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Unsafe Building Evacuated : Apartments’ Owner to Be Charged

Times Staff Writer

The owner of a Burbank apartment building, whose residents were forced to evacuate by the city, will be charged with violating building and fire-safety standards, a city official said Thursday.

About 25 residents, including families with children, were moved to a nearby motel late Wednesday by a city temporary-aid agency, and the building was ordered closed by Burbank building and fire authorities.

Deputy City Atty. Mary Reilly said misdemeanor charges will be filed today against landlord George Jenkins, 40, of Agoura Hills. It had not been determined late Thursday how many counts would be leveled, she said.

Jenkins has refused to repair dangerous conditions at the two-story building at 223 E. Santa Anita Ave. for at least a 1 1/2 years, Reilly said.

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The 21-unit building, in which seven apartments were occupied, has been cited for numerous violations, Reilly said.

Jenkins denied the allegations Thursday, saying the repairs have been delayed because the city refuses to lend him funds to bring the building up to standards. The city, however, says he is ineligible for a loan.

Most of the residents, who paid $225 a month for their apartments, were unemployed or had no money, Reilly said.

“Children were playing under live wires that were dangling from the ceilings,” Reilly said. “There were extension cords all over the place, leading from hallway outlets to the apartments. The fire exits were blocked on the first floor. Desks were piled in front of them, and there was no way anyone could have gotten out.”

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Other violations include inadequate wiring and plumbing, broken windows, deteriorating walls and ceilings and the absence of fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, Reilly said.

Armando Flores, an unemployed worker who lived with his wife and three small children on the second floor of the building, said that his apartment had no electricity and that its windows were broken when he moved in six months ago.

“We didn’t have any other place to go,” said Flores, 25. “We had to live there. But everything was dirty. The sink was all backed up.”

Jenkins, who spent the afternoon at the apartment waiting for an electrical contractor, said he had negotiated with city housing officials for two years in an attempt to get a rehabilitation loan to repair the building.

“I’m not a slumlord,” Jenkins said. Since he has been unable to get help from city, he said he will spend $150,000 to refurbish the building and turn it into a rehabilitation facility for alcoholics and drug users.

“I’ve been doing my best, but the city certainly could have handled it better,” he said.

Jenkins added that he will reimburse the city for housing tenants in the motel and that he plans to meet with tenants today to work out further housing arrangements.

Linda Malzek, Burbank’s assistant community development director and housing administrator, said Jenkins is ineligible for a city loan because the repairs needed would be too expensive.

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She said the city could only assist property owners in cases where the loan would be less than 80% of the appraised value of the property.

The building, which is almost 70 years old, was appraised last year by city officials as worth about $895,000. Jenkins asked for a $490,208 loan, but because he is still making payments on the property and the repair costs would exceed his request, the loan was denied, Malzek said.


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