Facing Fines Owner Plans to Turn off Compressors
By Stephen Hadland
After city contractors and inspectors crawled all over the Culver Ice Arena last Friday, Michael Karagozian, owner of the ice rink property, has decided to turn off the compressors and shutter the now- closed facility.
The family made this announcement through their attorney Nadine Lewis of Pacific Palisades. "It is with a heavy heart that the Karagozian family has decided to decommission the rink that it has owned for the past 52 years," she said.
The latest development ends the attempt by the property owner and the Takahashi family, who planned to operate the rink, to reopen the facility last Saturday.
Lewis said that Karagozian had no other option. She said "he was threatened with fines totaling $7,500 per day plus costs" for unknown Hazmat violations.
She blasted the city stating, "there was no due process...The city just slapped the yellow tag on the door with no notice whatsoever. I have never been treated as badly as I have been by the city of Culver City." She maintains the city "wants the ice rink gone."
Karagozian and the Takahashi family hired Lewis to represent the two parties. Lewis has thus far filed complaints against Alliance Industrial Refrigeration Services with two state boards claiming the reports issued by Alliance were "riddled with errors."
Lewis, a skating mom, has worked pro bono for the past few months to help get the rink reopened. He daughter now has to travel to Torrance to skate.
"You are talking about 5,000 skaters a week," Lewis said. " I got my coffee and bagel every morning at Tanner's Coffee. In the evening I ate at Green Peas or L.A. Spice. There was a lot of business brought to Culver City because of the rink."
The complaint charges that the Culver City Fire Marshal improperly influenced Alliance to issue the negative report. It also charges the report condemning the rink was written by Alliance employees who never stepped foot in the rink.
Meanwhile Jim Wright, the principal of Wright Engineering, conducted his own inspection of the Arena and issued his own report, labeling the city's report as "fraudulent."
Wright has more than 25 years experience in refrigeration which includes large food retailers and large manufacturing firms who use refrigeration. Wright deemed the rink safe for continued operations.
Meanwhile the city has hired Bill Litvak of the law firm Dapeer, Rosenblit & Litvak LLP. The firm's website states its specialty as "emphasizing the resolution and trial of business, real estate, municipal law, land use law, professional liability and related matters."
One local attorney noted that, based on the actions by the city, litigation is sure to follow.
Informed sources have told the Observer the owners have put the property on the market for $20 million. Lewis said she had no knowledge of a pending sale and said while she still represents the Takahashi family she no longer represents the Karagozian family.