The historic Big Oaks Lodge on Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus, destroyed by fire late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, probably cannot be rebuilt at its current location because of permit and code requirements, Angeles National Forest officials said Monday.
“It’s unlikely that given current county zoning requirements and building codes, the lodge could be rebuilt there,” said Philip DeSenze, U.S. Forest Service spokesman.
“The required setbacks from the forest land aren’t possible for a new building,” DeSenze said. “It wouldn’t be fire-safe.”
The lodge, on federal land in the Angeles National Forest, was operated via a special use permit, DeSenze said. Over the years, businesses and cabin owners have owned only the structures, furniture and fixtures, not the land.
“The current permit expired at the end of 2017, but that’s not abnormal — we have a lot of permits that expire and continue to operate under them as long as the permittee continues to abide by the terms,” DeSenze said.
“We’re in the process of updating and getting a renewal signed for that permit,” he said. “The permit holder, Hitendra Golakiea, apparently passed away very recently, and recently and his widow, Patel, is working with our district office to renew the permit. She would be the de facto permit holder in the meantime, given that her husband passed away.”
The permit renewal is now in flux, DeSenze said, “because we don’t know what the future holds for that property.”
He added that the permit administrator handling the update visited the site on Monday to asses the damage.
As to insurance on the property, “The special use permit requires the holder to have in force public liability insurance covering property damage and damage to persons in the event of death or injury ($1 million minimum),” DeSenze said.
According to a published legal notice, the Golakieas bought the business in 2012 from former owner Dee White for $315,000, but only $25,000 of that amount was in cash. White holds a $215,000 demand note and $90,000 promissory note.
The lodge’s liquor license, in the Golakieas’ name, was current through Sept. 30, 2018, according to California Alcoholic Beverage Control records.
Bottles among the debris after the Big Oaks Lodge burned down on Aug. 11-12, 2018. Photo: Leon Worden.
Two cabin residences on the Big Oaks Lodge property and the snack shack, most recently used for storage, were not destroyed by the blaze. The structures are owned by Patel Golakiea and part of the lodge’s special use permit, DeSenze said.
L.A. County Fire Department arson investigators are on the case, spokesman Sal Alvarado said Monday morning.
“The cause of the fire is still under investigation,” he said. “Since it’s a big location, very historic, I can only imagine it would take about a week to get a report on the cause of this fire.”
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Deputy Josh Stamsek said its Special Investigations Bureau is also on the case.
A teenage witness who lives on the property told a source close to SCVTV Sunday that the fire started in the kitchen while the restaurant was open and the owner was present. They quickly doused the fire, but it must have re-ignited, the girl said. Officials have not confirmed her report.
The Big Oaks Lodge’s history goes back at least to 1932, possibly earlier, when it was a country store and cabin resort that hosted Saturday night dances.
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