A mouse in the house

At least six property owners have filed insurance claims for damage to their homes that they say was caused by the construction of a childcare center on the sprawling Walt Disney Co. campus in west Glendale.

The residents have complained that the construction caused cracks in the walls of their homes and made life on nearby streets a living hell. They have so far refused to allow inspectors hired by Disney into their homes, instead going with their own insurers after their compensation demands went unmet.

"I was advised that if [the inspectors] are hired by Disney, chances are, they are going to find on Disney's behalf," said Jennifer Pinkerton, who lives on Truitt Street near the studio's campus.

Her neighbor, John Pera, said he and others have tried to get Disney and city officials to respond to concerns about damage, traffic and parking problems since construction began in November 2009. Finally, with the project complete and a deadline looming for filing an insurance claim, Pera and others turned to their insurers.

"We put up with a whole lot, and then sat on our hands while Disney was aware of the damage," Pera said.

During the first few days of construction, Pera said his house was shaking. Cracks appeared in his archway, bathroom, bedroom ceiling and bedroom walls. His front door wouldn't open, he added.

[For a video of the construction impacts made by residents, go here.]

In response to the insurance claims, Disney issued a statement affirming its commitment to working with the residents.

"We continue to be committed to evaluating the homes for those owners who will allow it."

During a stakeholder meeting in mid-October, residents demanded that Disney pay for an engineering report compiled by an expert of their choosing. Disney officials refused, saying that they first needed to do their own assessment.

Ed Chuchla, Disney's senior vice president for corporate real estate, promised the residents that their concerns would be fully addressed.

Two weeks after the meeting, residents sent Disney a document estimating the repairs at between $8,000 and $40,000 for each property at a total of about $209,000. The figure included $11,000 each for "quality-of-life impacts" related to noise, dust and the inconvenience caused during construction.

Not all the residents are locking horns with Disney.

Shara Versweyveld said she felt tensions were running too high among her neighbors, and that she simply wanted the home repairs done. Two Disney inspectors came to her home in November, and she is waiting on the report, she said.

"So far they've been open with me," Versweyveld said. "I anticipate we'll be able to solve everything in a friendly manner."

Work on the childcare center was completed in August, and Disney has since started construction on another nearby part of the creative campus.

Residents have no complaints about that work, but say parking and traffic remain a mess, with Disney workers parking on Paula Avenue and commercial traffic looping through Truitt Street.

City Councilwoman Laura Friedman, who attended the neighborhood meeting with Disney, said the city is addressing parking and traffic complaints, but that officials who visited the site during construction found no problems.

"I wish that when the construction was going on that we as a city had been able to intervene as it was needed, and that Disney had taken the concerns of the residents seriously and dealt with them then," Friedman said. "But I do hope that the parties can come to an agreeable solution."

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