Owner of collapsed building had history of problems [UPDATED]
The owner of an apartment building that collapsed Sunday in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, injuring four people, was convicted last fall of numerous fire and health code violations and agreed to sell all of his roughly 150 rental properties as part of a plea agreement that allowed him to avoid jail time, records show.
Frank McHugh, 82, of Marina del Rey, was given three years to sell his apartment buildings in an agreement approved by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Spurgeon Smith. McHugh had pleaded no contest to 15 misdemeanor criminal counts involving buildings he owns on Olympic and James M. Wood boulevards.
The four-unit building that collapsed Sunday, at 1624 S. Westmoreland Drive, was not cited in the criminal complaint, but it is listed as one of the buildings that McHugh owns. The landlord has been investigated by the city’s Slum Housing Task Force and targeted by tenant advocates over what they called the substandard state of his buildings, which house mostly low-income tenants.
More than a dozen people were left homeless in Sunday’s collapse, and city officials said Wednesday they were still investigating the collapse and would not know the cause for days.
City records show that the Westmoreland building underwent an unspecified inspection last spring that resulted in no prosecution or further action.
Tina Hess, supervising attorney in the city attorney’s Housing Enforcement Division, said she had not seen inspection reports on that building and could not address what action inspectors took.
But she said her office had vigorously prosecuted cases against McHugh that had been referred to the Slum Housing Task Force and would continue to do so when appropriate.
McHugh has not responded to earlier interview requests from The Times and could not be reached Wednesday.
Two years ago, the tenants group Strategic Actions for a Just Economy began organizing against McHugh, recruiting residents of his buildings and protesting outside his home.
Albert Lowe, research director for the tenants group, called Sunday’s collapse “a tragedy,” adding that “there are many buildings like this one in the city over 100 years old and in need of repair so that this doesn’t happen again.”
This post was updated at 9:22 p.m.