City Considers Freeway Noise Issue at Condos

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City officials late Tuesday were discussing whether to order the developer of a 91-unit condominium complex built 24 feet from the Ventura Freeway to upgrade some of the units so that noise levels do not exceed state and local standards.

An independent report studying noise at the Groves condominiums concludes that one of two units tested by analysts does not comply with maximum noise requirements.

"If we have set out requirements that certain things be done, we have a responsibility to make sure we follow through and get them done," Councilwoman Judy Lazar said before the City Council meeting.

Initial improvements would very likely consist of building patio roofs to restrict noise and planting trees near the east end of the 16-foot-tall sound wall to screen the condos from the freeway. But the council could order further measures, such as installing thicker windows in the units.

The analysis was performed this summer on two units facing the freeway after one Groves resident repeatedly complained about windows that do not keep out traffic noise and other problems with the workmanship in her two-bedroom condominium.

For nearly a year, Chris Buckett has criticized city officials and Amcal Diversified Corp., which built the Groves, for deficiencies in some units of the three-story complex located off Hampshire Road.

In addition to the constant hum of freeway traffic, Buckett complained about nails protruding from her floors and electrical sockets hanging loose from a wall.

"This verifies everything I've claimed all along," Buckett said of the independent study. "That's good to see because they need to do something."

But it was not Buckett's condominium that failed to meet the city's noise standards. Analysts said that her unit "clearly passes" state standards for inside a home as well as the city's exterior noise requirements. The exterior measurements were conducted from the residents' patios.

Nonetheless, a nearby unit failed to meet the exterior standards, and indoor noise levels were too close to the requirement to reach a conclusion, the study found.

"We feel improvements could be made to reduce both the exterior and interior noise level impacts in this project to bring 'clear pass' conditions," concludes the analysis performed by McKay Conant Brook Inc. in Westlake Village.

The sound wall that separates the condos from the freeway was built using city funds, and the complex was one of those that qualified for a city-assisted downpayment program to help low-income residents.

Top city officials recommended offering loans to residents of the three-year-old condominium complex to pay for additional noise-reduction measures. But Mayor Jaime Zukowski argued against that recommendation.

"They should be grants," the mayor said. "It's the developer's and the city's responsibilities to meet those levels."

City building officials inspected the Groves last December and uncovered 14 construction deficiencies, including flaking drywall, inadequate lighting and missing bolts on staircase railings.

Buckett said Tuesday that those repairs still have not been made.

Percival Vaz, president of Westlake-based Amcal, defended his company's workmanship and said he would abide by whatever the city requires. But he complained that Buckett has been unreasonable in her demands.

"This whole process has become very politicized," Vaz said. "But if there's a problem, we'll fix it."

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