Enthusiasm around San Diego City Hall over this week's purchase of the vandalized San Ysidro Boys Club was tempered a bit Thursday when city officials received word that their newest possession comes with a potential health hazard--asbestos ceiling tiles.
Now, the city could face paying an additional $84,000 to hire a company to remove the tiles from the building, said Paul Downey, Mayor Maureen O'Connor's press secretary.
Downey said the asbestos tiles were discovered by a workfare crew sent this week by the city to clean up the building, which has been vacant for a year and become a target for vandals.
The city's Risk Management Department took samples of the tiles, and received results Thursday showing that they contained a "significant level" of asbestos, Downey said.
Additional tests to determine the amount of asbestos in the air inside the building will be conducted today, Downey said.
Downey said that the "worst-case scenario" would mean the city could pay $6 a square foot to have the tiles removed. At 14,000 square feet, treating the building would cost about $84,000, he said.
The City Council voted Tuesday to buy the building for $100,000. Informal appraisals set the value of the building, at 179 Diza Road, at $500,000.
"From what we understand, even under the worst-case scenario where we would have to do a major cleanup, it would still be a good deal for the city to have bought the building," he said.
Downey said the major concern now is whether a community cleanup weekend on Oct. 10 and 11 will be allowed to go ahead as planned. The mayor's office will decide Monday whether to reschedule the cleanup project, which is being supervised by officials of the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club.
"Right now, nobody is allowed into the building unless they have protective clothing on because we just don't know how high the level of asbestos is," Downey said.
The City Council voted to buy the building after O'Connor--with television news cameras in tow--toured the property and found it devastated by vandals, who had smashed interior windows, overturned furniture, battered vending machines and covered the walls with graffiti.
The building was closed and allowed to degenerate after the San Ysidro Boys Club lost its funding a year ago and ceased all youth programs.
Downey said Thursday that the city will probably pay for the asbestos removal from $335,000 in federal funds that had been set aside for improvements in the building. That is the same fund the city is using to buy the building, he said.