Things are going from bad to worse at downtown's Promenade Towers, many tenants of the upscale apartment complex say.
Since The Times reported four weeks ago the furor over management's decision to lease more than 70 of the Promenade's 573 rental units to about 300 students attending USC, a new general manager has taken over, parking problems have reportedly gotten worse, and tenants say their pleas to have other problems at the complex resolved are falling on deaf ears.
Promenade Towers was built by Culver City-based Goldrich & Kest Industries and Shapell Industries of Beverly Hills. The first tenants began moving into the $60-million complex a year ago.
The project, located on Figueroa Street between 1st and 2nd streets, was initially marketed toward urban professionals working downtown. Its developers lured upscale tenants by touting the facility's dozens of hotel-like services, including its 24-hour reception desk, valet parking for guests, and the convenience of its on-site bank, dry cleaner, market, health club and gym.
But, to the dismay of many of the Promenade's original residents, management struck a deal with USC in which 70 units were leased to students with the help of the university's housing-services department. Additional units were leased to USC students without the help of the college, pushing the total number of Trojans living at the project to about 300.
Almost all of the students moved in near the end of August, and complaints began pouring in almost immediately. Some older tenants said the students "partied all night," littered the development with beer bottles and other rubbish, and crowded the pool, Jacuzzi and other common areas.
But the project's parking problems remain the subject of the most controversy. Tenants say it can still take as long as 30 minutes for the valet service to retrieve their cars.
Numerous telephone calls to request interviews with officials at Goldrich & Kest, Shapell and the on-site management office weren't returned. A partner in BJR Public Relations, a firm that represents G&K, wrote down a reporter's questions about the project, submitted them to the company, and then read management's responses to the questions over the telephone.
Although management says it is working on the parking problems, some tenants say the cure is worse than the disease. They're particularly upset over management's decision to quit allowing their guests unlimited free parking.
The new parking plan gives each apartment in the complex a total of only 10 hours of free guest parking each month. If their parking isn't validated, guests have to pay the going rate of $1 for every 20 minutes, with a maximum charge of $12. Tenants can purchase books of validation stamps at one-third off the regular price.
"It's really a rip-off," complains one resident. "If a few people come over to watch Monday-night football, you'll use up all your validation stickers for the month."
"The whole thing is absolutely ludicrous," adds Andrea Shrednick, a professional counselor and USC professor who lives at the complex. "Things seem to be going from bad to worse."
Shrednick moved to Agoura from New York in July, 1984. She opened an office in downtown Los Angeles a year later, so she rented an apartment in Promenade Towers because it was close to her office, medical facilities and USC.
List Of Complaints
"Things have been so bad there that now I drive up to the building and say, 'I wonder what's going to happen to me today?' " she says, rattling off a list of complaints ranging from management's misplacement of rent checks to calls from patients that the complex's answering service never relayed to her.
Shrednick, who previously lived in redevelopment areas in New York, still maintains her second home in Agoura. Although it's about 30 miles from downtown, she uses it often.
"The parking situation is so bad at the Promenade, I've got to leave my apartment by 7:15 just to get to work by 8," she says. "I can get downtown from Agoura just as fast."
Many tenants, including Shrednick, don't directly blame the USC students for causing problems at the complex.
"The problems aren't the students' fault," says Jay Cuetara, a Promenade resident and IBM systems engineer. "But I think they triggered the problems when they all moved in at the same time.
"I'm sure a lot of the problems, like the vandalism, were actually caused by (existing) tenants who are mad at management for letting all these people move in at one time. The whole thing could've been thought out better."
Cuetara, who works in the nearby Crocker Center, says he has first-hand experience with vandalism at the complex: A tire on his car was slashed last month after he parked in front of another space that was vacant.
Vandals have also scrawled graffiti in parts of the complex, including some obscenities about USC.
"The students got the shaft, just like the rest of us," Cuetara says.