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3 Condo Owners Blame Developer in Dispute Over Delays in Repairs

Times Staff Writer

Nine months after a developer’s bulldozer tore down the quaint blue and white patio and walkway of three condominiums next to a North Hollywood construction site, the property remains in disrepair.

And the condominium owners, who were routed from their homes for two months because the building was deemed unsafe for habitation, say they are angry and frustrated by the delays, and feel betrayed by a developer who they contend promised to repair their property quickly.

“It’s so obvious we are the victims. We don’t understand why this has taken so long,” said Elaine Overbey, 32. “They screwed up. They should fix it. They should compensate us” for the money spent on rented apartments and hotels.

Developer Blames Owners

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The developer, Henry Amitai, building manager of Condor Wescorp of Encino, denies that he has not responded quickly to repair the damage at the Radford Avenue complex.

He said that condo owners have brought on the delays themselves because of their initial confusion about how the repairs should be carried out. Homeowners also gave him erroneous building plans as a guide, he said.

“We never stalled,” Amitai said. “In the first three months they didn’t want us to touch it. We didn’t have the right to go there.”

He said the condo owners’ frustrated feelings are “only human and normal” because “these are three women, and they are alone. It is only normal that when they are faced with a technical catastrophe they would be bewildered.”

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This is the second time Condor Wescorp has encountered controversy with neighbors at a building site. In December, one of the firm’s construction workers got into a fistfight with a neighbor over a zoning dispute during construction of an apartment building on Tujunga Avenue.

Foundation Undermined

That dispute ended with a recent city Planning Commission decision to limit the height of apartment buildings near single family homes in the southeast Valley.

The damage to the condos on Radford Avenue occurred on Dec.19, when a bulldozer grading at the neighboring construction site undermined part of the complex’s foundation, causing a walkway and three patios to collapse, said Frank Struve, an inspector with the Los Angeles Building and Safety Department.

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Building and safety inspectors ordered the three condominiums, which are on one side of a 6-unit building, evacuated until the building could be stabilized. It was two months before that work was done and inspected and a temporary walkway was built, allowing the three residents access to their homes, city officials said.

“I had to live out of my car and stay with friends and relatives for two months,” said condominium owner Robin Felsen, 30.

The homeowners’ insurance would not cover repairs, and the residents said they did not have money to complete the work. They agreed with their attorney, I. Donald Weissman, to work with the developer to complete the work rather than file a time-consuming lawsuit.

Condor attempted to repair the damage by rebuilding the sidewalk and patio.

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On July 11, building and safety inspectors determined that the work was substandard. “The corrective work being done did not conform with the building code with respect to drainage, design and quality of work,” Struve said.

Amitai said the work was the result of errors in the plans that the homeowners had given him, caused by differences between the blueprints drawn up by the original builder and the actual construction at the time.

Residents called it shoddy workmanship.

The work was ripped out and rebuilt, but still is not complete.

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Patios that once were filled with potted plants and vines are still unpainted and wooden picket fences are not repaired.

Further frustrating the three condominium owners has been the daily sight of Condor’s 3-story apartment building rising outside their door.

“If he can build an apartment building and pass those city inspections, why can’t he build three porches?” Overbey said.

Attorneys for residents and the developer said they have reached an agreement that will lead to completion of the work.

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The three residents, however, remain mistrustful, fearing that the current repairs will be incomplete. One owner, Harriet Braun, is moving.

“We are not vindictive people,” Overbey said. “We just want our porch back.”


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