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Pallet Fire Under I-10 Causes Indefinite Closure

Started by brad2971, November 11, 2023, 06:39:19 PM

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kalvado

Quote from: Scott5114 on November 19, 2023, 12:20:42 AM
Did the eviction moratorium apply to businesses?

I can imagine that a big part of the problem here is the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing at Caltrans—an engineer sent out to inspect the bridge is not necessarily going to know what the terms of the airspace lease are (why would they? They're paid to know how to tell if a bridge is failing, not know the details of real estate contracts) or know who the right person in the organization is to contact if a tenant is doing something unsafe with the property.
According to the paper two posts up, things escalated to the point of the eviction process initiated in September. Apparently, everything was moving pretty slowly.
If there was no fire, I would assume a court eviction order would be handed out in about a year, happily ignored for another year or two or five - and a SAWT team called into action sometime next decade. 
Thing is, due process is shaped under the assumption that both sides are willing to play more or less by the rules. If not, there is a judge, who can order police action - so not playing by the rules is dangerous. If courts and enforcement fall way behind - there will be people taking advantage of the situation and not playing along. All that until brute force is called into action if that ever happens in the current climate.
The problem was not with lease terms per se, the problem was with underlying safety regulations. So inspectors were quite aware of things, and probably followed the due process. Some (and maybe a lot) of letters were sent (and ignored); I assume even some fines could be issued (but not paid). What are the options at that point?
   


Scott5114

My understanding is that the problem was ultimately with the lease terms, in that the lessee was not permitted to sublet the property; one of those sublettors is the one who was creating dangerous conditions. No sublease, no fire.
uncontrollable freak sardine salad chef

kalvado

Quote from: Scott5114 on November 19, 2023, 08:30:53 PM
My understanding is that the problem was ultimately with the lease terms, in that the lessee was not permitted to sublet the property; one of those sublettors is the one who was creating dangerous conditions. No sublease, no fire.
Following the same logic:
No airspace rental program - no original lease - no sublease - no fire.
Or if there was no sublease, original lessor could do something equally stupid as he doesn't look like a nice guy.
If course, everyone will be looking for a scapegoat. But IMHO original idea of loosing control of what should be somewhat protected area wasn't a bright idea. I wonder how that came into being. To benefit transit is a big red flag IMHO.


ZLoth

Quote from: Scott5114 on November 19, 2023, 08:30:53 PMMy understanding is that the problem was ultimately with the lease terms, in that the lessee was not permitted to sublet the property; one of those sublettors is the one who was creating dangerous conditions. No sublease, no fire.

Contractual disputes, broken leases, and evictions are all considered civil matters, and can take ages to sort out in the courts.
Don't Drive Distrac... SQUIRREL!

Plutonic Panda


Plutonic Panda


Occidental Tourist

I'm a California attorney who practices civil litigation.  You can theoretically get a commercial unlawful detainer case decided within 30 days from filing, although with some court's calendars, it can take 60 to 90 days.  The successful UD gets the tenant evicted; other contractual breach or tort issues are not decided in the UD action and are reserved for a traditional civil case, which would take longer as others have discussed.

When a tenant stops paying rent, the first thing a landlord does is post a three or thirty-day Quit or Pay Rent Notice and begins the UD process.  It's the surest way to get a tenant to either catch up on back rent payments or get them out of the property to turn it over with a new tenant. If Caltrans was sitting on its hands for this long in not trying to evict the tenant, either somebody wasn't paying attention or this tenant had significant defenses to a UD action (which is extremely unusual in a circumstance where the tenant has stopped paying rent altogether).

mgk920

So basically we can attribute the root cause of this fire/closure/repair to state and local government incompetence.

Mike

kalvado

Quote from: Occidental Tourist on November 20, 2023, 11:13:00 AM
I'm a California attorney who practices civil litigation.  You can theoretically get a commercial unlawful detainer case decided within 30 days from filing, although with some court's calendars, it can take 60 to 90 days.  The successful UD gets the tenant evicted; other contractual breach or tort issues are not decided in the UD action and are reserved for a traditional civil case, which would take longer as others have discussed.

When a tenant stops paying rent, the first thing a landlord does is post a three or thirty-day Quit or Pay Rent Notice and begins the UD process.  It's the surest way to get a tenant to either catch up on back rent payments or get them out of the property to turn it over with a new tenant. If Caltrans was sitting on its hands for this long in not trying to evict the tenant, either somebody wasn't paying attention or this tenant had significant defenses to a UD action (which is extremely unusual in a circumstance where the tenant has stopped paying rent altogether).
first of all, would an "airspace" rental fall into the same category? This may or may not be real estate lease altogether
Second, purportedly eviction was initiated in August - and was undecided at least 70 days after the filing.  Maybe there was a different eviction category, though?
Last, but not the least - how far is rent collection on priority list? My beef here is about safety of entire concept. $78k per site in LA... that's non negligible, but I suspect the lowest paid CalTrans employee in LA area would cost them more (paycheck + benefits).

Occidental Tourist

Any delays from a UD filing could be due to one of several factors: 1) delay due to the court's calendar, 2) delay caused by the landlord (asking for hearing delays, needing to file corrected documents, failing to promptly file proofs of service), or 3) delays due to a tenant dodging service.

To my understanding, airspace leases are the same as ground leases for UD actions.  Also, in this instance, there was a kind of "ground" lease.  Although the state owns the property on which the freeway bents and deck sit, the tenant (and subtenants) were occupying an actual portion of the parcel underneath the state's improvements.  Airspace leases tend to be used for things like billboards and radio towers where there is still a ground tenant (whoever is in the building under the billboard or tower) and an airspace tenant (the billboard or tower operator) above the same ground parcel.  The ground tenant has rights typical to a lessee of a land parcel while an airspace tenant has very limited rights (usually placement of equipment and ingress and egress).  In effect, what the state had here was a sort of reverse ground lease.  Its freeway structures occupied the air above the parcel and the airspace tenants use the parcel.  Presumably, these tenants (like billboard tenants) had an airspace lease because (like billboard tenants) they didn't get the full package of tenant rights and obligations for a parcel (or subdivision of that parcel) that typically come with a ground lease.

I've read conflicting stories about when the tenant starting engaging in illegal subleases and was short on the rent. I've read this has been going on as far back as three years or as little as a year.  Parsing through the conflicting reports, my best guess is that the illegal subleasing has been going on for well more than a year and the substantial portion of the tenant's failure to pay rent didn't happen until the last year, although there may have been some temporary arrearages before that.

The attorneys at Caltrans I talk to don't speak much about their landlord practice, so I don't know what their practices are for dealing with tenants or how quickly they file actions against bad tenants.  I will be asking them, though.

kalvado

Quote from: Occidental Tourist on November 20, 2023, 02:21:40 PM
Any delays from a UD filing could be due to one of several factors: 1) delay due to the court's calendar, 2) delay caused by the landlord (asking for hearing delays, needing to file corrected documents, failing to promptly file proofs of service), or 3) delays due to a tenant dodging service.

To my understanding, airspace leases are the same as ground leases for UD actions.  Also, in this instance, there was a kind of "ground" lease.  Although the state owns the property on which the freeway bents and deck sit, the tenant (and subtenants) were occupying an actual portion of the parcel underneath the state's improvements.  Airspace leases tend to be used for things like billboards and radio towers where there is still a ground tenant (whoever is in the building under the billboard or tower) and an airspace tenant (the billboard or tower operator) above the same ground parcel.  The ground tenant has rights typical to a lessee of a land parcel while an airspace tenant has very limited rights (usually placement of equipment and ingress and egress).  In effect, what the state had here was a sort of reverse ground lease.  Its freeway structures occupied the air above the parcel and the airspace tenants use the parcel.  Presumably, these tenants (like billboard tenants) had an airspace lease because (like billboard tenants) they didn't get the full package of tenant rights and obligations for a parcel (or subdivision of that parcel) that typically come with a ground lease.

I've read conflicting stories about when the tenant starting engaging in illegal subleases and was short on the rent. I've read this has been going on as far back as three years or as little as a year.  Parsing through the conflicting reports, my best guess is that the illegal subleasing has been going on for well more than a year and the substantial portion of the tenant's failure to pay rent didn't happen until the last year, although there may have been some temporary arrearages before that.

The attorneys at Caltrans I talk to don't speak much about their landlord practice, so I don't know what their practices are for dealing with tenants or how quickly they file actions against bad tenants.  I will be asking them, though.
One of articles here says rent payment stopped with the beginning of covid in 2020, and did not resume after eviction moratorium was lifted in 2022. So a bit over a year of just plain non-payment after 2 years of somewhat explainable non-payment.

As for subleases, sounds to me that was more or less the plan to begin with. A private operator leasing multiple spots and subleasing space with approvals. It's approval part that fell through.
I assume "illegal sublease" is a red flag for you as a lawyer, but honestly it doesn't do much in terms of safety as long as everyone plays by the rules.  For me, "illegal" is more of a symptom of lessor not willing to work properly. Which, of course, also included ignoring safety rules.

The Ghostbuster


bing101


mgk920

Has anyone been arrested/charged yet for this arson?

Mike

Plutonic Panda

Welp California is just now realizing maybe storing hazardous materials underneath freeways is not the best idea: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/california-recommends-changes-leasing-properties-222401193.html

kalvado

Quote from: Plutonic Panda on February 08, 2024, 09:22:34 PM
Welp California is just now realizing maybe storing hazardous materials underneath freeways is not the best idea: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/california-recommends-changes-leasing-properties-222401193.html
I love how they call wooden pallets "hazardous material".
I hope it's just a journalist struggling with the use of ctrl-c...

Plutonic Panda

Quote from: kalvado on February 08, 2024, 09:35:27 PM
Quote from: Plutonic Panda on February 08, 2024, 09:22:34 PM
Welp California is just now realizing maybe storing hazardous materials underneath freeways is not the best idea: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/california-recommends-changes-leasing-properties-222401193.html
I love how they call wooden pallets "hazardous material".
I hope it's just a journalist struggling with the use of ctrl-c...
In this case, it seems they certainly seems like they were hazardous as it contributed to the closure of a major road link.

kphoger

Yeah, stacks of pallets are a big fire hazard.  Just ask anyone who has owned a warehouse and dealt with the fire marshal.
Keep right except to pass.  Yes.  You.
Visit scenic Orleans County, NY!
Male pronouns, please.

Quote from: Philip K. DickIf you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use them.

kalvado

Quote from: Plutonic Panda on February 08, 2024, 09:44:18 PM
Quote from: kalvado on February 08, 2024, 09:35:27 PM
Quote from: Plutonic Panda on February 08, 2024, 09:22:34 PM
Welp California is just now realizing maybe storing hazardous materials underneath freeways is not the best idea: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/california-recommends-changes-leasing-properties-222401193.html
I love how they call wooden pallets "hazardous material".
I hope it's just a journalist struggling with the use of ctrl-c...
In this case, it seems they certainly seems like they were hazardous as it contributed to the closure of a major road link.
Being a hazard and being a hazardous material are two very different things. And I would hope DOT knows the difference.

pderocco

Quote from: kphoger on February 09, 2024, 12:30:13 PM
Yeah, stacks of pallets are a big fire hazard.  Just ask anyone who has owned a warehouse and dealt with the fire marshal.
They're also often the preferred fuel for bonfires. Rockport MA torches a huge stack of them every 7/4.



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