‘Gimme Shelter’: Why mold and sewage complaints evade L.A. apartment inspectors

A young child holds her hand out a window
Braelynn, who is 18 months old, visits her grandmother Tamela Richardson, 48, a tenant at the Chesapeake Apartments, in April. Richardson has lived at the complex since 2015 and she said her unit has mold growing in the kitchen, a leaky ceiling and other habitability issues.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Earlier this year, code enforcement officials at the city of Los Angeles cleared the Chesapeake Apartments in South L.A. after a required inspection that was supposed to ensure its rental units were habitable. The complex has 425 apartments and takes up multiple city blocks.

But the city’s clean bill of health belied the numerous problems with mold, sewage leaks, faulty smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and other issues that tenants say have plagued the massive complex for years. Beyond that, a 2020 investigation in LAist found Chesapeake Apartments’ owner has been accused by tenants and multiple government agencies of allowing similar conditions across a more than $1-billion real estate empire that’s centered in Southern California.

On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” we discuss the conditions at Chesapeake Apartments and how city and county inspectors missed deep problems there. Our guest is Aaron Mendelson, the LAist reporter who wrote about concerns at the buildings owned by Pama Properties and its president Mike Nijjar.


Gimme Shelter,” a biweekly podcast that looks at why it’s so expensive to live in California and what the state can do about it, features Liam Dillon, who covers housing affordability issues for the Los Angeles Times, and Manuela Tobías, housing reporter for CalMatters.

You can subscribe to “Gimme Shelter” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud and Google Podcasts.