Death Box

By Quip Johnson


City College lags behind in keeping current with campus elevator maintenance and permits according to the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) regulations leading to student safety concerns that could result in potential death boxes.


The DIR website cites California Code of Regulations Title 8 §3001, which states “no elevator shall be operated without a valid current permit issued by the Division.” Furthermore, each permit must be “posted conspicuously and securely in the elevator car.”


Despite this law, the Student Union’s elevator permit expired on July 24, 2007- nearly 10 years ago. Other elevators, such as the ones in Creative Arts and Conlan Hall, expired on July 16, 2009 and July 17, 2009.


As of April 31, 2017 at least 10 elevators were out of date.


The Multi-Use Building (MUB) elevators have no visible permits.


City College’s Building and Grounds (BAG) department was unaware of any issue with the operation permits.


“All of our elevators are up to date. A state inspector comes out every year,” City College Head Engineer Kenneth Dang said. “There may be a few where the certificates haven’t been replaced but for the most part the permits are all current.”


According to fellow DIR Employee Michael Brodheim, if the state finds an elevator with an expired permit, it will be red tagged and closed until it can be inspected and recertified.

“When we red tag an elevator, we post a literal red tag on it to make it clear that it’s shut down for inspection,” Brodheim said.


DIR’s website grants an exception to permits expiring between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 likely due to a shortage of elevator inspectors in the department.


“We’re constantly rehiring because people are constantly retiring,” DIR Employee Tina Staricco said.

Even so, Dang is positive an inspector has been to City College’s campus annually.



According to BAG when City College installs an elevator they sign a term purchase agreement with the contractors. Existing agreements list at least three companies with elevators on Ocean Campus: KONE, Otis Elevator Company and ThyssenKrupp.


The agreements state that KONE which owns elevators in Batmale Hall, Cloud Hall and the Rosenberg Library, is paid $120,000 a year to service and maintain their elevators. Otis, which owns the Creative Arts and Conlan Hall elevators, is paid $45,000 annually and ThyssenKrupp receives $59,800 each year.


Elevator maintenance involves regular checks to ensure the elevator is safe to operate and is initiated by the private contracting companies.


“The checks are supposed to be regular,” an anonymous source from BAG said. “They should come out on their own. We don’t have to call them.”


Elevator service is provided when damage occurs, and repair becomes necessary.


“In case of an emergency we send someone out if an engineer is available. If so, there’s a two hour response time, but we can’t promise we’ll have someone right away,” Teagon Smith from Otis Elevator Company’s San Francisco office said.


Once a year, an inspector from the California State Department comes out to check the equipment. Dang said if a problem is found, the inspector will red tag the elevator in question until the company comes to make the appropriate repairs and adjustments. After a second inspection the state official will reopen the elevator and issue a current permit to City College.


“Tom makes a copy of it and we give it to the elevator company right away,” Dang said referring to BAG Management Assistant Brian Tom. According to City College’s Otis Account Manager Michael Begale, it is then the job of the company, which has the key to open the permit display case, to install the current document into each of their elevators.


Dang claims City College has given the permits to the elevator companies. If so, these contractors which the college has been paying annually, have not been replacing the old permits each year.



Student safety in elevators is essential due to the high usage rate around campus.


Brief observation revealed five students using the Student Union elevator in as many minutes. This very same elevator noticeably shakes and makes a loud scraping sound during descent. Additionally, visible between the doors are a rusty chain and exposed wiring.


While this does not necessarily mean the elevator is unsafe for operation, it could concern students who use the equipment on a daily basis.


“Oh that sounds ominous,” said studio art major Silvana Sipion after having rode an elevator, “Please stop squeaking. Too much sound. That hissing sound made me paranoid.”


Dang said the third MUB elevator had been out of service for at least two and a half weeks.


City College’s facilities outages webpage said: “Due to wear and tear on the slide guide, our elevator service company proactively took this cab out of service to prevent entrapments.”


The MUB is City College’s newest building, having just been completed in 2010.


The first elevator in Batmale Hall has been out of service since Feb. 3 due to damage to the doors’ tracks. According to the outages webpage as of April 3 a repair contract with the appropriate company is underway.

Out of order elevator in Batmale Hall on May 8, 2017. (Photo by Jordi Molina).
Out of order elevator in Batmale Hall on May 8, 2017. (Photo by Jordi Molina).
Illustration by Quip Johnson.
Illustration by Quip Johnson.
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