Nearly Half of San Diego County's Elevators Have Expired Safety Permits

Across the state, NBC 7 Investigates found thousands of elevators and escalators that haven’t been inspected for years.

When you walk into an elevator, you’re probably not thinking about when it was last inspected. 

NBC 7 Investigates did that work for you, and we discovered that most elevators and escalators operating across San Diego County haven’t been inspected for years. State-wide, tens of thousands of those conveyances lack valid safety inspection permits. 

“I pushed the button and the elevator wouldn’t go,” Terrilyn Dempsey said. 

Dempsey said she feels like she’s taking a risk every time uses the elevator at her Pacific Pines Village apartment complex, in City Heights. 

Another Pacific Pines Village resident filed a complaint with the city of San Diego’s Code Enforcement Division, stating, “residents who rely on the elevator feel ‘trapped’ in their third-floor apartments.” 

Scott Robinson, Senior Public Information Officer for the city, told NBC 7 Investigates that complaint was closed after the property owner agreed to fix the elevator unit. Skip Kelley, a supervisor with the Pacific Pines Village’s property management company, said there have been recent “major renovations to the elevator”. 

But residents at the complex said they still don’t trust the elevator. 

“There are people who are in wheelchairs, and their sons and daughters have to help them down the stairs,” Dempsey said. 

Inspections of elevators and escalators are the responsibility of the California Department of Industrial Relations. 

Through a public records request, NBC 7 Investigates obtained permit and inspection data for all elevators and escalators across the state. Those records reveal that more than 5,400 “conveyances” -- 42 percent of all elevators and escalators in San Diego County -- have expired permits. 

To find out when your building’s elevator was last inspected or if it has an expired permit, click here to search your address. 

On average, most elevators and escalators in San Diego County haven't been inspected in over 600 days. 

The state attributes the lack of inspections to a “boom” in construction statewide that is wearing state inspection resources thin. 

The Department of Industrial Relations said first-time inspections of new elevators and escalators are prioritized over older units, and that the property owner is responsible for repairs. 

Other areas have similar problems with their elevators. In Los Angeles County, 50 percent of all active elevators and escalators have expired permits. In northern California, including San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento, 42 percent of permits are expired. 

NBC 7 Investigates shared its findings with Erika Moterroza, a spokesperson for Cal/OSHA and the Department of Industrial Relations. 

“It's a snapshot in time, and there could be a lot of things that are happening,” Moterroza explained. “It could be that the (elevators and escalators) have been inspected, and are in the process (of being renewed).” 

The Department of Industrial Relations also said it takes up to three months to process a permit renewal, which would be another reason why so many conveyances have expired permits.

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