Torched Pasadena home has sordid history
Police have visited the El Sereno Avenue house --- where two men died Nov. 1 in a fire --- 120 times since 1990.
Garth Allen Robbins, 49 and of Pasadena, appeared briefly in the Pasadena Court on Tuesday. Robbins is suspected of causing a house fire in Pasadena that killed two men and severely injured another one on Nov. 1. Robbins is charged with two counts of murder and 15 counts of attempted murder. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / November 6, 2012)
On Tuesday, a team of officials with various city departments inspected the home at 1385 El Sereno Ave. and others under the same ownership, city spokesman William Boyer said. The duplex, where 20 men were renting partitioned rooms at the time of the fire, remains under investigation as a possibly illegal boarding house.
Also on Tuesday, the El Sereno tenant accused of intentionally setting the fire, Garth Allen Robbins, 49, pleaded not guilty to 19 criminal charges, including two counts of capital murder, 15 counts of attempted murder and two counts of arson.
Prosecutors may seek the death penalty for the fire-related deaths of Paul Richard Boyd, 75, and Cliff Juan Clark, 56, according to a statement by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Another El Sereno resident, Perry Simons, was seriously injured and remains at Grossman Burn Center in West Hills, said Grossman spokeswoman Cathy Butter.
Robbins is being held without bail. His attorney, Rayford Fountain of Pasadena, has asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Smerling for a mental evaluation of his client.
The house on El Sereno is owned by Jeanette Broussard, an Altadena resident who also owns a home at 655 Del Monte St. in Pasadena, where a fire killed a tenant in May 2009.
City prosecutors filed six misdemeanor charges against Broussard after that fire, including housing code violations and creation of a public nuisance. The charges were dropped after Broussard agreed to comply with city regulations, Boyer said.
Broussard also dropped a suit claiming the city should have allowed the property to operate as a group home for the disabled.
The Del Monte home was operating as a boarding house in violation of city code, according to court documents.
Broussard has declined to comment.
Boyer said the El Sereno property is zoned for multifamily residential use under a designation allowing no more than 12 units per acre.
The El Sereno lot is 10,000 square feet, less than a quarter of an acre, according to L.A. County assessor's office spokesman Luis Reyes.
City officials have withheld some documents related to the El Sereno property's code enforcement history pending the outcome of the current investigation, Boyer said.
“We don't know where at this point the investigation will lead or whether there will be additional criminal or civil charges” separate from those Robbins faces, he said.
Code enforcement officials last visited the property on June 20, according to city records, though the documents do not outline the complaint that prompted the visit.
On Sept. 14, 2009, officials received a telephone complaint that “the entire building is roach/rat infested,” according to documents.
Pasadena City Councilwoman Jacque Robinson, whose district includes the El Sereno and Del Monte homes, said city officials told her they were investigating the El Sereno property before the fire occurred and had planned an inspection that was preempted by the fire.
Mayor Bill Bogaard said officials described the location as “a problem property.”
Pasadena police have been called to the home numerous times over the years, according to police records.
Incidents in 2012 included a fight or disturbance on Oct. 19 and a report of possible elder abuse on June 20.
In 2010 and 2011, police responded to reports of battery, public intoxication, drug use and petty theft. Police also made an outstanding warrant arrest and responded to three disturbance calls at the property in 2010 and 2011.
Going back to 1990, police have been called to the property 120 times, including for a fight between two tenants in April 2006 that resulted in a fatal stabbing.