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West Valley Focus

GRANADA HILLS : Quake Delivers a Hard Punch to Community

Editor's Note: This is one in a series of Focus reports spotlighting individual Valley communities and how they are faring in the aftermath of the Jan. 17 earthquake.

January 29, 1994|SUSAN BYRNES

Many of the most dramatic images of the Northridge earthquake--felled buildings, flames and water spouting simultaneously from the ground and collapsed freeways--came from Granada Hills in the immediate aftermath of the powerful temblor.

Evidence of the tremendous destruction inflicted by the quake is visible on nearly every street in the sprawling community, from an entire block of red-tagged buildings on Kingsbury Street, to boarded-up storefronts in the area's main business district on Chatsworth Street.

"It's not that everybody got major damage," said Gary Farajian, president of the Granada Hills Chamber of Commerce. "It's just that nobody was spared."

Farajian, who owns a heating and air-conditioning company, said that although residences sustained more structural damage than commercial buildings, businesses in the community were hit hard. "It's troubling," Farajian said. "We were just starting to dig ourselves out as a community. We were just starting to hold our own. This could push a few operations out of business."

Some of the most obvious evidence of the destructive power of the quake in Granada Hills is the collapsed Kaiser Permanente building and the ravaged portion of the Simi Valley Freeway over Hayvenhurst Avenue. But many other businesses, from gas stations to restaurants to supermarkets, remained closed this week as owners assessed property damage and began the arduous process of rebuilding.

According to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, Council District 12, which includes Granada Hills, Northridge, Chatsworth and portions of Sylmar, North Hills and West Hills, was the hardest hit by the Jan. 17 earthquake.

Nick Delli Quadri, a senior structural engineer for the department, said 6,075 buildings in the district were damaged, 354 of which were red-tagged as unsafe. Of those, 276 are residential buildings.

Neither were Granada Hills churches and schools spared by the quake. Three of the eight schools dubbed the "Big Eight" by the Los Angeles Unified School District for the severity of the damage were in Granada Hills: John F. Kennedy High School, Robert Frost Middle School and Van Gogh Elementary School.

Father Mike Slattery of St. John Baptist de la Salle on Chatsworth Street, which suffered severe structural damage to its 100-foot bell tower and other buildings, said repairing the church is not the first priority.

"We'll start with building the people back up--renovating them and giving them hope," Slattery said. "The buildings will come later."

Many residents living in the Knollwood section of Granada Hills lost block walls and suffered significant damage to their homes. But John Moranville, president of the Knollwood Property Owners Assn., said that for most residents, the damage is just an expensive inconvenience.

"Most people are just saying, 'who cares?' " Moranville said. "I have the same attitude. My family is safe. The rest doesn't matter."

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