Scientology officials file claim against city for plumbing damage days before accepting preservation award

Pasadena Weekly/May 26, 2011

Two days before the Church of Scientology was presented with an award for preserving the 115-year-old Braley Building on South Raymond Avenue, church officials filed a claim against the city for damages incurred after the historic structure was flooded with raw sewage in November.

"In the early morning of Nov. 23, water backed up through the toilets and sinks [in] the basement," the claim states. "When personnel came in, they found four inches of raw sewage covering the entire basement area."

The claim lists damages - including emergency restoration, structural repairs and business and personal property losses - at more than $700,000.

Submitting a claim is the first step in filing of a lawsuit against a government agency. Calls to the Scientology offices were not returned Tuesday. City officials could not comment on the claim due to the possibility of pending litigation.

In 2006, the Church of Scientology purchased the building, valued at the time at $4.9 million, and immediately began evicting its 22 tenants, half of whom had month-to-month leases. The building remained vacant until January 2010, when restoration work began on the deteriorating structure. The project cost an estimated $6.5 million to $7 million and, like the purchase of the building, was paid for by member donations.

The May 16 claim states that the plumbing problem was caused by grease blockage, which forced church officials to call a plumber to stop the flow of sewage into the building.

Two days after the claim was filed, city and state officials honored the group with a Historic Preservation Award as part of National Historic Preservation Month. During the ceremony, Assemblyman Anthony J. Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) also presented the group with a Certificate of Recognition on behalf of the Assembly for rehabilitating the four-story, 50,800-square-foot building.

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