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Westside Community News

HOLLYWOOD : Victims Cling to Shaken Homes, Hopes

January 27, 1994|ADRIAN MAHER

In the worst catastrophe in the community's history, the Northridge earthquake left 6,000 people homeless and severely damaged 257 buildings, including historical landmarks such as the Brown Derby restaurant, officials said this week.

"This is much worse than the riots," said Sharon Romano, director of the Hollywood Beautification Team, a nonprofit organization that assists quake victims. "We have lost a large amount of (affordable) housing and we have thousands living in the streets and crowding into shelters."

There were no reported deaths in Hollywood. Sharon Delugach, chief of staff for Los Angeles Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, who represents the area, said the quake caused more than $40 million in damage and forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 residences, most of them apartments.

"Much of the damage was to big buildings housing large Spanish-speaking, immigrant families--easy targets for unscrupulous landlords," said Delugach. "We've had reports some owners removed red tags, which ban occupancy, and told their tenants it's OK to return."

Ten days after the quake, refugees were still huddled with their possessions in parking lots near their evacuated buildings. Some said they feared for their safety in shelters, while others wanted to protect their homes from looters. Many were simply too bewildered to leave their neighborhoods.

Early in the week police were clearing the larger sites and insisting families move to shelters. The area from 5300 to 6000 Carlton Way was particularly hard hit, with families living on the sidewalk in front of sagging duplexes, collapsed residences and tilted apartment buildings.

Down the street, a plaque swinging from a twisted gate proclaimed: "Lord, help me hang in there."

Many have been reluctant to move.

"We can't leave our stuff upstairs; it might get stolen," said Mauricio Cornejo, 35, a father of three young children, as he pointed to a buckled apartment building. But he eventually heeded the pleas of a social worker to head for an emergency shelter.

In addition to the human misery, LeRon Gubler, head of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said nearly 50 historical landmarks had suffered damage. The list includes the Egyptian Theater, which closed because of a collapsed back wall, and the famous Brown Derby restaurant, which was ordered demolished despite the anguished cries of preservationists.

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