Uptown Boca Faces Radon & Mold Concerns

West Boca News has learned that the new owner of Uptown Boca is working to address resident concerns that are a holdover from the original owner and builder.

Less than three weeks after Cortland took ownership, we were contacted by a few residents most of whom asked to remain anonymous. They told us that several residents found high radon levels and/or mold conditions in their apartments. One resident we spoke with complained of headaches.

Robert Navone sent us photos of mold in his apartment and said he has heard from 40 residents about mold and radon. Navone told me that he and his wife were sick from mold.

Mold on wall of Navone apartment

We reached out to Cortland and Managing Director Jonathan Denton called to discuss the situation with us. He agreed that there is a radon issue, that the company knew about the problem before they went through with the transaction, and that “quite a few” residents have expressed concerns. Cortland held two town hall meetings this week with residents to address those concerns, with roughly half of residents attending at least one of those meetings.

Denton told us this is a common problem in the apartment buildings they buy and they are already working on a plan to remediate the radon. Residents said they were told by Cortland that the radon is coming from the ground and Denton told us the same, and that every property they buy has some level of radon exposure.

We contacted Florida geologist David Wilshaw about the radon issue. He told us:

Palm Beach County in general is low Radon risk, but as with everything it depends! The real hot areas for Radon are the phosphate mining areas (explains why the phosphate mine effluent is radioactive). But shallow limestone deposits can produce Radon too.
Radon is heavier than air, so the big risk is basements. 5th floor, not much chance, unless it’s coming from the building materials (e.g. unsealed natural granite).

According to the EPA radon levels should be below 4 picocuries per liter. Denton told us residents have been using radon test kits from Amazon that are not as reliable as professional tests, reporting real-time numbers rather than averages over time.

However, we received radon test reports from Mark Wahl, a licensed radon inspector showing levels well over 4 picocuries per liter with one report over 10, and these were averaged over 48 hours. Residents told us the high radon levels are occurring on all levels up to the 5th floor.

Denton told us Cortland is carrying out a plan to remediate the radon. The previous owner had already installed a passive radon mitigation system. Cortland is moving to an active mitigation system with electrical fans in first floor units to exhaust air and prevent the radon from rising to units on upper floors. He expects this to resolve the issue within 3-4 months.

We asked specifically about whether the radon could be coming from building materials such as granite or concrete rather than from the ground. Denton said that was conceivable but hard to say.

Mr. Wahl told us that he found radon in several units and has several more tests in progress. He was confident that the radon is coming from building materials, likely aggregate that was mixed in with the concrete, and that active ventilation of the first floor units would not do anything to help the upper floors. Wahl did say active ventilation does resolve the issue if it is done correctly in every unit. He also said he saw passive mitigation systems in some of the apartments but could not confirm installations in all of them.

Residents also told us about mold issues in some apartments and in storage units and garage spaces.

Denton acknowledged those problems as well. He said most of the problems have been in storage units and garages but acknowledged there were a few in apartments. He attributed the mold issues in apartments to residents leaving patio doors or windows open which allows humidity to get in. He also said that mold in storage units and garages is harder to prevent because the spaces are not air conditioned.

A resident told us that Uptown Boca blamed some of the apartment mold on a resident not keeping the air conditioning set at 74 degrees or below. Denton told us it is a term of most leases that residents are to keep the AC at 78 degrees or below.

We spoke with one of the mold inspectors who asked to be kept anonymous, and did not want to speak in any depth, but said there “is definitely a problem there.”

Radon inspector Wahl, who is also a licensed mold assessor and owner of Waypoint Property Inspection East LLC, said he was surprised when he looked at the units that some of the closets did not have a/c registers which may help to prevent mold formation.

Residents also complained that Uptown Boca is not doing enough to address the issue for those who want to leave. Denton said they would allow any resident to leave without damaging their credit. Some residents feel this is not enough.

Regarding mold in storage units and garages we received one document showing that Uptown Boca refused to remediate mold in a resident’s storage room and garage because the resident had personal items that absorb moisture. That document included language from the lease agreement which specifically exempts management from responsibility for mold in storage units because they are not climate controlled. The document refusing to remediate was dated before Cortland acquired the property.

Denton maintained that it’s only a small number of residents who are unhappy and that 4 or 5 told management they are moving out. Uptown Boca has approximately 450 units.

Wahl confirmed this, describing a resident who was staying in a 4-bedroom unit despite having a high radon test result.

If any residents of Uptown Boca would like to provide us more information, we ask that you please e-mail us at [email protected].


Big Money in Boca? PPP Loans

Six companies in East Boca received Paycheck Protection Program loans as high as $10 million including nationally known law firm Boies Schiller Flexner. But the largest loan package in Boca may have gone to the Federation campus in West Boca.

Full details on over 900 companies in Boca – including many doctors, lawyers and restaurants – who got PPP loans are available to paying subscribers below.

Continue reading “Big Money in Boca? PPP Loans”

Governor DeSantis Press Briefing in West Boca

By: Benjamin Schiller

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hosted a press briefing inside of the Home Depot in West Boca Raton on Friday. DeSantis spoke about hurricane preparations in the state and updates surrounding COVID-19.

During the approximately 40-minute press briefing, DeSantis announced that Home Depot and Publix would be opening three coronavirus testing sites each in the parking lots of their stores across the state. The Home Depot on Glades Road and 441 opened their station on Friday.

Photos by Benjamin Schiller

DeSantis said, “We’ve been able to do 10,000 tests a day at the drive-thru testing sites across the state.” The governor also added that everyone who needs a test could get one, either at a drive-thru testing site or a walk-up testing location.

As of this morning, DeSantis said more than 100,000 people in long-term care facilities had received a test, ranging from staff to residents. The governor also mentioned that “Florida has more deaths in the 90-plus years of age bracket compared to the 65-year-old and younger age bracket” due to COVID-19.

Governor DeSantis hosted his press briefing inside of the West Boca Home Depot to inform the South Florida community of an above-normal hurricane season beginning on June 1st. The governor praised the idea of going to local hardware stores until June 6th to pick up supplies during the tax-free holiday week for disaster preparedness supplies.

DeSantis welcomed Director Jared Moskowitz of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Aronberg, and Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer to address the media for a total of ten minutes.

After the local leaders spoke, Governor DeSantis opened the floor for questions. One reporter asked the governor about the contact tracing of coronavirus. Governor DeSantis mentioned that the Florida Department of Health has done a “sufficient” job, but said, “contract tracing doesn’t do it all” due to the number of people who may be asymptomatic to the virus.

Following the back and forth between the media and the governor, DeSantis said he is optimistic that the SpaceX launch will take place on Saturday at 3:22 P.M. and plans to attend with President Donald Trump. DeSantis also said he is excited for the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando to host the remainder of the NBA season.

The first-term governor said that Florida would be ready to host the Republican National Committee’s Convention in late August if asked by President Trump to do so. DeSantis cited President Trump’s frustrations at North Carolina for not committing to have a full arena for the convention due to COVID-19 concerns. Governor DeSantis expects an answer from the president within the next week.

Desantis thanked Home Depot for their support and the gift of a special apron at the end of the briefing. As DeSantis walked outside to his motorcade, he was greeted with a mixture of cheers and boos from employees and shoppers.

Home Depot notified local stores across South Florida last night of the governor’s press briefing. Most employees in the store for the press conference were managers and long-time staff members of Palm Beach County and Broward County stores. One employee said it took them “several hours” to set-up the backdrop of the briefing with hurricane supplies and close-off store isles.

The store remained open for the general public, despite Governor DeSantis speaking inside of the entrance closer to the garden section of the store. Approximately 25 members of the press were located inside of the designated press pool, with more than 50 people, consisting of shoppers and store employees, gathered outside of the small space.

Everyone in the store wore a mask and was given a complimentary squirt of hand sanitizer.

Storyful Scam: Copyright Claims on Youtube

I received a message from YouTube about a bogus copyright claim on one of my videos. The incident smacks of copyright troll behavior.

The claim identifies itself (above) as coming from “Storyful Managed.”

This is about a video I made breaking down and analyzing the details of Tiger Woods’ DUI arrest in Jupiter back in 2017.

The claim was resolved in my favor after I disputed it. As such the details of the claim are now hidden from me by YouTube. Before that it did not provide a lot of detail but indicated that the supposedly copyrighted material was around 20 minutes into the video.

The only content in this video is me talking, sometimes with my face and mostly me talking over a lot of clips from the police dashcam video. Police dashcam video is public record and is not copyrightable.

There is nothing in this video that could even remotely look like it belongs to any copyright holder other than me. The message indicates the video was identified by Content ID. This means there was some kind of computer analysis that connected my video with a video uploaded by Storyful.

Storyful has had a partnership in the past with Google and YouTube, and has a YouTube channel with over 100,000 subscribers. As a result of that, I doubt YouTube will hold Storyful accountable.

For an interesting post about a similar experience someone else had, see this article on PetaPixel.

The deeper problem with this is that many people will not dispute these bogus copyright claims. The genuine publisher may not be paying full attention, may be scared or intimidated, or may just not be comfortable completing the dispute process. As a result malicious players like Storyful end up getting revenue from the videos by making these bogus claims.

I’d like to hope that complaints like mine would get noticed and YouTube would hold Storyful accountable for making this bogus claim. But I doubt it.

Elon Musk: Tesla Terawatt Tale

Elon Musk mentioned plans to expand annual Tesla battery production to 1 or 2 terawatt-hours. This bit of the presentation was ignored by nearly all media coverage, but it represents yet another example of bold thinking in Musk’s companies.

Responding to a retail investor question about the upcoming battery and powertrain investor presentation, Musk said:

For battery day, we’re going to do a comprehensive review of cell chemistry module and pack architecture. And a manufacturing plan that has a clear roadmap to a terawatt hour per year. The time for this is probably is about six months like maybe February or March next year. Show and tell.

Tesla investor call, roughly 25 minutes in https://edge.media-server.com/mmc/p/ao8x4poq

Later in the call responding to a question about battery sourcing, Musk went a bit further:

To some degree Battery Day will be kind of like a Master Plan Part 3 … How do we get from kind of in the tens of gigawatt hours per year to multiple terawatt hours per year. … That’s a pretty giant scale increase, increase of sort of roughly 100. Like if we’re at … 30 to 35 [gigawatt-hours] or something like that. And how do we get to like 2 terawatt hours a year? Which is like two orders of magnitude increase.

In order to really make a fundamental shift in the world’s energy usage and really transform things to a sustainable energy future, if you’re not in the terawatt-hour range … it’s a nice news story, but it’s not fundamentally changing the energy equation.

Roughly 49 minutes into the call

Even for those who closely follow Tesla, this is an audacious idea, simply stunning.

Tesla is planning not just to double or triple its battery production, and not just increase it by a ten times, but they’re aiming to produce more than 50 times as much battery storage, presumably in a short time frame.

Total global production capacity of these kind of batteries is less than 300 gigawatt-hours per year. It is growing fast already with projections that it may increase to a terawatt-hour a year by sometime in 2023 or 2024. Tesla appears to be shooting to produce double that much fairly soon.

A terawatt-hour is 1000 gigawatt-hours. A gigawatt-hour is 1000 megawatt-hours. A megawatt-hour is 1000 kilowatt-hours (kWh). The Tesla Model S 100D has a battery capacity of 100 kWh, while the standard range Model 3 has 50 kWh. So a terawatt-hour would be enough for 10 million high-end Model S cars or 20 million Model 3 cars a year.

Recently Tesla acquired a battery company called Maxwell Technologies. Their “dry cell chemistry” approach may allow Tesla to both reduce the cost per kWh of battery production, increase production volume, and increase energy density. In other words they would be making more batteries which hold more charge, and it would cost less to do so.

There has been a lot of talk in the media about Tesla facing increased competition from traditional carmakers offering new electric vehicles. This misses one of the biggest challenges those carmakers face – getting adequate batteries at a reasonable cost.

This also ignores a large second purpose Tesla has for its battery production – energy storage. Tesla is not just a car company. They sell Powerwall for homes and Powerpack for companies and utilities.

The Powerwall 2 stores 13.5 kWh. Powerpack 2 stores 210 kWh.

Projects like the Hornsdale battery will become easier and cheaper to build, making them even more profitable.

Update: Musk responded to a tweet about this.

Fitting with the comments in this article before he said that, an important purpose of producing terawatt-hours worth of batteries is for stationary storage like Powerwall and Powerpack installations.

So while Wall Street analysts focus on quarterly numbers, long term investors see huge growth for Tesla in the not too distant future in both cars and energy, along with positive environmental change for the world.

*Warren Redlich is the admin of an Elon Musk fan club group on Facebook and is long Tesla.