Updated Friday, Aug. 1 at 11:45 a.m..
Owners of vehicles stranded in UCLA Parking Structure 4 began driving away their cars on Friday morning, three days after a city water main break flooded part of the campus. Tow trucks began moving the 267 least damaged vehicles to Lot 36, in Westwood Village, on Thursday night.
The first vehicles to be removed had been parked on the eastern end of the upper level of Parking Structure 4 — the area that took in the least water, officials said. The vehicles were brought out of the subterranean structure using tow trucks or flatbed trucks.
Beginning at 10 a.m. Friday, owners who received a notification from UCLA Transportation were allowed to pick up their vehicles in Lot 36, located at Kinross Drive and Veteran Avenue in Westwood Village. The lot will remain open until 10 p.m.
In all, close to 1,000 vehicles have been stuck in parking structures 4 and 7 since Tuesday’s water main break on Sunset Boulevard flooded parts of the UCLA campus. Most of the cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles must remain in place until all water is pumped from the underground levels.
Both parking structures remain closed to the public. Gasoline and other chemicals are mixing with the standing water that remains. Safety staff are monitoring the water for toxicity.
“There will be a way for our department to get the vehicles out well before it’s safe for the public to get in,” said Renée Fortier, director of UCLA Events and Transportation. “A lot of people think they should be able to go back into the structures immediately. With flooding, we have to make sure the structure is safe.”
More than a third of the department’s employees are active in the clean-up and recovery effort, from traffic control services to answering phone calls about alternative transportation or filing claims with the city. “We’ve never had anything where our structures were impacted like this,” Fortier said.
On Thursday morning campus officials said that as a precaution, six UCLA maintenance employees working on an electrical panel in an underground parking structure had been evaluated for exposure to carbon monoxide. Three were transported to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and later released after testing negative for exposure, and three were evaluated and released on-site outside Parking Structure 4.
The incident occurred about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, when UCLA fire officials encouraged the crew to be tested after passersby smelled exhaust coming from a stairwell leading up from the northwest corner of Parking Structure 4.
Officials said the workers were wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, including carbon monoxide indicators that confirmed that their workspace contained negligible levels of carbon monoxide.
The crew was using a gas-powered generator to provide light as they worked on a transformer to restore electricity to the John Wooden Center, officials said. Units that provide power to buildings were damaged in flooding from Tuesday's water main break, which sent an estimated 20 million gallons of water flowing downhill toward campus.
Kelly Schmader, assistant vice chancellor for facilities management, said managers are working with UC employees and private contractors to ensure proper ventilation of exhaust from generators being used at various campus locations.
“The safety of all these crews working extremely hard to return the campus to normal operations is our top priority,” Schmader said.
Power has been restored to most affected buildings, but damage assessment continues. The Fernald and Krieger child care centers have reopened. Summer camps have resumed, with new pickup and drop-off points. For more specific information, visit UCLA Recreation.
UCLA Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Janina Montero emailed students who have been impacted by the flooding, telling them that the university had created a temporary “one-stop shop” at the Bruin Resource Center to provide assistance and referrals. Students who are dealing with substantial property loss can reach out to the Economic Crisis Response Team at email@example.com to receive counsel and support. The ECR team can also provide emergency short-term loans.
Also, Undergraduate Admission is encouraging prospective students and visitors to contact the office to schedule a campus tour at another time.