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It's One Tight Parking Spot

Garage Collapse Trapped Cars Under Newport Office Building; Friday They'll Drive Away

November 28, 2000|DENIENE HUSTED

Peter Devin's mint-condition 1987 Mercedes 560 SEC sits without a scratch under tons of concrete and steel.

His was one of four cars trapped Nov. 6 when a parking garage under a Lafayette Avenue office building collapsed.

"I look out and see my car just sitting there looking perfect," Devin said. "There's all this destruction all around it, but my car looks great."

Demolition crews have been shoring up the building so its contents--furniture, office equipment, files--can be removed. Devin's Mercedes is to be driven out of the basement-level garage Friday.

Preparation has proceeded with caution. When the garage floor split, it settled in a V that supports the two-story structure above, preventing it from falling into the channel below or from crushing the cars.

Jeff Tanner of Pacific Coast Homebuilders, which is in charge of the demolition, said the structure has to be shored up before anything can be moved. "We've been very careful," he said. "We haven't wanted to make any vibrations."

Officials estimate the cost of demolishing the privately owned building and removing the debris at more than $100,000.

Jay Elbettar, building director for Newport Beach, said the structure probably collapsed after years of salt water ate away at the reinforced concrete beam, which then broke under the weight of the building.

City officials have not conducted any inspections of other structures built on the canal, he said.

"We don't know of any buildings at this time that were built in a similar fashion," Elbettar said of the Lafayette property, completed in 1976.

The damaged building, a light blue Cape Cod-style office complex, has been posted off limits. A brick-covered building next door has been posted for limited occupancy, just in case. "We did not want people to actually live in the adjacent building for fear that, if this building collapsed, it could cause some damage to the other one," Elbettar said.

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