Novella apartment complex Redondo Beach

The 105-unit Novella Redondo apartment complex was recently sold for $53.5 million. The complex had been severly damaged by water intrusion causing roughly 80 percent of the tenants to move out. (Photo by David Rosenfeld)

A 105-unit apartment complex near the ocean in Redondo Beach that had been severely damaged by rainwater sold for $53.5 million last week to a new owner promising to rehabilitate and rebrand the site.

“We love the South Bay and we plan to move very quickly so that the asset can become stabilized and better than ever before,” said Kevin Conway, director of acquisitions for IDEAL Capital Group, which, together with Aegon Real Assets US closed, on the property Thursday, May 9. The company will also perform water-proofing on the entire complex.

Conway said construction should last about six to eight months.

Roughly 80 percent of the residents at the Novella Redondo apartments, 616 Esplanade, vacated their homes after “extensive water damage during October 2018 storms,” Stockbridge Capital Group, the company that has owned the property since 2015, said in a statement Monday, May 13.

Nicole Ruiz, who lived at the property with her boyfriend for about four years — until October — said she thinks she was exposed to asbestos through pieces of the roof that scattered onto her third-floor balcony and a hole in her bathroom ceiling that let rainwater in.

Before the October storms even hit, Ruiz said, the complex already needed a complete roof replacement because of mold and water intrusion from earlier in 2018.

The 82,000 square-foot apartment complex underwent roughly $16 million in renovation work before the sale, including the roof replacement and “common area waterproofing upgrades,” Stockbridge said.

But the crews, Ruiz said, were in the middle of repairing the roofing above her apartment when the autumn rains came.

“For 3.5 months, we lived under plywood and plastic,” Ruiz, 43, said Monday. “They kept saying the roof was coming, but we loved living there so much because it was right near the beach, so nobody really got on their case about it.”

Because of the hole in her ceiling, Ruiz said, the rains that pummeled Southern California in the fall also landed in her bathroom, bringing building materials with it. Chunks of the roof’s perimeter also fell onto her patio; those pieces contained a hard glue with asbestos, according to Ruiz, who also said she confirmed the asbestos with an inspector she hired weeks later.

“They said as long as it was left in big chunks it was OK, and it wasn’t airborne,” Ruiz said. “But it was all over my patio and my herb garden. I would wash vegetables and eat them.”

The management company sent its own inspectors to look at the complex after the rains ended, Ruiz said. Soon after, Ruiz added, she and many others received a three-day notice to vacate.

“They never said, ‘You are in danger,’” Ruiz said. “They said they would put big fans in to dry out the walls.”

Dean Zander, with CBRE Southern California, which represented Stockbridge in the sale of the property, did not address Ruiz’s specific claims when reached by phone Monday afternoon. But he did say the owners did everything they could to secure the property and make it safe to inhabit.

“Part of the remediation in order to deliver the building was to re-mediate any mold that was found as a result of water intrusion,” Zander said. “I’m sure it wasn’t convenient for anybody, but it was a natural event. They were trying to update the property.”

Ruiz said the company prorated her October rent and returned her deposit and first month’s rental costs. But they did not offer to pay for moving expenses or to replace possessions that were damaged, which she said cost about $8,000.

Despite the damage, Zander said, demand for the property was high; it received more than 20 formal offers.

The renter’s insurance, meanwhile, wouldn’t cover Ruiz’s losses, she said; when she told the management company that and said she was considering legal action, but the company let her stay in a guest suite it shows to potential tenants.

Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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