LA City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Thursday 16 criminal counts against Cathay Manor owner and operator Don Toy after months of sporadic outages and no elevator service.
"This situation cannot stand," he said. "And we're taking action today. It is outrageous that vulnerable senior citizens are - in a 16-story high rise - are essentially trapped in their units."
The charges were filed against CCOA Housing Corp. and its CEO and President Gong (Donald) Toy. Toy, explaining the problem with the 35-year-old building's elevators, said there have been mechanics working on the elevators for the last two weeks.
"They've been trying real, real hard to get it functioning. Unfortunately, because they're so old, there's no readily parts for some of them," Toy said. "Why doesn't it work? I don't know, I'm not a mechanic. We trust whoever's there, and I was told that because after 20 years, they're no longer obligated to make parts or have parts readily available."
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Toy added they are looking for new parts and used parts that may work for the building's elevators.
Tenants applauded the city's move to act. They hope criminal charges force him to make the needed repairs.
One tenant said through a translator how he gets his groceries to his apartment.
"Walk up there, rest, walk, rest, walk rest and then get up to the 15th floor."
In early September, tenants took NBCLA for a tour of what they said was a building that's falling apart.
According to the City Attorney's Office, the Department of Building and Safety received an anonymous complaint that both elevators were out of service at the 270-unit building at 600 N. Broadway. An inspector visited the facility and confirmed that the elevators were inoperable. C.C.O.A. Housing Corporation was issued a notice to repair the elevators, and one elevator was repaired when an inspector revisited the building a week later.
However, the Department of Building and Safety received another complaint about the elevators being inoperable on Oct. 15, and an inspector confirmed that both elevators were out of service. A notice to repair was issued, but during the follow-up inspection the two elevators were still out of service.
The case was submitted to the City Attorney's Office after a final inspection last week, which showed that the elevators were still broken.
Inspectors also found that the elevators hadn't been tested or maintained in compliance with the Los Angeles Fire Department's fire safety protocols for building's fire protection equipment. As a temporary measure, the building is under a fire watch by the LAFD.
Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents Chinatown, said the city is working to get one elevator manually operable within 48 hours while the second elevator is modernized.
"While I understand the supply chain issue due to the pandemic and the difficulty to get the elevator parts for an old elevator that was built by a company that is no longer in business, my paramount concern is for the safety and access of the seniors and tenants in Cathay Manor. My office had brought together the Housing Department, Department of Building and Safety to fix the elevator previously. The elevator was later inspected and tagged as being noncompliant because the elevator would not stop appropriately on certain floors.
My office again brought the appropriate city departments, including the Housing Department, Department of Building and Safety and the City Attorney's Civil Branch, to work on immediate solutions to have at least one of the elevators to be in operation," Cedillo said.
The 16 charges against C.C.O.A. and Toy are related to the alleged failure to address inoperable elevators over the last two months, the alleged failure to properly maintain and repair the building and equipment inside the building, the alleged failure to test and maintain equipment in accordance with the fire department's fire safety protocols and their alleged failure to comply with the city's orders to comply with the law. Each misdemeanor is punishable by up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in the county jail.