Timing of Work Is All Wet : Weather: Repairs to an apartment building’s roof are interrupted by rain, soaking the top floors and leaving tenants struggling to keep possessions dry.


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 earlier this week so that it could be replaced.

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 upper floor of the 27-unit complex in the 5300 block of Yarmouth Avenue 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 cascaded into lower floors too.


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

Work on the roof began Monday, according to one of the building’s owners, Richard A. Gleitman. He said the old pitch roof was in such bad shape 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. But shortly after they began, residents called police to complain that they were making too much noise too late at night.

Los Angeles Police Lt. Richard Pooler said a patrol car went to the complex about 12:20 a.m. Wednesday to investigate a complaint by resident Donna Tokarsky. Crews told police that the work was to protect against the storm and were allowed to finish draping the building in plastic, Pooler said.

Even so, the plastic proved no match for the forces of nature. Gusty winds ballooned the sheets, creating openings for the rain to pour in.

No damage estimate was available. Insurance adjusters were surveying the soggy scene Thursday.

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. The apartments smell of mildew.

Several tenants complained that they had been told nothing by the building’s management about what to do with their possessions and where to stay until repairs are made. Gleitman said he was unable to provide that information, because his and the roofer’s insurance companies were still totaling the damage Thursday.

“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.

He said tenants should take their claims directly to the roofer, whom he declined to name. Other San Fernando Valley roofing companies surveyed at random said it is ordinarily the roofer’s responsibility to take care of damage done during a job.

Los Angeles City Fire Department spokesman Michael Hallett said fire inspectors found no evidence of structural damage. “If we felt the building was unsafe, we would have evacuated” the complex, Hallett said Thursday.

Gleitman said that if the rain lets up today as forecast, workers are expected to complete the new roof by Tuesday.