July 16, 2015
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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — In a CBS2 investigation, tenants in one Southland community are calling their landlord a slumlord.
Rene Uribe of El Sereno says he has mold hidden under the flooring of his bathroom.
“It’s dangerous,” he said.
Virginia Flores says she has mold on her bathroom wall.
“It looks like it’s eaten up the whole wall,” she said.
For Lisa Almeida, it’s cracks.
“You see how it’s cracking, chipping? And you see that crack already starting to lead up?” she asked.
Tina Moreno is concerned about the safety of her foundation.
“I have a sinkhole under my house and in my bathroom I have mold,” she said.
These tenants all have one thing in common: They rent their homes from CalTrans, CBS2/KCAL9’s David Goldstein reports.
“All CalTrans tenants know them as slumlords,” Almeida said.
Residents say they’ve been living with these conditions for years and
have been complaining to city inspectors and county inspectors. And
they claim no one will do anything.
The homes are part of 460 properties CalTrans purchased for the proposed extension of the 710 Freeway in Pasadena and Alhambra.
Some were bought as far back as 1954, and under state regulations, are being rented to low and moderate-income families.
Uribe has lived in his residence for 13 years.
“We advised them of it. Every time they come for the annual
inspection, they say we’ll send someone and nobody ever comes,” he said
of the mold, which she says has been there for at least a year.
Flores has lived in her residence for 20 years.
“I have complained to the rental agent that works for CalTrans and I
told him I had mold and a sink that leaks water when you’re taking a
shower,” she said.
“He said they would get back to me.”
All fear health problems because of the conditions.
“I’ve been living here for 19 years,” Moreno said, adding that she uses a hotplate to cook because she fears a gas leak.
“I haven’t had a stove because I’m afraid to cook because I’m afraid
it’s going to blow up because I hear it bubbling a lot,” she said.
At this point, she’d like to get out but doesn’t have the money.
“I wanted them to relocate me or just give me some kind of money to hep me,” she said.
CalTrans refused to provide anyone for an on-camera interview.
The agency would only release the following statement to CBS2/KCAL9:
“The health and safety of our tenants and our rental units is a
As far as the mold, the spokesperson continued: “Lab results have all
come back negative for black mold, and further indicated that the
issues reported were neither toxic nor harmful to tenants.”
When asked for the lab results, CalTrans initially provided heavily
redacted reports, with the addresses of the properties, as well as the
name of the technician that approved the findings, hidden.
The agency did eventually send copies with addresses.
In testing for stachybotrys, or black mold, the most dangerous, no
traces were found. But there were plenty of findings for other mold,
which residents says could lead to asthma and other health conditions.
State Sen. Carol Liu authored a bill two years ago forcing CalTrans
to sell the homes, with the renters getting a first shot. The state
expects that to begin later this year.
“They have over the past 50, 60 years, have not been good landlords,”
Sen. Liu said. “CalTrans does not need to be in the real estate
business, and they know it and we’re encouraging them to get out of the
business and they want to get out of the business too.”
Within days after CBS2/KCAL9 first alerted CalTrans we were doing an
investigation, residents say inspectors were out at the houses making
some repairs. The residents insisted the repairs that were made were
still not enough.