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L.A. orders tenants to vacate troubled Hollywood building

Residents of Sunset and Gordon development must leave because the temporary occupancy permit has expired

Los Angeles building officials on Thursday ordered a real estate developer to remove tenants from a 22-story apartment building in Hollywood, the latest piece of bad news to befall the recently opened project amid a long-running court battle.

The Department of Building and Safety informed CIM Group that the temporary occupancy permit for its partially leased Sunset and Gordon development has expired. Because of a recent court decision, that permit cannot be renewed until the project goes through a new environmental review and approval process, the order said.

Under the city order, tenants must leave by April 19. However, that deadline would be postponed if CIM Group files an appeal, Building and Safety spokesman Luke Zamperini said.

The city's action comes five months after a judge invalidated construction permits for the 299-unit project, saying that city officials improperly allowed the developer to demolish a 1924 building on the site. Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant said in his ruling that CIM Group had proceeded with construction during a legal challenge at "its own peril."

At the time of Chalfant's decision, city officials estimated that the building had 40 tenants. Zamperini said he does not know how many are there today.

The case is one of several lawsuits challenging Mayor Eric Garcetti's vision of larger, denser developments in Hollywood. A spokesman for Garcetti, who was the councilman for the area when Sunset and Gordon was approved, had no comment.

Zamperini said he knows of no other large Los Angeles residential project targeted with such a tenant-removal order. "In 24 years at the city, I personally have not seen this before," he said.

Representatives of CIM Group weren't available for comment. Any appeal of the city's order would be handled by the Board of Building and Safety Commissioners, a five-member panel made of up Garcetti appointees. The appeal process typically takes about 90 days, Zamperini said.

A lawyer for La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Assn., which filed the legal challenge to Sunset and Gordon in 2012, questioned whether CIM Group has the legal right to file an appeal of the city's order. "This is more game playing by the city," attorney Robert P. Silverstein said.

When Sunset and Gordon was approved, city officials called for the facade of the vacant Spaghetti Factory restaurant building to be preserved and incorporated into the residential tower. CIM Group said in 2012 that the facade was too deteriorated to be saved, opting to raze the structure and build a replica instead.

La Mirada went to court to invalidate the project's permits, saying that CIM Group had failed to comply with the terms of the city's original approval of the project. The developer, by agreeing to preserve the Spaghetti Factory facade, had obtained a reduction in required parking spaces. That concession was worth millions of dollars, Silverstein said.

The Sunset and Gordon case was one of several legal setbacks for the city in Hollywood. Last year, a judge ordered Target Corp. to halt construction on a shopping center project on Sunset Boulevard, half a mile from Sunset and Gordon, on the grounds that city officials improperly allowed the project to exceed a 35-foot height limit. Another judge overturned the city's Hollywood Community Plan Update, which called for taller and denser construction projects near transit stops.

Neighborhood groups also are challenging the Millennium project, a pair of skyscrapers planned near the Capitol Records building.

Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who represents much of Hollywood, said tenants at Sunset and Gordon were caught in the middle of a legal battle and now face "an unfortunate set of circumstances."

"My office was not involved in the planning and implementation of this project," he said in a prepared statement. "However, I am hopeful the developer can swiftly resolve the situation."

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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