireworks explosion may face homelessness

On the eve of the City Council's expected consideration of a settlement with individuals impacted by the Los Angeles Police Department's botched fireworks disposal, some of those families Monday shared their uncertainty about ever returning to their homes.

The families with the help of Ron Gochez, a community organizer with Unión del Barrio who has helped organize residents, gathered Monday on the 700 block of East 27th Street, one block east of San Pedro Street, one day after the third anniversary of the June 30, 2021, explosion in the block, to call on Mayor Karen Bass and Councilman Curren Price to give them more help in returning to their homes.

Some of the families expressed their concerns about possibly getting evicted from their temporary housing at the Level Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

City officials have not informed the hotel of any eviction plans, Angelina Valencia, Price's communications director, told City News Service.

"A settlement agreement is currently under consideration by the council, which includes provisions allowing individuals adequate time to transition from the hotel," Price, whose 9th District includes the affected area, said in a statement.

"We understand the importance of allowing people to return to their homes and resume their normal lives, and I am committed to facilitating this process with the utmost care."

On Tuesday, the City Council and the displaced families reached a $21 million settlement. The deal includes housing at the hotel for displaced residents until February 2025.

"The councilman is committed to treating these victims with respect and dignity, and he has supported them every step of the way," Valencia said in a statement.

An LAPD bomb squad botched the detonation of fireworks on June 30, 2021, resulting in a blast that injured 17 people, damaged 35 properties and displaced more than 80 residents. City Controller Kenneth Mejia reported in November 2023 that the explosion had cost the city $9.5 million. Another $1.7 million had been committed but unspent, according to the report at the time.

Bass and Price have met with some of the families and discussed ways the city can support them.

Adrian Alvarez, community activist and member of Unión del Barrio, said the settlement terms have not been shared with the public. Some of the families are hopeful, but remain skeptical about what the settlement may provide, he added.

"The honest truth is that if it wasn't for the residents organizing and resisting the system nothing would have been done," Alvarez said. "In every step of the way, we had to protest and push and demand for the minimum amount of help for something that they didn't have anything to do with."

Alvarez said these individuals are homeowners and deserve justice for the emotional and financial damages the LAPD caused them. Many of these families are immigrants or are low-income, working hard and struggled decades to save and buy homes, he added.

According to Union del Barrio, the full extent of the damage is difficult to quantify because these families lost holidays, time together, a sense of security and much more.

"The main demand has just been for the city to be responsible for damage they caused," Alvarez said. "They deserve the just amount to be able to go back to the live they were living prior to the negligence by LAPD."

On Tuesday, Price issued the following statement in response to the settlement:

"Over the past three years, this process has been agonizingly slow, and on behalf of the City of Los Angeles, I regret that it took so long to reach this point. However, getting here wasn't easy and required the collective effort of multiple departments, lawyers, and other stakeholders, presenting significant challenges along the way.  I understand the victims’ continued frustration, but my Office has never abandoned them. Our commitment to supporting every single household has been steadfast since day one. We have advocated for emergency funds, provided interim housing, established a neighborhood resource center, facilitated home repairs, distributed grants, and ensured access to basic necessities such as medicine, clothing and food. Additionally, we collaborated with medical professionals to offer check-ups, mental health services, and other vital support, and worked with  interagency partners and nonprofits to obtain housing vouchers, relocation assistance, and other social services.  The truth is, this incident should never have happened and was entirely preventable, and we’re still reeling from it all these years later. It is my firm expectation that the LAPD has learned from this disaster and has taken every necessary step to prevent such tragedies from occurring ever again in the future for the sake of our City."