Homeless Man Found at the Scene of N. Spaulding Ave. House Fire

An apparently homeless man was found in the basement of the house at 1039 N. Spaulding Ave. where a fire occurred yesterday morning.

Lt. David Smith of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station said it remains unclear what caused the fire at the house, which he described as a “packrat place.” The homeless man was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he remains in critical condition. Smith said the city’s Code Compliance office will investigate conditions in the house. Firefighters arrived quickly and extinguished the fire.

The incident is one of a number on the city’s Eastside that have raised concerns among residents about the homeless population there. Smith told the city’s Public Safety Commission last night that the Sheriff’s Station has increased its foot patrols from one night to two nights on the Eastside. Each foot patrol consists of two officers, although Smith acknowledged that it isn’t always possible for the station to find officers willing to work overtime to staff the patrols.

Smith attributed the large increase in petty thefts this past July over July 2014 (from 18 to 34 incidents, an increase of 89 percent), in part to the presence of homeless people at the Gateway, the shopping plaza on the southwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Brea. He said the Sheriff’s Station also was been working with the owner of the McDonald’s restaurant on La Brea to reduce the presence of homeless people there. Another factor in the increase, he said, was the passage in November 2014 of Proposition 47, which reduced many low-level theft and drug possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanors such as petty theft. Petty theft is defined as the theft of property worth $950 or less.

  1. Larry, you are a hero! What we see more and more are the few single family homes in the mid city and east side that are two, three in a row between blocks of 3, 4, 5, 6 story buildings. Often these buildings are not historic and have been in families for generations. When the “kids” decide to sell, the tenants who are paying $4,000-$6,0000 a month move to a new house. But, assemblage of the lots permits scaled developments with 4-10 permanently affordable units. So our community ultimately benefits. We get new buildings that are in keeping with the scale of the neighborhood and new residents that desperately need affordable housing. I am so glad to learn that RAID is not just for mosquitoes, but can be sprayed on nasty gadflies too! PSST.

  2. Hi, Chis.

    First off, YES.There are still single-family houses in West Hollywood, although we’re losing them quickly. This building, constructed in the 1920’s, has something called a “shed basement.” It’s a dirt-floor area under the house, deep enough so you can upright, and generally contains things like the furnace and hot water heater. The door leading to it is slanted. A slightly larger opening would have 2 doors, opening like a book. We’re not talking about your mid-West storm cellar, or an East Coast rec room – just a utilitarian space accessible ONLY from the outside. The home owner wouldn’t have any reason to go into that area at this time of year, and wouldn’t have any reason to keep the door locked because its within the back yard area, which is usually already secure.

    This is no different from a home invasion.

  3. @Dark Angel, you’re missing my point. I am quite aware you can not force any employee to work overtime. My point is, it seems to me, there are hundreds of officers available for overtime when the detail/job is minding traffic at events, or being in a riot defense line. Opposed to working a shift on patrol in the neighborhoods. The next big event, i.e. presidential visit, concert in the streets, festivals etc, look at the patrol! Most are doing nothing and are being paid OVERTIME! I was merely stating that the management should have some structure on who is eligible for overtime; it should be a BENEFIT, not a punishment or a desperate plea, awarded to those officers who are eager to work the neglected shifts, not just up for grabs overtime for any officer in the right place at the right time. Also, these lame excuses given to the public and media as to why there are no patrols in major areas should be addressed, repaired and unexcused!

  4. Z, and Randy, I’ve done few ride along with different deputies and different shift, not only Weho, but entire county is short on staff!! When there’s a bigger events, deputies from entire LA County comes to work. When you have overtime everyday and every shift, most deputies are either working, or off!! I asked the same question during coffee with captain and I was told that deputies cannot work more than certain hours and days at a time. It violates some policy set by state.
    No matter what job you look at, you can’t force someone to work overtime!!

  5. Z, well put.

    Or find someone who is willing to work those hours (i.e., transfer from another station, etc.). That is not an excuse that should ever be given to the public, and it think it goes to show that the attitude by a lot of the people at the WeHo station is that they want a cushy assignment (as compared to a lot of other stations they could be assigned to).

  6. Large events are not just staffed by deputies from the West Hollywood Station, they come in from all over the county. Forced overtime hurts moral while voluntary does not. Being homeless is no longer a crime but many of the activities they engage in are a crime. Harass them back into Hollywood like they did the male hustlers.

  7. The house where this fire occurred belongs to my neighbors. They have lived in this house for over 60 years. Anyone who stays at the same place for this long accumulates a lot of stuff. They have a bit of work to do to repair their after the fire, and I’m certain the place will be cleaner when everything is done. I want to emphasize that the condition of the home had NOTHING to do with the fire. A person invaded their property, barricaded himself in space under the house and set it on fire. The family was lucky to escape before being injured, and lucky that we have a fire station so close!

    The important issue here is that homeless people on the Eastside are not just hanging out on Santa Monica Blvd. They are looking for shelter in garages, laundry rooms, and crawl spaces. Renters who inadvertently leave a garage open, a laundry room unlocked or a property gate propped open could be inviting harm to every tenant in their building. Our city is part of a huge urban area that has problems. All of us need to be alert to when LA’s problems affect us.

  8. “Each foot patrol consists of two officers, although Smith acknowledged that it isn’t always possible for the station to find officers willing to work overtime to staff the patrols.” This is complete HOGWASH! All of the special event, road closures etc, there are hundreds of officers out there on OVERTIME PAY! To say there are NO officers willing to work patrol on overtime is ridiculous! Learn how to manage your staff! Either they work when you NEED them to, or they are not qualified to work overtime when there are special events and such where the duties of the officers is to stand and talk to one another for hours, doing nothing. Manage your staff, or step down Lt. Smith and let someone who knows how to manage a police force do the job without “problems”.

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