N. UNIVERSITY PARK : Mistake Leaves Building in Limbo

What seemed a simple case of moving into a new neighborhood for Hector Manuel Razcon Vargas nearly a year ago may have cost him his home.

The problem began in June, when Razcon Vargas relocated a two-story, white stucco apartment building to a lot at 1965 Bonsallo Ave. The relocation soon created problems between Razcon Vargas and his neighbors, who complained that the building doesn't fit into the neighborhood because it is too close to the curb.

"The building does not conform to the guidelines and never has," said Jim Childs, chairman of the housing and planning subcommittee for the Adams-Normandie Project Area Committee, an advisory group to the Community Redevelopment Agency. "When the building was set down, it literally stuck out like a sore thumb."

Razcon Vargas said the building does conform to the guidelines and pointed to the redevelopment agency's approval of the project, which was required for the relocation.

But nearly a year later, the building stands empty. And Razcon Vargas said he has lost his apartment building and his Santa Monica home because neighbors' objections kept him from completing the building.

"My plan was to finish the building. The lot was free and clear and I was going to refinance that property and rent the apartments," said Razcon Vargas.

"I was going to use the money I got from the loan to pay off my house. But everything started to fall apart because they stopped the work and I had to dip into my savings and I ended up losing my house. All my saving and money were invested in that project."

The redevelopment agency acknowledged that it mistakenly signed off on the project, said Ed Saulet, the agency's project manager for the Adams-Normandie area that includes Bonsallo Avenue. The agency has tried to negotiate a $170,401 settlement for the building and the land, he said.

Razcon Vargas said he declined to settle because the amount would not cover the loss of his $300,000 home. He said the apartment building and lot are worth about $177,000, with the remainder going to legal and miscellaneous fees.

Agency officials said the $610,000 settlement that Razcon Vargas has requested is out of proportion.

For their part, Childs and other residents said the agency should do more to help Razcon Vargas and the neighborhood.

"This is an outrageous tragedy for everyone," Childs said. "The community is left with this abandoned building up on blocks and no one at the agency is being held accountable. It's very frustrating."

Saulet said he expects to meet with Razcon Vargas this month to resolve the problem.

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