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Landlords Cooperate on Plans for Renovations

Times Staff Writer

The landlords of Commodore Circle met as a group for the first time with Huntington Beach city officials and began to hammer out ways to use $450,000 in federal funds to clean up the community’s most run-down street.

After the private meeting Wednesday night, city officials expressed some optimism.

“We’ve gotten their attention and they are willing to make significant improvements,” Richard Barnard, assistant city administrator, said Thursday. “But the proof will be in the pudding.”

Although he declined to give details about the two-hour meeting attended by most of the Commodore landlords, Barnard said he told them that the city will make available $450,000 in Housing and Community Development Block Grant Funds to help rehabilitate the 80 deteriorating apartment units on the one-block cul-de-sac.

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‘Everyone in Agreement’

“Everyone that was there was in agreement to form a management association to do the repairs collectively,” said Sam Giacoletti, who owns the building at 7661 Commodore Circle. That way, Giacoletti explained, the owners can hire one gardener, one painter and one or two different contractors to “get the benefits of a lower price and uniformity.”

Giacoletti, like others at the meeting, said he was pleasantly surprised with the apparent willingness of the owners to work together. He said the city asked for a specific rehabilitation plan from the group by Dec. 18.

“But that doesn’t mean we can delay on the citations that we have on the buildings now,” he said.

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Last month the city ordered Commodore’s 10 landlords to eliminate dozens of housing code violations, including roach infestations, overcrowding and hazardous living conditions. They must begin repairs by Monday or face criminal prosecution.

Conflicting Plans

Asked why the block grant funds, about half of which were allocated last year and the other half this year, had not been used earlier to fix up the street, Barnard said it was not practical because many of the owners had conflicting plans for their buildings.

“We didn’t want to give the money to one property owner and have the other property owners not doing anything,” Barnard said. “Experience says that you can’t piecemeal a project like this. . . .”

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City officials said that past attempts to get all the property owners together have failed. Efforts to try to bring in a developer to buy the whole street also have fallen apart.

Consequently, the apartments, rented primarily by poor Asians and Latinos, have continued to deteriorate.

“We don’t want that money to be thrown in, and two months later you can’t tell any money was put in,” Barnard said. He added that the city has yet to decide whether the federal funds will be distributed in loans, grants or matching awards.

“They would like a pride-of-ownership type of redevelopment, not just a temporary thing,” Giacoletti said. “Something that will be similar to the surrounding areas when it’s finished.”

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A Stiking Contrast

Commodore Circle is wedged between two modern condominium developments and across from newly renovated Five Points Shopping Center. The street is a striking contrast to the bulk of Huntington’s Beach middle-class and coastal landscape.

Bruce Bender, the property manager for Commodore’s newest owners, Edward and Patricia Vergara, said they agreed to “forge ahead for a better Commodore Circle.”

The Vergaras’ recently bought three buildings on Commodore Circle from Fidelity Federal Savings & Loan Assn. in Glendale. The savings and loan had acquired the dilapidated units in foreclosure.

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“It seems the vast majority are willing to do something,” Barnard said. “We’ll know in the next 30 to 60 days who the serious ones are and who are not.”


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