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Roof Reconstruction Work Leaves Residents of Apartments All Wet

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was perhaps not the best timing.

But rain, which had become only a memory, was not thought to be a threat when the roof of an Encino apartment complex was ripped away to make room for a new one this week.

So when the biggest storm of the season swept through Southern California, most tenants were caught in the downpour without a roof over their heads.

Apartments on the top floor of the 27-unit complex were drenched by water that seeped through protective plastic sheets during the storm that has dumped more than three inches of rain on Southern California since Wednesday. The runoff also cascaded into lower floors.

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“We need rain, but not in my apartment,” said Francis Soto, 50, as she surveyed the damage Thursday in the second-floor apartment in which she has lived since 1976.

Work began Monday on the roof of the apartments in the 5300 block of Yarmouth Avenue, according to one of the building’s owners, Richard A. Gleitman. The old pitch roof was in such bad shape, he said, that repairs could not wait until the end of the rainy season, when most roofing work is done. Workers removed the roof’s protective pitch surface, leaving a thin layer of plywood and plaster between residents and the elements.

With forecasts of rain, crews hastily tried late Tuesday to cover the exposed ceilings with plastic. Shortly after they began, however, residents called police to complain that the workers were making too much noise too late at night.

Los Angeles Police Lt. Richard Pooler said officers went to the complex about 12:20 a.m. Wednesday and were told told by crews that the work was necessary to protect against the storm. The workers then were allowed to finish draping the building in plastic, Pooler said.

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The plastic proved no match for the forces of nature. Gusty winds ballooned the sheets, creating openings for the rain to pour in. Sheets of rainwater flowed underneath the sheets of plastic.

No damage estimate was available. But a walk through some of the apartments revealed puddles up to an inch deep. Saturated carpets squished underfoot. Water dribbled through the acoustic ceilings and down the walls. Five-gallon plastic buckets, some nearly full of rainwater, dotted the floors. Furniture was draped in plastic sheeting.

“I feel very bad,” Gleitman said, adding “we’re still unclear right now” whether the insurance coverage will reimburse tenants for hotel rooms and other immediate expenses.


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