SHERMAN OAKS : Lawsuit Charges Race Discrimination

The Department of Justice filed a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against the owner and manager of a Sherman Oaks apartment complex, accusing them of discriminating against black prospective renters.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles accuses owner Iradj Rassekhi of Westlake and manager Jack Brandt of violating the federal Fair Housing Act by falsely telling black apartment seekers that units at the Magnolia Villa Apartments were unavailable at the same time that apartments were offered to white prospects, according to a statement released by John R. Dunne, assistant attorney general in charge of the civil rights division.

The suit accused the defendants of imposing more onerous rental terms on black apartment seekers than upon whites at the complex at 14658 Magnolia Blvd., Dunne said. It asks the court to prohibit discrimination at the apartment complex and seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Dunne said the suit was initiated by the San Fernando Valley Fair Housing Council, a nonprofit group. The council sent two people--one white and one black--to ask about apartments last September, said council Director Patsy Espinoza.

"We sent a black tester in, and she was rushed through the interview. And the rent to her was quoted at $900 for two bedrooms," Espinoza said. "Then we sent in a Caucasian tester, and she was treated much more politely, given a tour, and told everything--like rent and security deposit--was flexible."

Brandt and Rassekhi said they had not seen the suit and denied any discrimination.

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