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Councilman Price seeks quicker action on 'problem properties'

Laws and LegislationCrime, Law and Justice

L.A. City Councilman Curren Price is pushing for Los Angeles to shut down “problem properties” more quickly after “destitute conditions” were found at a Hoover Street office building converted into apartments.

“It took the involvement of three city departments to close this one property,” Price said in a council motion submitted Wednesday. “These city departments need to be able to better communicate and coordinate their efforts to close these properties in a timely manner, because residents should not be living in these substandard conditions.”

Price wants several departments, including the Fire Department, the Housing and Community Investment Department and the Department of Building and Safety, to report back on how they could “do a better job of communicating and coordinating efforts to identify and close problem properties.”

Escalating rents, scarce housing and continued financial struggles for Los Angeles families have forced more people into such conditions, Price said in a statement.

"This poses a real safety concern for families and the community at-large," Price said.

Dozens of people paid up to $600 a month for rooms at the Hoover Street address, a former office building that officials said was illegally converted into apartments. In October, city officials declared it “substandard due to illegal occupancy” and ordered the owner to stop letting it be used as a living space.

In March, after the city held a hearing with the property owner, the Fire Department ordered people to vacate the building, citing “unsafe buildings” and “structural hazards.” The “myriad violations” at the building included a lack of installed smoke alarms, a Fire Department spokesman said.

Building and Safety spokesman Luke Zamperini said last week that the time that passed between declaring the building "substandard" and the March hearing was the result of "due process steps and timelines," and that it was "not an unusual amount of time for this type of case."

The Inner City Law Center, which assisted the residents, accused the city of acting too slowly to help residents after problems became known. Spokesman Greg Spiegel said the push from Price for better coordination between city departments was a welcome one.

"Coordination is essential to effective enforcement. And there's been too little of it -- particularly around enforcement involving Building and Safety," Spiegel said.

Price's motion is slated to be heard by council committees focused on housing and planning.

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