In the wake of the Champlain Towers collapse that by early Friday had left 20 dead and 128 people unaccounted for in Miami, Los Angeles County officials ordered an immediate inspection of the three-building Marina City Club Towers condominium complex in Marina Del Rey. Although the county had threatened to red-tag the 50-year-old high-rises, an inspection Wednesday found the structures habitable but still in need of repairs—a decision that has reignited a years-long dispute over who should pay for the fixes.
As CBS L.A. was first to report, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn asked the Department of Public Works to inspect the high-rises after the tragedy in Miami. Helicopter footage shot by the station showed cracks in the two 65-story apartment buildings and the ten-story hotel—which house 600 condos and 100 apartments—but inspectors concluded that, despite exterior damage to the concrete, leaking decks, and corroded pipes, there was no immediate threat of collapse.
“Inspectors found no situations that would require emergency action or immediate impact to tenants,” Public Works director Mark Pestrella said in a statement.
“The Florida incident was a wake-up call for everybody,” Hahn told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s the first thing I thought about when I saw Florida. Could that happen in L.A. County? It could, but it’s not going to happen here.”
Marina City Club owner Essex Property Trust, which leases the land from the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, will be required to bring on a structural engineer to develop a plan for repairs, Pestrella said, but it remains to be seen who will foot the bills for renovations, which are expected to cost $80 to $140 million.
A 2018 report from Bergeman Group said the “aging property” had multiple issues with leaking roofs, windows, and pipes, and that the “roughly 45-year-old components are failing due to age.”
An April assessment by HOA Construction Consulting found that “nearly all of the waterproofing throughout the property, on the recreation decks and tennis courts, is failing in some way with water penetrating the structure,” and warned that “over time, this can cause significant damage to the building’s structural integrity.”
A December 2020 letter from Beaches and Harbors to Essex stated, “As Essex is aware, the MCC is deteriorating and is in disrepair,” adding that repairs “are necessary to ensure the health and safety of residents, as well as to ensure that the property remains habitable.”
However, the department’s chief of community and marketing services, Carol Baker, tells the Times that a “fraught” relationship between Essex and MCC’s Condominium Owners Association has left the association “grossly underfunded” by members who “are reluctant to assess increases on themselves.”
Beaches and Harbors is also reluctant to dip into its pockets.
Earlier this year, the Owners Association sent members a letter stating that the county “has threatened to red tag the development, which would mean the buildings are declared unsafe… unless we begin the process of repairing.”
In a statement to CBS L.A., the department countered, “For red tagging, there must be a structural analysis of the integrity of the three towers. To date, no thorough assessment has been conducted.”
On Wednesday, Baker told the Times that Essex has agreed to conduct a structural analysis of the buildings. An Essex employee declined to comment to the paper.
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