This spring is when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was to begin its radical renovation, seven years after LACMA director Michael Govan announced a singular building would replace the museum’s four separate edifices.
And construction is, indeed, full speed ahead despite Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Safer at Home” order last week that shut down all non-essential business operations amid the coronavirus.
“The museum is working closely with the Los Angeles County government and following state, county, and CDC health guidelines in all work that is continuing including construction work as they are essential business activities,” emailed Jessica Youn, spokeswoman for LACMA.
LACMA’s decision comes as projects are allowed to continue in L.A. but developers and construction companies struggle to interpret shelter-in-place orders made elsewhere in California.
The verdict as such, according to businesses and government officials, is that while housing construction can continue, stricter city and county shelter-in-place orders may override a blanket state decision permitting all construction.
“Some people have been working, and some people haven’t,” said Ashley Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Association of General Contractors, the Sacramento-based trade group for construction companies. “We’re recommending that people follow the strictest guidelines just in case. What everybody is waiting for is a detailed kind of list.”
The trade group shared with The Real Deal a Google doc detailing what guidance has, and has not, been provided by 26 different California counties relating to permissible construction.
Clarity does exist in Los Angeles where “commercial and residential construction can continue,” Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar wrote in an email.
The city order greenlights projects including LACMA where, “hazmat abatement and demolition of the museum’s four aging buildings are on track,” Youn stated. “Hard demolition” is expected to begin in April, with construction moving forward even as the museum itself is closed to the public.
Meanwhile, top L.A. construction firms at an impasse on projects throughout the state. For example, Webcor has suspended projects in the Bay Area due to their interepretation of San Francisco and Alameda county shelter-in-place orders.
Most construction companies, whose executive and communications offices are following strict stay-at-home orders, did not respond to emails and calls over the last few days regarding their coronavirus plans.
The ones who did offered noncommittal statements.
“Amid the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on everyone’s life, we are doing everything we can to help ensure the safety and well-being of our employees, maintain operational resilience and support our clients around the world,” AECOM Construction, one of L.A.’s largest companies by valuation, said in a statement.
“Where work is permitted or deemed essential, we are proceeding under guidelines to maintain the health and safety of our people,” stated Richard Cridland, spokesman for Hathaway Dinwiddie, L.A. County’s fourth most prolific construction firm in TRD’s most recent rankings. “We are also consulting with our clients, trade partners, and regional leaders to determine the best course of action on each individual project.”
Added Cridland, “We continue to assess the situation.”