The owner of a run-down apartment building in Southwest Los Angeles where a man died and nine others were injured in an early morning fire Friday had been fined more than $6,000 last week because of substandard conditions in the building, the city attorney's office said.
Building owner Mark Schulman pleaded guilty in Municipal Court on May 21 to six counts of violating standards of the county Health Department and the city Building and Fire departments at the apartment at 1501 W. Adams Blvd., according to Deputy City Atty. Aline Bakewell.
Bakewell, a member of the Los Angeles Interagency Slum Housing Task Force, which targets the worst housing in the city for code enforcement, said that eight additional misdemeanor counts against Schulman were dropped as a result of a plea bargain in which the landlord agreed to bring the 24-unit, three-story building up to code by Aug. 7. Schulman, who was also put on probation for two years, could not be reached for comment.
Bakewell said the building was turned over to the task force last December after Schulman ignored orders from other agencies to improve conditions at the apartment house.
One of the counts to which Schulman pleaded guilty, Bakewell said, was a fire code violation of failure to properly mark exit doors. Counts that had been dropped in the plea bargain included failure to maintain properly functioning self-closing fire doors and failure to keep the fire escape in proper working order.
It was not known whether fire code violations played any role in Friday's fire that killed Vicente Martinez, 41, and left Meliton Mendoza and Victoriano Vicente in "very critical" condition at the County-USC Medical Center burn unit.
Seven other people were also hospitalized, some of them from injuries suffered when they jumped from windows, according to police.
Fire Department officials said the blaze was caused by arson, but police investigating Martinez's death said the cause of the fire has not been determined yet. Officials said most of the 100 people who fled the blaze were able to return to their apartments. Firefighters managed to contain the damage to an estimated $15,000.
Friday's fire was the second to hit a building on the list of the Slum Housing Task Force in just over a week. Last Thursday, flames gutted an apartment house at 1613 1/2 W. 7th St., leaving 80 people homeless. That building was one of the worst slums in the city, according to the task force. Fire Department officials also blamed arson for that blaze.