By Eric Longabardi
Have you dreamed of living the good life on the water in Newport Beach?
If you have you might want to avoid a high-rise condo that hasn't had a working elevator for nearly a month and a half. Unless of course you would enjoy the workout of climbing the stairs every time you come or go from your home.
So what's the big deal you say, quit your whining and just use the stairs!. You might get in better shape and shed a few pounds in the process!
What if I told you the high-rise condo is 8-stories tall and you were going to have to climb those stairs up and down all day, every day?
Would you still think it was no big deal? Even if you were close to 70 years old or even older. A routine trip to the grocery store can quickly become an adventure all its own.
Many of the people living at 'Newport: The Towers', located at 3121 W. Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach are asking just those questions. The building is tucked in-between the iconic Italian restaurant Villa Nova and a waterfront office complex.
The building is one of the oldest hi-rise condos in Newport and was originally built in the early 1960’s. It once had working elevators. Actually it had two of them. Now those two elevators are out of commission. Some residents say they just can’t take the stairs anymore and they are fed up.
You might be thinking to yourself -- if the building had working elevators, then of course the owner of the building would have to fix them and keep them running -- Right?
Guess what -- Wrong!
What will surprise you is that in an old building like this, the building is exempt from any requirement to continue to operate the elevators. Just like an automobile, although you have to register it with the state, you don't have to operate it.
According to officials at Cal/OSHA, the state agency that regulates elevators and the City
of Newport Beach, the residents of the
building are just stuck on the 1st floor and
out of luck.
Both state and city agencies have been dealing with the building and it's owners, but so far they have been little help in solving the problem. Cal/OSHA and the city have sent inspectors to check out the elevators due to resident complaints. So far that's all they've done.
I spoke with some residents of the building and they told me they’ve been getting nothing less than the runaround. They say their landlords, home owners association and the property management company are not addressing the problem in a timely manner.
One resident who didn’t want their name used for fear of retaliation said, “It’s been over a month now that the elevators are down, rumors abound and who’s to blame etc., etc. No one seems to be able to get any straight answers”. This person recounted a recent visit by an elevator repairman who explained that “he could not fix the elevator as it is too old and (he) cannot even find parts for it anymore” and they have been “trying to tell the HOA this for years.”
The repairman summed it all up saying “sorry you would think this is a situation on sees in TJ Mexico, not Newport Beach on oceanfront property!”
A different resident explained to Newport Beach Now that even before the two elevators stopped working last month, taking on ride of them was always a unique experience.
The resident, who also didn’t want their name used for fear of retaliation said, “I’ve been stuck in those elevators many times … for a long as 10-15 minutes" .. "sometimes the elevator would stop a foot or more from the floor landing and you’d have to jump up to the floor to get out” or “you would stop on a floor and the elevator would unexpectedly drop before it would stop”
Newport Beach Now decided to take a look for itself. We paid the building a visit only a few days ago. Although two elevator doors on the main lobby floor were
securely shut and could not be opened, on the basement garage level we
found an open door to an elevator shaft.
An elevator car was hanging a floor or two above our heads. It seemed like a dangerous situation. We also found signs on the elevator doors explaining the situation to residents. We then took a walk up the strairs to the eighth floor. Not an easy jaunt for anyone, even me and I’ve been working out the last few months!
After our visit we called Cal/OSHA and the city of
Newport Beach again.
We spoke at length to a supervisor in the city's building department. He had knowledge of the situation and was very forthcoming about how the city could do little to help. A few previous calls to the Newport city inspector who has been directly dealing with the situation went un-returned.
We were later referred to speak with the city’s spokesperson Tara Finnegan, who when asked “What has the city done in regards to code enforcement related to the building” told us:
" ... Community Development has had staff out there (Building and Code Enforcement) to see what the City could do to help facilitate the repairs. Staff also contacted the state since it does have an agency (OSHA) that oversees elevator safety ... It’s not a construction project / something that the City would permit. Since it’s a maintenance issue, it’s the responsibility of the homeowners association and the property manager. Our staff is monitoring the situation and doing what they can to help facilitate the repair work."
When told of the open elevator door and other safety issues found during my recent visit, the Cal/OSHA inspector based in Santa Ana responded “I’m going to have to get out there as soon as I can and red-tag it”. The inspector told Newport Beach Now that even if elevators aren’t required to operate in a building like this, they are required to be safe and not pose a safety hazard for people in the building.
We also reached out to Dennis D’Alessio, a member of the building's Homeowners
Association. D'Alessio spoke to us briefly and promised to get back to us with more
information. He never did.
In a lengthy letter last month D'Alessio told residents that despite all the problems “all we can ask of you residents is to have patience as we work through this. We sincerely apoligize for all of the delay and inconvenience to you and will do everything we can to minimize it . Remember, we too have to climb these stairs every single day, so we suffer with you.”
After speaking with D’Alessio and Newport Beach Now's visit to the building, only days ago, there was an interesting twist. The building Irvine based management
company 'Total Property Management' issued a letter to the residents stating that repairs to the elevators were still on-going. No time-frame was given for when the elevators would be working again.
They did offer residents some new help. They explained that the building facility's manager would begin “to assist Homeowners with carrying items to and from your units while the elevators are being repaired”. His hours are 10AM to 6PM.
If residents didn't already have enough problems at the building, a new issue came up the other night. All the power to the building went out during a localized blackout in the area.
One resident we spoke to for this story told us they had to navigate their way up the stairs to their unit on a high floor with a flashlight.
As for the elevators. They still don’t work.