LOS ANGELES – The city on Thursday filed a $20 million negligence lawsuit against the developer of the Da Vinci Apartments, alleging improper construction and security led to the damage of nearby city buildings when an arson fire nearly burned the massive complex to the ground.
The lawsuit, filed by the city attorney’s office, contends that Geoffrey H. Palmer and his GH Palmer Associates used defective construction methods, such as failing to have a proper fire-protection plan, properly install firewalls or doors, provide a water supply for firefighting or provide adequate security measures that could have prevented the arsonist from getting onto the property.
The developer allowed construction of a building that was “more susceptible than normal to becoming swiftly engulfed in flames,” according to the lawsuit.
“We’re fighting to fully compensate the City’s taxpayers for losses we allege could have been avoided had this massive building incorporated key safety measures and been better constructed,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement.
A call to the Beverly Hills-based developer seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned.
The Dec. 8, 2014, fire gutted the 1.3 million-square-foot, seven-story-tall Da Vinci complex, which was in the wood-framing stage, sending up flames that could be seen from miles away. The heat cracked or shattered hundreds of windows in neighboring buildings, including a city-owned office building across the street, set off fire sprinklers, ignited small fires in one building and damaged an adjacent freeway.
Damage to city property and firefighting costs reached $80 million, with insurance covering $61.9 million, according to the lawsuit.
Fire officials said surveillance video showed a man parking his car on nearby Interstate 110 and walking into the construction project with cans of fuel.
Dawud Abdulwali, 56, of Los Angeles, remains jailed awaiting trial. He pleaded not guilty last year to arson and aggravated arson. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years to life in state prison.
Investigators said Abdulwali, a taxi driver, didn’t appear to have any connection to the developer or the apartment complex. They have not released a motive for the attack.
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