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NORTH HOLLYWOOD : City Sues Motel Under Red-Light Law

Los Angeles City Atty. James Hahn filed a red-light abatement lawsuit Tuesday against a North Hollywood motel where police have been called more than three dozen times during the last two years to investigate complaints of prostitution and other crimes.

But one of the owners of La Tura Motel, the target of the abatement, said the lawsuit betrays an agreement the owners made with Los Angeles Police Department vice officers two months ago.

“I don’t understand,” said Bruce Forat, one of three owners of the motel at 11745 Ventura Blvd. “We just had this meeting in October with vice and they told us that if we didn’t sign this paperwork they would take us to a lawsuit.

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“The paper says we agree to close it for 30 days and it does not say when (the closure is to occur). . . . We were still waiting for them to call.”

Vice officers investigating the case downtown could not be reached for comment on the abatement suit or the agreement with the motel.

But Lt. John Waters, who heads vice operations at the North Hollywood station, said the motel has been a constant source of problems.

‘This one has been going on for some time,” Waters said. “We’ve made some arrests down there. We’ve arrested the manager for running a house of prostitution.”

Deputy City Atty. Edmund Fimbres, who is handling the case for Hahn, said police have been called to the motel 44 times since 1991.

Several of the calls have been for battery and about a dozen calls have been about people under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“It’s everything from forgery to vagrancy,” Fimbres said. “It’s not a good location.”

Since October, 1992, police have been called to the motel three times for prostitution-related calls, including the Oct. 20 arrest of manager Raul Orlando Depaz for operating a house of prostitution.

The civil lawsuit, which could go to Superior Court within the next few weeks, seeks to place several restrictions on the motel, Fimbres said.

The red-light abatement law has been on the books since at least 1953, he said.

“We’re looking for certain conditions like requiring identification from anyone who rents a room, not renting to anyone known to be a prostitute, not renting for a short time and providing adequate lighting in areas adjacent to the motel,” Fimbres said.

Fimbres said his office has received complaints from citizens who say that they have been harassed by prostitutes who walk in front of the motel.

Forat disputes the motel’s problems and contended that vice pulled an illegal sting on manager Depaz.

“From last year to now, we’ve actually been cooperating with police,” Forat said. “There have only been four arrests in the vicinity of the motel, including the one with the manager. We’ve been cleaning up.”


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