Dozens of tenants threatened with having to move out of a newly built residential tower in Hollywood will get to stay in their apartments — at least for now.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal issued a stay last week barring the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety from enforcing a recent order to empty out the 22-story building. The court's decision will remain in effect until a ruling is reached in a lawsuit challenging the City Council's approval of the partly occupied tower.
The reprieve came too late for some tenants, who said last month that they had already decided to move out. "It's just caused too much stress in my life — the back and forth, the uncertainty," said tenant Alexander Ali. "I run a business, and this is not conducive to running a business."
The court order is the latest turn in a three-year legal battle over the 299-unit Sunset and Gordon development.
Neighborhood activists contend the city's approval of the project is invalid, since developer CIM Group failed to comply with a key condition of the project: partial preservation of a one-story restaurant building on the site.
CIM Group says it secured a proper demolition permit and, with support from preservationists, built a replica of the building, which once housed an Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant.
A Superior Court judge sided with the neighborhood activists last fall, issuing a ruling invalidating the project's permits. CIM Group filed an appeal. But in March, city inspectors ordered CIM Group to empty the building. The three-judge appeals court issued a temporary stay blocking that order in early May, followed by a more long-term one last week.
Amid the legal uncertainty, CIM Group agreed to provide relocation payments of at least $7,700 to each household that sought to move out, company representatives said. As of last week, the building had 54 apartments rented, down from 88 at its peak, according to the company.
"I think we are being hurt financially," said Shaul Kuba, principal and co-founder of CIM Group. "I don't think the city's intentionally doing that. I think the city was complying with what the judge's order was, and they felt this was the right way to go."
Sunset and Gordon's renters had grown increasingly frustrated with the legal battle, and CIM Group's handling of it. One tenant said in April that he and other renters had been treated like "cannon fodder." Others voiced alarm that a short-term rental company was leasing portions of the building to vacationing tourists.
Attorney Robert P. Silverstein, who filed the lawsuit challenging the project, said his clients "understand" the court's decision. However, he accused CIM Group of allowing "a transient hotel and other abuses" on the property.
Two months ago, city inspectors instructed CIM Group to stop letting the building be used as an unpermitted hotel. Kuba said his firm has been working to evict the short-term rental company that allowed such activities. "We don't tolerate that type of behavior," he said.