State Hires Security Under California 10 Freeway

State Hires Security Under California 10 Freeway
Newsom and Bass announce three-week repairs for arson-hit Interstate 10. (Dean Musgrove/The Orange County Register via AP)


More than a month after an arson fire damaged a vital Los Angeles freeway, the state of California has taken precautionary measures by hiring security guards to oversee leased properties under the 10 Freeway. The sites, leased to a bankrupt businessman, Ahmad Anthony Nowaid, were compromised in the November 11th inferno, prompting concerns about safety and the government's vetting processes.

Arson Investigation and Security Measures

Despite the passage of time, no arrests have been made in connection to the arson case that led to the closure of a 2-mile stretch of the 10 Freeway for a week. In response, the state has subcontracted security services to Treston Security Services to monitor three additional sites leased to Nowaid beneath the freeway.

Hazardous Conditions and Vetting Concerns

A visit by Associated Press journalists to the properties revealed hazardous conditions, mirroring those that fueled the November inferno. Wooden pallets, flammable materials, and unsafe electrical wiring were observed, raising questions about the vetting process before leasing land under California's freeways.

Nowaid's Lease Agreements and the State's Response

Nowaid, operating through his companies Apex Development Inc. and Metro Investments Group, leased multiple properties from Caltrans, including the storage yard that burned. The state is currently in a legal battle to evict Nowaid and the tenants subleasing through him, violating contractual agreements.

Tenant Perspectives and Financial Disputes

Several tenants subletting spaces beneath the freeway expressed grievances, labeling Nowaid as a bully. The tenants, who paid rent to Nowaid, revealed financial disputes, with Nowaid owing the state nearly $223,000 for one property. Questions about the state's accountability in empowering Nowaid were raised by affected tenants.

Nowaid's name is associated with at least 20 firms, including real estate, property management, and construction businesses. Legal filings reveal a history of restraining orders, lawsuits, and settlements, highlighting potential red flags in the state's vetting process.

State's Awareness and Inspections

Records indicate that the state was aware of safety issues at Nowaid's leased sites, with inspectors reporting unsafe conditions over the years. Despite this awareness, the state continued leasing land to Nowaid, prompting criticism and calls for a review of the vetting process.

Statewide Review and Government Response

Governor Gavin Newsom ordered a review of all 601 "airspace" sites leased by Caltrans around roadways. The airspace leasing program, dating back to the 1960s, encompasses parking lots, cellphone towers, open storage, and warehouses. The recent incident has sparked concerns about the safety of these leased properties.


As investigations into the arson case continue, the state faces scrutiny over its leasing practices, particularly regarding safety vetting. The complex web of legal disputes, financial issues, and safety concerns underscores the challenges in managing and overseeing properties leased beneath California's extensive freeway system.

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