Residents of the Americana apartment complex say they have been asked to spend the Fourth of July weekend moving out of their apartments to prevent asbestos dust from raining on their belongings during roof work.
According to several calls and e-mails to the Voice from residents, Prometheus Real Estate Group wants to put new roofs on five of the Americana's 22 buildings this summer, spending three weeks per building. Built in the 1970s, the buildings have fire retardant "popcorn" coating on the ceilings made of asbestos, which is known to cause cancer when inhaled and which came loose during roof work in the complex in 2007.
Work begins on the first building on July 6, but temporary housing has only recently become available. As a result, some residents may have to spend the Fourth of July weekend moving.
The Americana apartment complex, located at 707 Continental Circle, is owned by the Palo Alto-based Tan Group and managed by the Prometheus Real Estate Group, which also hopes to build 214 apartments at the Minton's Lumber site on Evelyn Avenue.
An assistant manager at the Americana refused to speak with the Voice about the plan. Regional portfolio manager Jeff Buck did not return a phone call by press time.
Five Americana buildings underwent roof work in 2007, causing high concentrations of asbestos dust to fall in some top-floor apartments. Asbestos was found at four times the allowable limit in one case, according to Prometheus' own documents.
One family won a $7,500 small claims settlement against Prometheus after the company could not guarantee that the family's furniture and other belongings were free of asbestos. It was a "learning experience," manager Linda Rodriguez said at the time.
This time around, residents say Prometheus has proactively planned to test for asbestos dust, a measure that residents had to push for in 2007. And Prometheus has promised to cover belongings left behind in the apartments to protect them from asbestos dust. (Residents will likely leave many large belongings behind since the temporary housing is furnished.) And Prometheus has offered some residents the option of ending lease agreements so they can move out.
Despite these efforts, many residents are unhappy, saying that Americana management gave little notice about the need for them to move out.
"They are asking us to move our lives over" in one weekend, said one resident, who wished to remain anonymous. "But they've been planning this for months."
A notice was sent out to residents on June 18, but temporary housing, possibly in vacant apartments elsewhere on the site, won't be available until July 3. The first building is scheduled to begin work on July 6, leaving about 10 households in the first building only the July 4 weekend to move. At least some would have to cancel weekend plans, according to the complaints.
Residents said Prometheus has not made it clear whether there will be a thorough cleaning of any asbestos dust left behind after the roof work, which required special vacuum cleaners and wipes in 2007.
"All renters are fuming over the lack of advanced notice, the cost that will be incurred that we have to bear on our own for moving and timing that this is being handled in," wrote one resident in an e-mail.