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5 Businesses, Rights Group Face Eviction

Times Staff Writer

An immigrants’ rights organization and five small businesses are defying an order to vacate their offices in downtown Santa Ana’s Masonic Temple Building, which doesn’t meet earthquake safety codes, according to city inspectors.

The organization, Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, which represents hundreds of undocumented residents, and the five businesses were ordered to vacate the building by Aug. 29, but they remain open. Wednesday afternoon, city officials posted a 72-hour notice of eviction.

Hermandad attorney Richard L. Spix, who is representing the businesses, said they applied to City Manager David Ream for relocation assistance, because C & M Properties, which was trying to buy the building, had received $400,000 in federal funds for rehabilitation. The federal government requires that a city provide relocation assistance when it receives money for rehabilitation projects.

However, the C & M purchase is uncertain.

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Ream said Wednesday that the Masonic Temple Assn. has been on notice since 1980 that the property would have to be brought to code. Closure of the building has been delayed to give the owners time to sell it or rehabilitate it.

“They (Masonic Temple Assn. members) have had approximately five years to work this out,” Ream said.

According to Masonic officials, all the tenants were on month-to-month leases and knew for years that they might be evicted. All six received eviction notices 60 days before Aug. 29.

But Jaime Ruiz, owner of AB Copiers at 113 West 5th St., said he wasn’t informed of the potential eviction when he moved in. “It’s going to be very hard for us to just move out,” he said. “I’m going to be out of business for a while.”

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C & M’s purchase is “in limbo,” said David A. Poole Jr., president of the Santa Ana Masonic Temple Assn., who said the only way his group could bring about rehabilitation would be through some sort of joint venture. Spokesmen for C & M Properties could not be reached Wednesday.

Poole said the city code requirements and lack of parking make it difficult to sell the building. “There has to be substantial seismic work done to the property, and it’s difficult to get someone who’s willing to put up those kind of bucks,” he said.

Spix said he was not sure what his clients’ next move will be and hopes to discuss the matter with Ream this week. “To be honest, I didn’t expect the city to move so fast,” he said.

Spix has written to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the federal funds for the loans that C & M was to receive, asking it to intervene. If C & M pulls out, “why can’t they give that loan to the Masonic temple,” Spix asked.

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But Poole said the temple’s nonprofit status makes it ineligible for those funds.

So the six tenants have until Saturday to move out. “We’re not saying we won’t get out,” said George Saucedo, manager of one of the tenants, Rancho California Realty. “We’re just saying we want to be adequately compensated.”


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