The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued citations against three companies for asbestos-handling violations at a demolition site in West Los Angeles, but district officials said it is unlikely the infractions would create a health hazard for area residents.
Spokesman Ron Ketcham said district investigators called to the site Wednesday found that work crews did not dispose of all the asbestos materials properly.
He said investigators found that asbestos roofing tiles were left behind after parking garages were torn down at the Hillcrest Manor Apartments on Peerless Place, just south of Pico Boulevard.
The tiles that were found are not considered to be dangerous, Ketcham said, because they are dense and compact, not crumbly. Asbestos in its friable, or crumbly, form causes a fatal lung disease when inhaled over prolonged periods.
The tiles found contained fractures but were "very dense, not in a crumbly state . . . " he said, "(so) there does not appear to be a real health hazard to the residents."
He said the district issued citations Thursday against the property owner, Coast Fed Properties (a partnership between developer Alan I. Casden Co. and Coast Savings & Loan Assn.) of Beverly Hills, R. B. Investment Co. of Woodland Hills, and Sovereign Construction Co. Inc. of Vernon.
Tenants Fighting Eviction
Hillcrest Manor also has been the subject of controversy in a legal dispute involving a number of elderly tenants who are fighting eviction from the apartments where many have lived for more than 30 years. Attorney Ron Rouda said a Los Angeles Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction stopping the tenants' eviction until a full court hearing on the case, but allowing owners to proceed with the relocation of unoccupied buildings in the 136-unit complex. A hearing is scheduled June 16, he said.
Owners plan to build a 300-unit apartment complex on the site near Hillcrest Country Club, city officials said.
The Air Quality Management District investigated the demolition after concerned residents reported seeing workers wearing full protective gear including boots, gloves and breathing masks at the site. The area was roped off with yellow tape reading "Caution--Asbestos Removal."
Mary Goodman, a nearby resident, said neighbors are upset that they were not warned that the demolition involved asbestos. "They talk about people near Chernobyl not being informed of the dangers, but I don't think we are much better off," she said.
Esther Brenner of the Beverly Angeles Homeowners Assn., representing residents north of the demolition site, said neighbors are upset that they did not receive notice of the potentially dangerous work. "If (giving notice) isn't required, it is certainly a gap in the law," she said.
Carolyn Dorion, field deputy to Los Angeles Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, said that the city does not require notification of residents in such cases.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for setting asbestos removal regulations, and its rules are administered by the local Air Quality Management District, officials said. The California Occupational Safety and Health Agency also oversees the protection of workers who have direct contact with asbestos.
When asbestos is involved, construction companies are required to notify the air-quality and worker-safety agencies, but not area residents or the city, according to Dorion.
A spokesman for Coast Fed Properties who refused to give his name when contacted by The Times said that the company did not know at first that asbestos materials were present, but notified proper authorities as soon as asbestos was discovered. He said that procedures were followed to prevent the creation of asbestos dust, and said "we are in accordance with all the environmental regulations and rules."