City Attorney Mike Feuer has filed more than 300 criminal charges against the owners and operators of four Downtown buildings and three businesses for alleged fire code and safety violations following a massive fire and explosion in May, which injured 12 of the more than 230 responding firefighters.
The charges follow multiagency inspections of the Downtown LA buildings and businesses by the Los Angeles Fire Department, LAFD’s Arson Unit, Los Angeles Police Department and the Department of Building and Safety.
“The fire and explosion that ripped through the Boyd Street property caused our firefighters great suffering—and came perilously close to costing their lives,” Feuer said. “We’ll do everything we can to hold the owners and operators of buildings and businesses responsible for complying with our fire and safety codes. The public is counting on us to protect them from a potential catastrophe.”
LAFD Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said the Boyd Street Fire could have been an “epic tragedy” for his agency.
“Thanks to the work of our arson investigators, the Fire Prevention Bureau, the LAPD and the city attorney’s office, we are one step closer to holding accountable the individuals who may have contributed to the circumstances that precipitated this fire and, hopefully, be able to prevent similar incidents in the future,” Terrazas said.
Freddy Escobar, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, IAFF Local 112, said the case is personal.
“Our firefighters are lucky to have escaped this inferno with their lives. We support the city attorney’s efforts to hold people accountable for their reckless actions that put our first responders in harm’s way.”
The sprawling fire allegedly started at 327 Boyd Street, a building owned by Steve Sungho Lee that houses SmokeTokes, Green Buddha and Bio Hazard. It quickly spread to 325 E. Boyd Street, also owned by Lee and where Green Buddha and Bio Hazard also allegedly operate. Lee was charged with 36 counts for violations at 327 Boyd Street and 50 counts for violations at 325 E. Boyd Street
Two additional buildings, also owned by Lee, are 309 S. San Pedro Street—where Smoke Tokes also allegedly operated—and 5719 S. Avalon Boulevard. Lee has been charged with 46 additional counts for violations at 309 S. San Pedro and three more counts for violations at 5719 S. Avalon.
All four of the properties allegedly were found to have illegal storage of hazardous materials.
Smoke Tokes, as one of the operators of the properties, has also been charged with 36 counts for violations found at 327 Boyd Street and 46 counts for violations found at 309 S. San Pedro. Green Buddha, which is owned by Smoke Tokes, and Bio Hazard—two additional operators—are charged with 36 counts for violations at 327 Boyd Street and 50 counts for violations found at 325 E. Boyd Street.
Charges include violations of the Los Angeles Municipal Code and the California Penal Code. The charges include a multitude of violations including failure to comply with LADBS and LAFD orders for fire code and building code violations.
The most egregious among the violations allegedly occurred at the 327 Boyd property and include conspiracy to endanger the public health, which encompasses failure to maintain aisles, failure to have hazmat warning signs, failure to have no-smoking signs, failure to classify hazardous commodities, illegal storage height, over-height storage, failure to obtain a facility permit, hazmat storage without proper permits, improper shelf storage, failure to identify aerosols, failure to have key boxes, failure to have proper sprinkler coverage and failure to maintain a safe building.
Maximum penalties for Steve Sungho Lee are up to 68 years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines. Maximum penalties for Smoke Tokes include up to 41.5 years in jail as well as thousands of dollars in fines. The maximum penalties for Bio Hazard and Green Buddha include up to 43.5 years in jail and thousands of dollars in files. Arraignment for all cases is November 19.