Apartment Owners Settle Discrimination Suit : They Agree to Pay $35,000 but Deny Allegations by Fair Housing Council

Times Staff Writer

The owners of a luxury apartment building in Mar Vista have agreed to pay $35,000 to plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by the Westside Fair Housing Council charging that the owners discriminated against black applicants.

The lawsuit, filed in U. S. District Court last year, accused the owners of the Woodmere Apartments of discriminating against blacks on three occasions in 1986.

Blanche Rosloff, executive director of the housing council, a nonprofit organization funded by the City of Los Angeles to monitor discrimination, said teams of white and black "checkers" were sent to the apartment complex to apply for apartments. The white applicants were shown vacant apartments while the blacks were told no apartments were available, she said.

In settling the lawsuit, the owners of the 180-unit Woodmere Apartments at 3700 Sepulveda Blvd. said they were not agreeing with the allegations.

"We settled this suit because it would have cost me $50,000 to try it," said J. P. Jones, one of the owners. "We don't discriminate. I built this building eight years ago. We have minority tenants, black tenants, Hispanics and Orientals. I'm the kind of guy who hates to back down, but it would have cost me too much to go to trial."

Jones said that eight to 12 blacks live in the complex, where rents range from $600 to $1,100 a month.

The owners also agreed to distribute information on fair housing laws to prospective tenants, to keep records on rental applications and to post apartment vacancies with the Fair Housing Council.

The council plans to continue to monitor the rental practices in the complex, Rosloff said.

She said the council will receive about $11,000 from the settlement and attorneys will get $20,000. The remaining funds will be shared among three of the checkers who were named plaintiffs in the case.

Since its founding in 1968, the Westside council has handled thousands of discrimination cases involving landlords accused of refusing apartments to people on the basis of race, culture, children and a variety of other reasons. Last year, the organization handled 35 complaints based on race, 17 of which showed evidence of discrimination, she said.

Marcella Brown, executive director for the Fair Housing Congress of Southern California, the umbrella agency for the Westside council, was one of the black checkers who visited the Woodmere complex in 1986. She said that no matter how many times she has gone out as a checker, the experience is always painful.

"It bothers you," she said. "You go in, you know that you are looking OK, you know that you can afford the apartment, but yet they tell you that nothing is available."

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