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Judge refuses to block city order to empty Hollywood apartment tower

Judge refuses to prevent city of L.A. from telling developer to empty Hollywood high-rise Sunset and Gordon

A judge on Wednesday rejected a request for a temporary restraining order that would have blocked Los Angeles officials from forcing a developer to remove dozens of tenants from a Hollywood high-rise.

Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant denied the request from real estate developer CIM Group, which received an order to vacate its 22-story Sunset and Gordon apartment complex last month. That order was triggered by a ruling in a lawsuit challenging the city's approval of the project.

CIM Group, which owns the 299-unit building, said the Department of Building and Safety should not have issued the removal order, since the ruling that triggered it is now the subject of an appeal. Deputy City Atty. Saro Balian disagreed and said CIM Group was warned months ago -- after the judge's ruling -- that Sunset and Gordon's six-month temporary certificate of occupancy was on track to expire.

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FOR THE RECORD

April 22, 2:43 p.m. : This article originally said that Judge James C. Chalfant rejected the request on Tuesday. His decision was announced Wednesday.

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Once such a document expires, a building can no longer be inhabited, officials said.

Chalfant sided with the city and questioned CIM Group's decision to act months after his ruling. "You've seen this train coming down the tracks for some time," the judge told the company's lawyers.

CIM Group attorney Robert A. Sacks told Chalfant that his client had to wait until the matter was heard by the city's Board of Building and Safety Commissioners, made up of appointees of Mayor Eric Garcetti. The commission upheld the order on Tuesday, giving CIM Group until May 21 to comply.

After Wednesday's court hearing, Sacks said CIM Group might still ask the Court of Appeal halt the city's order. But with a 30-day deadline, the building's owners and tenants are already experiencing "lingering uncertainty," he said.

"Perhaps the best thing for all concerned, given that the city's made up their mind and decided what to do, is to follow that order and vacate people from the building," he said.

Sacks said it was "somewhat senseless" for CIM Group to push tenants out of a building over a lawsuit that did not focus on the building's safety. The lawsuit deals with CIM Group's failure to preserve a portion of a 1924 restaurant building on Sunset Boulevard, as well as the city's decision to give the company a break on parking regulations.

Robert P. Silverstein, attorney for the group that sued over Sunset and Gordon's permits, said CIM Group should not have leased the building when it had a pending lawsuit. In some cases, tenants were not even informed that the building's permits were being challenged in a lawsuit, he said.

"CIM needs to accept responsibility finally for all the damage they have caused," he said.

Melanie Culvey, an optometrist who lives on the building's ninth floor, said she wasn’t told of CIM Group’s legal problems when she signed her lease in September. After Wednesday's hearing, she said she is ready to leave.

“Most of us just want to put this behind us,” she said. "We want to move on and live someplace else."

Follow @DavidZahniser for what's happening at Los Angeles City Hall.

 

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