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Residents Clean Up After Quake, Ponder Options : Recovery: Although the region was spared most of Monday's destruction, many homes and businesses sustained damage, and the newly homeless wonder where they will end up.


Although the San Fernando Valley took the brunt of the Northridge quake, Central Los Angeles did not escape devastation.

The magnitude 6.6 quake drove many Central Los Angeles residents from their homes and into makeshift encampments or temporary quarters. Already beleaguered merchants are counting their losses.

Scores of skittish residents camped out in vacant lots on Hoover Street. The dome atop the Metropolitan Community Church on Washington Boulevard collapsed. Gas lines ruptured in Watts, chimneys toppled in West Adams, and glass shattered everywhere. There were countless images on television of the collapsed Santa Monica Freeway, and countless questions on how long Mid-City residents will suffer gridlock conditions because of it.

Older buildings throughout the area were chipped and cracked, many to the point of being uninhabitable. Preliminary estimates late last week indicated 268 structures in Central Los Angeles sustained damage totaling about $6.9 million. City officials were quick to point out that those figures were certain to rise as building inspectors continue surveying.

Among the hardest hit were residents of two apartment buildings near Adams and Crenshaw boulevards.

At 2557 Bronson Ave., one block east of Crenshaw Boulevard, the pale blue apartment building, home to about nine families, was evacuated and sealed off by police officers Monday morning. The building, estimated to be 70 years old, shifted on its foundation, knocking over part of a wall between it and another apartment house. The quake tore a crack along the bottom of the building.

Many of the residents escaped through windows on the south side of the building, pushing aside safety bars. Furniture and mattresses sat outside as residents stared in disbelief at what was once their home.

The building stood vacant for most of Monday, with a few residents such as Evangelina Diaz and her family managing to crawl through windows into their first-floor apartment.

Her husband, Miguel Enrique Cortez, had managed the building for nearly a year. As he struggled to lift a small heater, he looked back and shrugged. "A lot of stuff will stay. We're just trying to get the clothes, tables and chairs out," he said. "For now, the most important thing is to get out. We'll come back when they let us, that's if they don't destroy it first."

It was unclear when residents would be allowed to return to retrieve personal items. The building, which was in foreclosure, will have to be demolished because of the structural damage, said George Willert, a court-appointed field supervisor who is overseeing the foreclosure.

"We've already relocated some of the families who were still there, and another family has gone to stay with family," Willert said. "We're looking for space in some of our other buildings right now."

"I guess I just have to wait," said Raul Sanchez, 34, a roofer. "I didn't manage to get anything out, not even a change of clothes to go to work tomorrow. But I guess I can't go to work because then I won't be able to get my things out."

Sanchez and three roommates spent the night in his car at a parking lot. They said they planned to move to another apartment nearby but had to gather money for rent.


Around the corner at 2334 Crenshaw Blvd., Raphael Garcia joined the ranks of Good Samaritans around the Southland who extended a hand to their neighbors. Garcia helped rescue a family trapped on the second floor of the apartment building where he lived.

"A lot of people were banging on doors and they were trapped," said Garcia, 33, a factory worker who was preparing for work when the earthquake struck. "I was out here (in front of the building) with my family, and another guy showed up and he said to me: 'We got to help, there are people trapped in there.' I can't even tell you what he looked like or who he was because it was dark outside still, and I'd never seen him before in my life, but we went in and started pushing open doors."

While Garcia and two others helped pry doors open for neighbors, they realized a family with at least two small children was trapped in a second-floor unit in the rear of the Spanish-style building.

"Somehow (the parents) got some sheets and tied them together and managed to let the kids down. I can't even tell you how many there were," Garcia said.

"All I can say is we're all human and neighbors, and I had to help."

The building, which has about 18 units, was heavily damaged. The front steps were split in half from top to bottom, and the wall on the southwestern corner had buckled to a 45-degree angle. The earthquake left a large crack across the front.

Now Garcia and his family need help. Nearly 12 hours after he helped rescue his neighbors, Garcia, his wife and two children were trying to find a place to live. His sister, who lives nearby, offered to put them up for a time until they can find another apartment, but Garcia worries that a shortage of money and safe dwellings may prevent them from moving.


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