Two parents called on Laguna Beach’s City Council to take action to condemn some units in the Club Laguna apartment complex, which they contend are infused with toxic mold that has sickened their families.
Mike Thomas and his wife Allison Corradini blame their daughter’s near death on the toxic mold found in her bedroom and believe other tenants in the 421-unit apartment complex are suffering similar problems since managers have failed to eradicate the problem in their home. “I will never forget the look on my 4-year-old’s face when she stopped breathing,” Thomas testified Tuesday during the meeting’s public comment period.
Shayne Monahan, who lives in a unit a street above Thomas, made a similar plea. Two months after moving into the complex on El Toro Road, he and his wife and her two young daughters began to experience numerous health issues that they attribute to poisoning by mold, which the property manager failed to remove when repairing leaks.
Both families independently hired mold-testing companies, whose analysis detected high thresholds of mold in different sections of their homes. The two families also say they hired Los Angeles personal injury attorney David Lira to help them press their breach of contract grievances with the complex’s Texas owners for leasing uninhabitable units.
Neither family wants to vacate one of the few low-cost housing complexes within city limits, where two-bedroom units cost $1,837 to
The complex’s property manager, Camy Faircloth, declined to discuss the tenants’ claims. An affiliate of Dallas-based Invesco Real Estate, ICRE Laguna Club LLC, purchased the complex for $121 million in 2012, according to the website of Vanguard Commercial, a real estate broker.
In response to a letter Monahan sent to Council members last week, city inspector Dennis Bogle was dispatched to Monahan’s home, but Bogle said he was not equipped to test for mold. City officials are trying to determine the magnitude of the mold infestation and are checking with appropriate agencies, Community Development Director John Montgomery told council members.
Corradini, a third generation resident, teaches at Laguna Presbyterian preschool. Her husband teaches at Anneliese Schools. They moved into Club Laguna because it offered the family affordable housing and a foothold in Corradini’s hometown.
Ten weeks ago, Corradini and Thomas found a slow leak in their apartment along with toxic black mold. The apartment managers cleaned the carpets, drilled holes in the walls, and turned on blowers while the family occupied the apartment, Corradini said. “It was this action we now know that either started or exacerbated an already bad problem,” she said, which “turned our apartment into a petri dish for mold to spread like wildfire.”
A mold inspection showed a count of 60 mold spores outside, but 2,290 in their living room and kitchen and 6,040 spores in their daughter’s bedroom. (Currently, there are no federal standards for airborne mold, says the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.)
They were relocated to guest quarters in the complex and locked out of their apartment, which contains their possessions, including the children’s toys and books, now contaminated with toxic mold.
Now the family, recently sent an eviction notice, teeters on the brink of homelessness as they search for comparably affordable housing that will allow their 6 and 10-year-old children to remain at El Morro Elementary School.
Club Laguna’s managers sent them an eviction notice for failing to pay rent on their uninhabitable apartment. It wasn’t until Thomas’ lawyer intervened that management reversed the notification, claiming a ”mistake.”
Monahan’s family suffers a similar fate. “Our choice is to live here or be homeless,” said Monahan, who claims that his family has suffered from coughing, breathing problems and rashes since shortly after they moved in in January.
In that time, his family’s apartment has experienced nine water leaks and flooded four times, which required removal of the carpets, Monahan said. He claims management engaged unqualified maintenance people that made repairs without subsequent city inspections.
Monahan was in the apartment when workers discovered black mold behind drywall and put a fan on it to dry it out. No one told them about the danger until a plumber told them to evacuate immediately.
The family stayed temporarily at a hotel, while Monahan returned to feed their dog and observed that workers covered the mold with sheet rock after drying it.
Questioning management’s assertion of the unit’s safety, Monahan hired a mold inspector, whose report showed not only unsafe levels of mold but also that the infestation had existed for over two years.
Thomas said previous Club Laguna residents told him they left because of mold.
Monahan said he felt compelled to speak publicly since he fears many of his neighbors may be too intimidated to pursue their rights.
“I firmly believe tonight there are children sleeping out there who will be in danger,” said Monahan, who appealed to the Council to request a county health department inspection.
This week, the property’s attorneys offered Monahan’s family another unit on the property or a $500 moving allowance to terminate their lease. Monahan rejected the offer as unacceptable as the family lacks an alternate, affordable place to stay, can’t afford to move and refuse to move into another potentially moldy unit. He wants “suitable lodging” while repairs are made.