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Oldsters Lose Long Battle to Keep Low-Rent Homes

Times Staff Writer

Senior citizens living in a low-rent University City apartment complex lost the last round of a seven-year legal battle Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling giving the property’s owner the right to make a profit on the building and rent units to people of all ages.

“I had hoped they would at least hear (the case),” said Gertrude Evans, 72, president of the University City Village Tenants Assn. “There is no affordable housing left for seniors in the City of San Diego.”

When permits for University City Village were approved by the City Council in 1962, the 542-unit complex was required to be nonprofit housing for senior citizens. However, the building’s original owner lost money and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which guaranteed the loan to build the complex, foreclosed on the property, selling it to a private owner. In that sale, no restrictions were placed on the use of the apartments.

After continuing to operate the building as a nonprofit senior-citizens complex for 10 years, Sports Arenas Properties Inc. in 1979 sought to convert the apartments to condominiums. The City Council, citing the original conditional use permit, rejected the request. The owner then sued the city, beginning the trail of litigation that ended in Washington on Tuesday.

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After the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sports Arenas in January, the company raised rents by as much as $98 a month, Evans said. However, company President Harold Elkan said the company has long since abandoned its condo conversion plans and does not intend to displace any of the complex’s fixed-income residents.

“Our intention is to keep the complex senior citizen and keep it affordable, which means below market price,” Elkan said. Rents at the complex, he added, are 30% to 35% lower than those for comparable apartments in San Diego.

Rents elsewhere may be higher, Evans said, but this only means that senior citizens displaced from University City Village have nowhere else to go.

“There has been an exodus from the village in the past year,” Evans said. “Many people have left the City of San Diego because there is no affordable housing here.”


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