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Safety, Fire Violations Found at 430-Room Frontier Hotel : Housing: The manager of the Downtown 12-story structure blames some of the damage on tenants. Arraignment is April 7.

March 13, 1994|SUSAN WOODWARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Operators of a 430-room Downtown hotel are facing criminal charges after an investigation into violations of fire, health and safety standards, authorities said last week.

The 12-story Frontier Hotel on West 5th Street is one of the larger hotels to prompt a criminal filing since the Los Angeles city attorney's Housing Enforcement Unit was established five years ago, Deputy City Atty. Janet Jackson said.

Owners Michael Frontiera, 64, of San Pedro, his sons Joseph Frontiera, 37, of Rancho Palos Verdes and Robert Frontiera, 34, of Long Beach, and hotel manager David Michael Johnson, 36, of Dove Canyon, are expected to be charged at their arraignment April 7 with 23 fire, health and building and safety code violations.

Robert Frontiera acknowledged that the hotel needs work, but said the owners had been given insufficient time to complete an estimated $280,000 in repairs demanded by the city last September.

"If that's what's required, that's what's required. But my point is, is it criminal? And can we do it on a longer time frame so we can do it out of our cash flow?" Robert Frontiera said.

But Ted Goldstein, spokesman for the city attorney's office, said, "There's exposed live electrical wiring, an over-fused electrical panel, defective electrical and plumbing fixtures. . . . It's not as though we're asking for luxury."

Reopened by the current owners in 1979 after being closed for 22 years, the Frontier Hotel houses low-income residents and welfare recipients. About half the hotel's 600 tenants are transients.

Robert Frontiera said none of the violations are life-threatening.

"Why am I labeled a slumlord? Just because the people here are poor? I'm driving a 7-year-old pickup truck. There's no Mercedes here," he said.

Johnson, the hotel manager, said several violations that were cited, including trash accumulation and broken or missing heaters, smoke detectors and window screens, were caused by tenants.

The hotel staff could not keep up with maintenance, he said.

The building could be brought up to standard, but in a month "we'll have to do it again because of our clientele type," Johnson said.

Violations at the hotel were a major concern because of its size, said Jackson of the city attorney's office.

"When you have so many tenants, it poses a serious problem. The potential for death multiplies."

Each charge can bring a maximum penalty of $1,000 and six months imprisonment.

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