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Boiling Mad : Gas Leak Puts Culver City Condominium Complex in a Stew Over Hot Water

Times Staff Writer

Attorney Richard Waldow, 30, thought he was living the yuppie dream.

With a comfortable pad in Culver City’s Lakeside Village, he could stroll leafy, oak-lined walkways to the Jacuzzi, pool and recreation room. He could lift weights and play table tennis. He lived in gate-guarded security.

But then, last Sunday, he turned on the tap.

No hot water.

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“Due to an unlocated underground gas leak, Southern California Gas Co. has turned off all natural gas to our complex,” read a notice posted the next day. “As a result, no hot water for units, laundries (dryers and washers), nor pools/Jacuzzis. . . .”

So for the past seven days while repair crews struggled to find the mysterious leak, more than 1,000 residents of the woodsy, upscale condominium complex have stood in line for hot showers, watched their laundry pile up and gone without hot water for their dishes. Some took it all in stride; others were not amused.

“In the morning I microwave a bunch of hot water and shave with it,” Waldow said. “Tempers are rising--at least in my unit.”

Nick Todaro, property manager for the Lakeside Village Condominium Assn., said gas company officials turned off the main line after residents reported smelling natural gas. Crews discovered at least two leaks under the complex’s asphalt parking lots, Todaro explained. The gas was expected to be on again today, the manager said. In the meantime, residents at the complex Saturday said they were coping the best they could.

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“I’m ready to sue somebody,” said Simon Gevurtz, 30, an insurance and stocks salesman. “Our safety has been compromised.”

Never mind the danger of possible explosion, Gevurtz said. He had to leave the complex to do his wash.

“I had to go to the Laundromat . . . three miles away. There could have been a gunman.”

Gevurtz said the only hot water in the 530-unit complex has been provided by electric heaters in the recreation room, where morning and evening crowds have lined up to use two men’s showers and two women’s showers. He once had to wait 10 minutes, he said. He had to alter his schedule by showering in mid-afternoon.

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“Reaction has been a mix of anger and good humor,” said Louise Bockall, 53, who was leaving the shower Saturday afternoon on her way to the UCLA football game. She said she has used the recreation room shower three times--and twice even that shower was cold. Her laundry is still in a heap, she said.

“It’s a huge place for something like this to happen,” Bockall said. “People are frustrated. I just keep saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ ”

Sherri George, 11, said she objected to using the public showers. “It’s really grungy,” she said, adding that she found hair in the drain. She was one of several youngsters standing near one of three long, oval pools. None of them was going in.

“It’s too cold,” Ananda Foley, 13, said.

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One condo owner, who asked not to be named, said: “I think there are going to be a lot of people not paying their fees next month.”

But such talk was minimized at the management office. Todaro said the problem--"a normal leak"--was being taken in stride, and all would end well.

“This is a very well-knit community, a ‘together’ community,” he said. "(This) has brought everyone even closer together, I think.”


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