Deitch Too Slow to Make Apartment Repairs, Officials Say : Housing: Councilman’s rental complex was infested with roaches and rodents, lacked windows and screens and had unsafe wiring, Los Angeles County inspectors report.


City Councilman George T. Deitch was cited last fall for maintaining substandard housing at one of his Bell Gardens complexes and then failed to correct many of the deficiencies for months, according to county health officials.

Health inspectors said they found that a five-unit complex owned by Deitch and his wife, Vivian, was infested with cockroaches and rodents, lacked windows and screens, and had unsafe wiring. Some units also had holes in the walls and leaky drainpipes, inspectors said.

Deitch blamed the conditions on rowdy, destructive tenants. He said the renters were responsible for the filthy conditions that attracted the roaches and rodents.


Officials notified the councilman Oct. 6 of 22 health and safety code violations in the two-bedroom apartments on Priory Street in the south end of town. They then encountered a variety of delays.

At first, Deitch did not return phone calls to the health officials. Then the councilman failed to show up for a meeting in December to discuss the violations and deadlines for making repairs. Then he failed to meet deadlines that he had agreed to for making repairs, officials said.

In some units, Deitch evicted the tenants and boarded up the apartments instead of making necessary repairs, officials said. Other violations were corrected in mid-February, about 4 1/2 months after the councilman first was notified of the deficiencies, officials said.

“We normally like to get compliance much earlier, especially if people are living (in unsafe conditions),” said Nick Brakband, who heads the county health department’s regional office in Huntington Park. “There were holes in the walls, missing floor tiles, broken windows and screens where people were living.”

Brakband said it’s not unusual for landlords to put off costly repairs once they’ve been cited. But, he said, “We normally don’t get (cases) that go quite this long” without some resolution.

Deitch said he did not make repairs in two of the units because occupants were responsible for much of the damage, including punching holes in walls and a sink. He said he wanted to wait until the tenants moved out before he installed new carpets, windows and plumbing.


“It was going to cost me about $15,000 (to make the repairs) and I didn’t want to do it twice,” he said. “There was no sense in me going in there and putting in new carpet because (they) would just cut it out and use it to pad their vans.

“They just turned out to be bad tenants,” he said. Deitch said he still intends to renovate the complex so he can continue to rent units.

He initially said the tenants tore up the units and called the Health Department after he had served them eviction notices. He admitted that his account was in error, however, after health officials said they discovered the violations on a routine inspection and that they notified him two weeks before he served the eviction papers. The Health Department makes annual inspections of complexes with five or more units.

Deitch said he decided to begin eviction proceedings against renters in two of the units because he suspected the tenants were gang members and were dealing drugs in the neighborhood, considered by police as territory for a Bell Gardens gang.

After he gave them an eviction notice, Deitch said, the tenants started “writing (graffiti) all over the inside of the house and tearing holes in the walls.” In another unit, a screwdriver was used to punch a hole in a sink and in some pipes that he said he had recently repaired.

The councilman said he replaced the damaged sink again--this time with a metal sink that could not be perforated--and sprayed for roaches. “The place was full of them because of the filth,” not due to his negligence, he said.


The tenants refused to leave and refused to pay November rent, contending that Deitch did not “provide habitable premises,” according to court records. Deitch obtained a court order forcing the tenants to leave in mid-November, then boarded up the empty units.

Still, Deitch neglected to make repairs on the remaining occupied units, including replacing damaged floor tiles and filling in gaps and cracks in kitchen cabinets that harbored roaches, health officials said. Deitch said he “just got busy” over the holidays.

Brakband said he then notified city officials, who scheduled a conference with City Prosecutor Peter Langsfeld and Deitch. Such meetings are required by law before prosecution proceedings can begin.

Before the March meeting date, however, health officials reinspected the property and found that the violations had been corrected in the three occupied apartments. The case was closed after the conference March 11.

“This was a very sensitive issue because it involved a city councilman,” said John Carmona, acting community development director, who oversees the city’s code enforcement program. “We wanted to make sure that we treated him no differently than anyone else.”

Deitch, however, said he was required to attend the conference only because he is a councilman and “someone wanted it on the record.” He said conferences usually aren’t scheduled when a property owner is making some effort to correct the deficiencies.


Deitch and his wife own 11 pieces of rental or commercial property in the city, according to county records.

This was Deitch’s first run-in with the county Health Department since being elected to the council last March, but he had previously been cited by the city’s health code enforcement department for similar problems in three other rental properties in Bell Gardens. In each case, it took six to eight months to correct the problems, according to city records.

Deitch cited several reasons for the delays. He said he could not afford to make repairs in some instances. In some cases, he said, the tenants continued to damage the properties after he made repairs.

Records show that none of those cases resulted in a conference with the city prosecutor, but the city did threaten to notify the Internal Revenue Service, which can disallow tax deductions on properties with substandard conditions.

During his council campaign in 1992, Deitch criticized what he called overly zealous city and county code enforcement policies. In an interview before the election, Deitch said a housing inspector “has more authority to do damage to you than any police officer.”

Deitch acknowledged that some code enforcement was necessary “because some landlords just let their stuff go.” But he still maintains that the current system puts too much blame on the landlord for substandard conditions and doesn’t make tenants responsible for their own living conditions.


“Sure there were roach bugs out there, but is that my fault?” he asked, referring to the Priory Street complexes. “There was trash all over the place, so of course there are going to be roaches.”

Some Bell Gardens officials, when informed of the councilman’s housing case, criticized the delays in repairing the units.

“We voted them up there so they could work for the people and uphold the law,” said Mary Ann Barron, the chairwoman of the city’s housing rehabilitation board. “He shouldn’t be excused from the law just because he is a councilman.”

Councilwoman Josefina (Josie) Macias added, “We should all be equal and, if he was cited by the Health Department, he should have taken care of it.”