Currently viewing the tag: "7.2"

By Mario Conde

Downtown Calexico is back on business with 90% of its stores opened but there are buildings that still need to be repaired on some face condemnation.

Last Wednesday, the Calexico Business Improvement District heard a presentation from City Building Manager, Ralph Morales, about the state of the downtown area after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake last month. Morales said that he has spent most of his time on downtown after the earthquake due the damages. Morales said that after the earthquake 76 buildings were red tag in downtown from 1st to 3rd street. At this time, Morales said that 20 buildings are red tag now.  Almost 50% of buildings are red tag because buildings next to them are in highly damaged condition and not because they are condemned.  Nineteen buildings are yellow tagged meaning that contractors can now enter to start working on renovations.

Morales said that T.C. Worthy on Second Street will have to be demolished because of its condition but said the property owners have to make a decision if they will go forward and fix it or decide for condemnation. The stores next to T.C. Worthy can re-open after improvements are made.

May 14, 2010 is the deadline for all building owners to provide information on the action plan of their buildings to issue permits and to inform the tenants of what needs to be done.   City is calling owners before the deadline to get information as soon as possible.

Assistant City Manager, Armando Villa, commended Ralph Morales for being accessible to downtown merchants. Villa said the owners of Gran Mercado have not sent their contractor to begin the plans with the city to approve the improvements that need to be made for the building.  All that is needed, he said, is for the contractor to spend 3 days with building department and begin their project.  After the work begins then the surrounding businesses can also run their businesses again.

Morales also indicated that the Historic De Anza Hotel has now lowered its status from red tag to yellow tag and contractors can begin doing the repairs to the historic building and could see a re-opening later this year.

The building that holds Payless, the Hot Dog stand, and Casa Bonita on second street was severally damaged since roof on the Casa Bonita store fell down and is pulling the roof from Payless side to the left. Renovations on the Payless store are being made right now and the building will have a new roof and a new wall. Construction might last two months.

BID member Christina Rocha asked how the City can improve pedestrian security on the downtown area because the fences at downtown make it look like war zone and asked if they could remove those fences and replace it with wooden pedestrian walkways.

Morales said that there are two problems because if a building would collapse there could be a danger that the front could fall towards the street and harm pedestrians.  That’s why there are sections where half of the street is blocked for safety on red tag buildings.  In other sever buildings there is no other option but to protect pedestrians from being harmed if a building was to fall.

The BID will continue to meet regularly to update the status of the downtown area.

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May 4, 2010
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
RE: Request for Assistance with State Agencies to expedite Assistance to Families left Homeless by the 7.2 Earthquake in Imperial County and Cutting through the RED TAPE
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,
I’d like to request your immediate assistance. As you witnessed first-hand the damage to our community as a result of the 7.2 earthquake was substantial. The assistance that was given from Cal-EMA and Cookie in particular was tremendous. Bismarck Obando was also remarkable in getting assistance down here immediately after the quake. Your visit to Calexico was very much appreciated and I know served to inspire those of us that continued to work through the days and weeks that followed. Our briefing on the damage to you in person I hope will also help with my request.
Although the Emergency Response is commendable, I do want to bring to your attention though that there are still families that have no place to live, children with no homes, families living in their cars and some going without food but once a day. The stories that we are being exposed to from these affected families are truly heartbreaking.
Our County has and continues to do EVERYTHING in our power to be in the position to redirect, release and begin the actual physical rebuilding of our community. The majority of the displaced families are in this situation because their mobile homes fell off of the foundation and some lost connection to utilities. Others are displaced because their apartments are no longer safe to occupy. But the focus of this request is for families that are living in extreme inhumane conditions with family members and children.
As of last Friday, the Red Cross shut down their shelters in Imperial County. They have stated their reasons why, but our concern now is the immediate need to house these families. Below are a few of the steps that we have taken to expedite assistance:
1. Last Wednesday April 28, 2010 County officials met with the state office of Housing and Community Development requesting permission to redirect Funding sources we are currently allocated to helping these families make necessary repairs to their homes. (We were told they would have an answer by next Wednesday May 12, 2010)
2. A second component of our request to HCD was to allow Imperial County to use any remaining funds after assistance has been given in un-incorporated areas, to be used in the Cities of Calexico and El Centro.
(Unfortunately City of Calexico did not apply for CDBG funding this year)
3. To complement your executive order in waiving fees for Mobile Home processes. We have waived all Permitting and Application Fees for damage caused by the 7.2 Earthquake to mobile homes, residences and Commercial buildings from the date of the earthquake. We are still requiring permits and inspections but at NO COST.
4. We have joined with all of the service clubs in Imperial Valley (Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, etc….) and are organizing the “Imperial Valley Earthquake Victims Relief Benefit Barbecue” with 15,000 tickets and approximately 5,000 lbs of meat. Granting Permits through our Public Health Department for this.
5. Our County Staff have giving their time and resources to help sell tickets to raise money for victims of the earthquake.
6. County Fire and Sheriff Employees have spent numerous hours raising money. Other County staff members are coordinating food drives for these families from the Mobile Home parks.
7. Other NGO and Community Service groups have come together to assist with their networks as well.
8. Today, our Board of Supervisors gave direction to our County CEO and Legal Counsel to find $100,000 in whatever program we manage and help these families and children that are living out of their car find shelter and food. While answers are given to our request.
9. We have directed all County Departments to assist and coordinate with each other on assistance to these families, but we only can do so much.
10. Next Tuesday May 10, 2010, the Board of Supervisors will be conducting a Public Hearing to allow the public the opportunity (and by law) to opine on redirecting CDBG as well as other “housing related” funding to assist mobile home park families displaced.
I would ask that you give orders to the various State Agencies that have any type of jurisdiction in getting assistance to this particular task, either grant waivers, allow redirection of funds from HCD to assist repair on mobile home structures and grant some flexibility while we are still in this State of Emergency in Imperial County. If you recall I shared with you 2 examples of beaurocratic obstacles that the Calexico Unified School District faced with testing immediately after the quake. You asked Cookie and I to get all the details to your Secretary of Education and a solution was provided. One other example is the requirement under a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF, that in order to receive assistance from the Department of Social Services, a family cannot have worked more than 100 hours in a single month. This automatically disqualifies most, if not all of the families that have had damage to their homes. They are thankful to still be employed and not on unemployment, but this insignificant requirement is preventing them from obtaining assistance.
Other program guidelines only allow a family to pick up 1 box of food a month for subsistence. That would normally be acceptable but the mobile home park owners continue to require rent on their spaces and this being the first week of the month, money otherwise used for food is being used to help save their space and legal obligations to pay rent and protect their mobile home investment. The irony is this same mobile home is UNINHABITABLE!
I am prepared to put at your disposal all staff resources the County of Imperial has to assist your personnel in identifying the specific programs and funding sources in question within the State Agencies that I have mentioned above. Governor, let me make this real clear, my request is not for funding or additional resources, it is for your assistance in giving a clear order to FASTRACK and ALLOW State Agencies to be flexible and work to ASSIST Imperial County and the funding sources we are entrusted with to help families by expediting, waiving and allowing us to use existing programs to actually help these families. I implore your help and look forward to a response within the next couple of days.
Sincerely,
Louis Fuentes
Chairman

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