All the residents of a crumbling 36-unit building in a Monterey Hills redevelopment project have agreed to move out while their homes undergo repair, but several say that they will press on with lawsuits and mortgage strikes against administrators of the 211-acre condominium community east of the Pasadena Freeway.
An offer by the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency to pay for their relocation and to save their three-story building from literally sinking into the ground was grudgingly accepted Saturday morning by almost all of the estimated 80 homeowners and renters in Huntington Terrace. CRA officials told the residents that they can move this week into Linden Heights, a nearby new complex, while the repairs are made.
"It seems to be a reasonable decision on the part of the CRA," said John Crossley, 57, who has lived in the building since it was constructed in 1982. "While this place definitely has major structural problems they need to fix, it doesn't seem too bad."
Satisfied With Plan
Tasha Alfonso, 21, and Burlinda Radney, 25, who rent a two-bedroom condominium in the building, also said they were satisfied with the proposal.
"We'd rather not move, but they (CRA officials) seem to have handled it pretty well," said Alfonso, who with her roommate moved into the unit about a month ago. "As long as we don't have any up-front expenses, it's OK."
The relocation offer came after an announcement several days ago by building and safety inspectors that the building will be declared unsafe early this week. The building, and many others in the hillside complexes, have been tilting and cracking apart for years because of soil shifting underneath them.
Responding immediately to the evacuation order, CRA officials have arranged and pledged to pay for temporary housing, moving and storage for the residents, who have 48 hours to move after the order is posted. Cooke Sunoo, CRA project manager for Monterey Hills, told the residents that repairs to the building, which has slid almost eight inches because of the subsistence problem, could cost up to $2.5 million and take six months to a year to complete. The relocation bill will be about $500,000, he said.
Refuse to Make Payments
About 10 residents, while agreeing to relocate into the Linden project, said they are not content with the arrangement and have refused to make mortgage payments during the repairs.
"They seem to be trying to do what they can, but they're telling us where to live, when we just want to sell our unit and move," said Timothy Ferguson, who already is facing foreclosure because of delinquent mortgage payments. "When they fix the building and we can sell, we'll pay."
Unable to sell their homes, or in some cases, even to rent them, Ferguson and scores of other condominium owners have filed lawsuits against the CRA and builders, contractors and architects of the complex to try to recover their losses.
Suing Insurance Firms
In response to residents' claims, CRA officials, among others, have filed multimillion-dollar suits against insurance companies, which are refusing to pay $125 million in coverage on the building. Sunoo said that without the insurance payments, the CRA cannot afford to buy the units.
"The agency at this point is not legally responsible for the mortgages, or even for the repairs. But we do want to save the building, and we feel the repairs will be paid for by the insurance," he said.
Sunoo contended that the mortgages on the units ultimately are in the hands of private individuals or institutions, and thus out of the CRA's control.