A panel that oversees the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety voted Tuesday to uphold an order calling for the removal of dozens of tenants from a controversial Hollywood high-rise.
On a 5-0 vote, building and safety commissioners concluded that city inspectors did not err or abuse their discretion when they instructed the landlord to clear out the 22-story tower known as Sunset and Gordon.
Shaul Kuba, CIM Group's co-founder and principal, said he was extremely disappointed with the decision. CIM Group, he said, will head to court — possibly as soon as Wednesday morning — to seek a temporary restraining order to prevent the decision from taking effect and halt any evictions.
CIM Group argued during Tuesday's hearing that the city lacked the authority to issue its order last month. If the demand to vacate the 299-unit building is overturned by a judge, the city will be liable for any disruption caused in the interim, CIM Group lawyer Robert Sacks warned the commission. "If we're right, and the developer incurs significant costs and damages as a result of having to evict people from these premises ... that's going to end up being the city's expense," he said.
The dispute stems from a 3-year-old lawsuit over Sunset and Gordon. La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Assn., the plaintiff in the case, sued the city in 2012 after CIM Group razed a one-story restaurant building on the site. The group said CIM Group was required, as part of the project's approval process, to preserve a portion of the 1924 structure.
Last fall, a judge agreed and invalidated the building's permits. CIM Group filed an appeal, saying that the status quo must remain in place until its case is heard. Building and Safety officials say that they issued the order to vacate the building because its temporary certificate of occupancy expired last month. In the wake of the judge's decision, the city lacks the power to issue a new one, they said.
"This was a proper action by the department," said Andrew Longoria, a principal inspector with the building agency.
The commission, whose members are appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, voted to uphold the building department's eviction order after hearing complaints from nearly a dozen of the building's tenants. Some told the panel that they want to stay and are happy to have reasonable rents and sweeping views of the city. Others called for CIM Group to be punished, saying they were never informed that the building was the subject of a legal challenge when they signed their leases.
"I was sold on the city views and the perfect location," said tenant Raquel Lee, an actress. "I wasn't told at all about any litigation process."
Tenants, at least one of them in tears, also said CIM Group had allowed several floors of Sunset and Gordon to be used as an unpermitted hotel in the wake of last year's court ruling. That, in turn, has created safety issues inside the tower, they said. "We don't know who the people are who are renting these apartments, coming in and out," Anine Stang, a recording artist, told the panel. "There's drug dealing, prostitution. I've been sexually harassed by someone in the garage who I don't know and never met before."
Kuba, CIM Group's principal, said he is unaware of any criminal activity at the building since it opened. He said his company had leased space at Sunset and Gordon a few months ago to a firm that books apartments as corporate housing.
Earlier this month, building inspectors sent a second order to CIM Group instructing the company to stop using portions of the Sunset and Gordon as an unpermitted hotel. CIM Group does not plan to contest the order but is having trouble persuading the leasing firm to leave, said Sacks, the company's lawyer.
"CIM is trying to get them out of the building," he added. "If the building department can get them out of the building, more power to them."