State to Probe City Slum Task Force : Housing: Inner-city apartment owners allege inspectors apply 'impossible standards.'


State housing officials will investigate the city's Slum Housing Task Force in response to charges from a property owners group that the task force has unfairly prosecuted landlords.

The Apartment Owners Assn. of Southern California, a Van Nuys-based organization with 12,000 members, filed a petition Monday with the state Department of Housing and Community Development demanding the state agency take over inspection of alleged slum buildings in Los Angeles.

Howard Kabakow, an association spokesman, alleges that city slum investigators "railroad" inner-city apartment owners by applying "impossible standards." He claims that the task force demands repairs of problems that are the result of tenant misuse or misconduct rather than neglect, issues vague notices and orders an "unreasonably brief" period for the repairs to be carried out. Kabakow also said that inner-city property values have dropped by more than $1 billion because potential buyers are scared away by the task force's tactics. But Kabakow said he has no witness statements or documentation to back this claim.

"I think it's obvious," he said. "If owners are being terrorized in the area, no one wants to be an owner."

Paul Kranhold, a spokesman for the Department of Housing and Community Development, said the state agency will begin an inquiry that will include examining records "to assess whether proper enforcement of state housing laws is occurring within the city."

Kranhold said that while most complaints to the department are based on the belief that there is not enough enforcement, state officials consider this complaint of "over-enforcement" legitimate enough to investigate.

Deputy City Atty. Richard Bobb, the city's housing enforcement supervisor, said Wednesday that he had not received notice of the inquiry, but that he was confident the state investigation would find "we're not only doing our job, but we're doing it well."

Staff writer Penelope McMillan contributed to this report.

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