Construction work has ground to a halt in San Francisco, Boston, and elsewhere, but the hard hats are still on for Los Angeles and Santa Monica property developer Neil Shekhter.
“Everything so far looks good,” said Shekhter, whose construction and property management companies include NMS Properties. “Most contractors don’t work in close proximity to each other. If you go into a construction site, you will see one guy working in one room. So I see that as a positive.”
Shekhter did sound a cautionary note that his no. 1 priority is to make sure workers are safe, and he added that the permits for his projects are at the mercy of local governments keeping the lights on in their building departments.
Shekhter’s thoughts were echoed among others in the construction industry Wednesday. An unprecedented global pandemic that has suspended so much of L.A. life has yet to shutter worksites.
“Our projects are still in operation,” said Gust Soteropulos, senior vice president of the Southern California region for Webcor, the 2nd largest construction company in Los Angeles County based on total project square footage, behind AECOM Construction.
The Webcor representative added that while “the situation is fluid” and they’re “making revisions as new developments take place,” there are no plans currently to shut down roughly 800,000-square feet of construction projects in L.A. County.
Messages left with AECOM Construction, the affiliate of Los Angeles County’s third largest publicly traded company, were not immediately returned. As of Wednesday the company had not updated its website to address the coronavirus.
Other top L.A. construction companies have put out statements, each declaring the show will go on.
“It is our intent to maintain operations to the best of our ability while taking necessary actions to minimize the spread of the virus and maintain the health of our employees,” W.E. O’Neil Construction Company put in a statement Monday.
The Chicago-headquartered outfit, which has the third most construction activity in L.A. County per TRD numbers, did not respond to messages.
Other contractors publicly declaring that L.A. operations will continue include Hathaway Dinwiddie and Swinerton.
The continuance of L.A. construction comes as the entire San Francisco Bay Area region ordered a shutdown of all non-essential services, including construction. Webcor and other companies noted they will comply with the Bay Area order.
Keeping projects going could be a risky business. Under California law employers bear most of the liability for workplace health and safety issues — including the coronavirus, according to a spokesman at the state’s Occupational Safety Health and Administration.
The thought of having to defend themselves from public health complaints, though, has yet to prove a deterrent.
Asked about liability issues, Soteropulos of Webcor replied, “The safety of our teams is always of the utmost importance and we are continuously monitoring the situation and adjusting as required.”