Friday, February 24, 2006

Risen from the ashes

Early in the morning of August 16th, 2001, a fire was set in the derelict Palomar Hotel on Santa Monica Boulevard near Western Avenue by the hotel owner, who wanted to collect insurance and avoid expensive repairs. The owners’s brother died helping him set the fire. Also killed was Norma Galindo, who fell to her death only moments after handing her two young children, Lupita and Miguelito, to LAFD firefighters Bob McMaster and Tony Cardona.

I remember that morning clearly, almost five years ago, grappling with the tragedy and trying to ease the suffering of the survivors. Today I returned to the consecrated ground there to see what had risen from it.


Built by the Hollywood Community Housing Corporation with assistance from the CRA/LA and TCAC bonds, the 27 apartments in the restored Palomar Apartments will serve low-income senior citizens and people with disabilities.

I invited Miguel Angel Galindo and his two children to the grand opening ceremony, where we dedicated the building to Norma. We were also joined by Assemblymembers Jackie Goldberg and Dario Frommer, by the firefighters who fought that fire, and by representatives from the agencies who worked on the project.

Four and a half years ago, I was inspired by the community’s reponse to the victims of the fire. Volunteers in East Hollywood helped the Palomar residents find beds at the Lemon Grove Recreation Center, and local churches donated food. Donations to help resettle the torn Galindo family came in. The Little Red Schoolhouse offered Lupita and Miguel free tuition for elementary and middle school.

Our better angels came out at the moment our neighbors needed them. We honor that spirit by dedicating ourselves to continue to find solutions—locations and funding—to the housing crisis in our city.

Norma Galindo’s spirit is honored by the homes and the community that rise here from the ashes.