Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Thursday that his office has filed 16 criminal counts against the owner and operator of Chinatown’s Cathay Manor, a 16-story, 270-unit residential apartment building for low-income seniors.
In addition to the high-rise’s two elevators allegedly being out of service, despite numerous orders to fix them from the city’s Department of Building and Safety (DBS), the owner and operator allegedly failed to test and maintain the elevators in accordance with fire safety protocols and has been cited by the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) for fire protection violations.
“It’s outrageous that vulnerable seniors living in a 16-story high-rise have endured multiple days without safe and working elevators. These are parents and grandparents having to forego daily activities like medical appointments, shopping for food or meeting with friends and family. Nobody — especially older adults — should be trapped as we allege has happened here,” said Feuer. “We’re taking action.”
According to the complaint, on Sept. 1, a DBS official visited the Cathay Manor apartment building located in Chinatown at 600 N. Broadway, in response to an anonymous complaint that both of its elevators were out of service. The inspector confirmed that both elevators were not working and issued an order to repair them to C.C.O.A. Housing Corporation (CCOA), the California-based company that owns and manages the building.
CCOA repaired one of the elevators prior to the next inspection, which took place one week later, and brought the building into compliance. Under current city law, building operators are required to have at least one operable passenger elevator servicing residents of a building.
On Oct. 15, DBS received another complaint about the elevators at Cathay Manor being out of service again, which prompted another inspection and confirmation that both elevators were inoperable. A second order was issued to CCOA to have the elevators repaired but five days later the follow-up inspection revealed they were still not working.
A final inspection last week, just prior to DBS submitting this case to Feuer’s office for consideration of filing of criminal charges, showed that the elevators were still broken and tenants were completely without elevator service.
In addition to the elevators allegedly not working, they have allegedly not been tested or maintained in accordance with LAFD’s fire safety protocols for the building’s fire protection equipment. As such, the high-rise is currently under a fire watch by LAFD. This is a temporary measure intended to ensure continuous and systemic surveillance of a building or a portion of a building by one or more qualified individuals for the purposes of identifying and controlling fire hazards, detecting early signs of unwanted fire, raising an alarm of fire and notifying the fire department.
Feuer’s office has filed 16 misdemeanor charges against CCOA and Gong Toy (also known as Donald Toy), who is listed on state registration documents as CCOA’s chief executive officer and president. CCOA and Toy face several charges related to their alleged failure over the past two months to address the inoperable elevators, their failure to properly maintain and repair the building and equipment contained in that building, their failure to test and maintain equipment in accordance with LAFD fire safety protocols, and their failure to comply with the city’s orders to comply with the law.
All counts faced by CCOA and Toy, as CCOA CEO and president, are misdemeanors that are punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment in the County Jail for a period of not more than six months, or by both a fine and imprisonment.
Members of Feuer’s team leading this prosecution are Will Rivera, deputy chief – Criminal & Special Litigation Division; Deputy City Attorney Michelle McGinnis, supervisor – Code Enforcement & Animal Protection Unit; and Deputy City Attorneys Kenneth Hsu, Richard Kim and Dennis Kong of the Code Enforcement & Animal Protection Unit.
Feuer’s office would like to thank the code enforcement team at DBS, including Assistant Bureau Chief Eric Jakeman, Chief Inspector Robert Galardi, Senior Investigator Rick Rodriguez, Investigator Daniel Gonzalez and Investigator Linn Melvin as well as LAFD Captains Ryon Jones and Adrian Vasquez and Fire Inspectors Lizandro Moreno and Ira Douglas for their help.