Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin De Leon announced Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, the opening of a business resource center to support victims of the Interstate 10 fire, which shut down one of the nation’s busiest freeways. Signs are posted to direct victims to resources. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Francisco Torres Sr., 69, who is semi-retired after two decades as a produce distributor, was planning to transfer some of his company’s equipment to his son’s business.
The plan was put on hold when a large warehouse fire broke out under the 10 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles. A truck, five forklifts and other equipment, according to the Torres family.
On Monday, November 20, the family opened a Temporary Business Assistance Center in Los Angeles to help businesses affected by the fire that closed the 10 Freeway for more than a week. The fire not only affected those whose businesses were physically burnt, but also caused damage to the companies who lost business when customers were left away from the area.
Francisco Torres Jr., whose father lost most of his investment in the fire, said he went to City Hall last week and made several calls, hoping to get information on what to do. But answers were hard to come by immediately after the fire.
“The week went on,” Torres Jr. described his family’s living nightmare after the Nov. 11 fire.
Jennifer Barraza, chief of staff to Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin De Leon, said Monday after city officials spoke with businesses affected by the fire, “Some businesses said they were losing up to $10,000 a day due to closures and traffic delays.”
Torres Jr. said his family is “grateful that this city can pull something like this together to help.”
The temporary Business Help Center at the Young Market Company in the city center opened on Monday and will be open on Tuesday from 10am to 4pm and next week the help center will be open on Monday and Tuesday from 8am to 2pm.
On the 1st day, more than 30 business owners dropped by the center, according to the workers there. Business owners affected by the fire and freeway closures can come in and get answers to their questions or get help filling out paperwork if they need more help.
The center is supported by funding from De Leon’s office. The council member represents Council District 14, which includes parts of downtown LA and Boyle Heights, two neighborhoods affected by the 10 Freeway closure.
“This closure has a significant impact on the hundreds of thousands of Southern California commuters who rely on this critical artery as we know it,” De Leon said at a news conference Monday morning. “We understand the frustrations and hardships our fellow Angelenos have faced — as well as the devastating … impact on local businesses.”
He added: “The closure has disrupted operations, impacted the livelihoods of business owners who are the heart and soul of our community and caused supply delays and are truly the backbone of our local economy.”
According to De Leon’s office, while the freeway will be open to motorists on Monday, some on-ramps and off-ramps will remain closed for now, meaning nearby businesses could be affected by additional loss of revenue.
The council member’s office has been working with Mayor Karen Bass’ office, city departments and the Downtown Industrial Business Improvement District to launch the resource center.
In addition to the temporary resource center, the mayor’s office announced last week that a small enterprise support program has been launched. Business owners can apply for up to $5,000 in grant money. They have until midnight on December 10 to apply.
Daniel O is a wholesaler of women’s clothing. His business, YS Collection, operated for 13 years near the site of the fire. He estimates he has lost about 70% of his regular business since the freeway closure.
“Customers stopped coming,” he said. “I have regular customers in the area who (usually) come every day. (They) stopped coming for about a week.”
Oh stopped by the aid center on Monday to seek financial assistance. He said that he has been instructed to upload some important documents and he is confident that the money will be delivered.
Barraza, De Leon’s chief of staff, city staff and nonprofit workers spent the weekend with representatives from various city and county offices, nonprofits and business groups visiting affected businesses to let owners know about the resource center. .
People received one-on-one counseling and information about resources available to businesses, as well as mental health services — and some had legal questions answered.
Baraza also said that business owners who may have trouble paying their bills due to a loss of income can talk to a representative of the city’s Water and Power Department, for example, to set up a payment plan.
“We’re creating that safety net for Angelenos to say, ‘Well, at least I can figure out how much it’s going to take,’ even though we know it’s been an unfortunate, terrible situation for Angelenos.” The next few weeks, the next few months to get back on my feet,” Barraza said.
Business Assistant Resource Center Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Young Market Company, 500 S. Central Ave. And next week it will be open Monday and Tuesday from 8am to 2pm.
Urban News Service reports.