Los Angeles officials have given a developer involved in the city’s largest housing-rehabilitation project three weeks to eliminate slum-like conditions remaining in as many as one-third of its 453 apartments.
If work on the former Bryant-Vanalden housing project in Northridge is not completed by April 3, the city will hire a contractor to finish the work at the developer’s expense, city officials said. The ultimatum was contained in a letter accompanying a city audit of the $25-million project.
The report, completed by the city Community Development Department last Friday and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, confirmed findings by The Times last month that while some of the poor Latino residents who live in the project have benefited from the redevelopment, others continue to live in substandard, unsafe housing.
The repairs would cost $480,000, the audit said. It also identified $853,878 in unwarranted cost overruns incurred by the developer, Devinder (Dave) Vadehra. City officials said Wednesday that Vadehra, not the city, will have to pay for those overruns, which they said were due to mismanagement, not wrongdoing.
City Findings Disputed
Vadehra told the city in September that he had completed his work. He disputed the city’s findings Wednesday. “Instead of giving me credit for cleaning up this area, they’re making my life miserable,” he said.
The City Council and Mayor Tom Bradley in November, 1986, authorized the sale of $20.6 million in tax-exempt bonds and a $4.8-million loan to allow Vadehra to buy and renovate the cluster of 60 apartment buildings, which have been renamed Park Parthenia. The purpose was to transform the blighted three blocks of apartment buildings into a well-groomed development more compatible with the surrounding fashionable Northridge community.
Virtually all the city money has been spent. City officials said they will seek to draw upon the developer’s $2.4-million letter of credit to complete renovations, which will include eliminating all health and safety violations. The developer was required to post the letter when the project was approved.
Parker Anderson, head of the Community Development Department, said that he sent a letter to Vadehra last week asking him to prove his claim that the project was complete. Vadehra said he is preparing his response.
The audit, based on a unit-by-unit inspection conducted in November, 1988, found 160 units where work had not been completed. Many had building or health code violations, such as cockroach infestations, non-working heaters, water leaks and torn carpeting.
Vadehra on Wednesday stuck to his claims that all work was completed last September. He contended that the city is now insisting on work that was never required. He could not explain why The Times, during a random check of units in February, found code violations.
During a City Council debate Wednesday on private takeover of the Jordan Downs housing project in South-Central Los Angeles, Councilman Hal Bernson, the prime mover behind the Bryant-Vanalden project in his district, said it should serve as a model for similar projects in other parts of the city.
“The only hope we have to preserve affordable housing is to do these types of projects,” Bernson said.
The audit concluded that the project has benefited the low-income, predominantly Latino tenants by reducing crowding in apartments. To reduce crowding, the city lured about 940 people into moving elsewhere with offers of rent subsidies under a federal program known as Section 8. With a subsidy, a low-income tenant pays 30% of his income toward rent. The government pays the remainder.
“Current records indicate that almost 380 Section 8 units will be under contract at the close of this project,” the audit says. “Coupled with those tenants who have relocated with Section 8 assistance, it is fair to say there has been significant benefit to the tenants of Park Parthenia.”
City officials reiterated Wednesday that even if code violations are corrected, disparities will remain in living conditions because the city and the developer underestimated the amount of work necessary.
Bernson said, however, “It is our intent to make all of those units very comfortable, liveable, pleasant.”