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BURBANK : Businesses Suing to Block Razing of Buildings

A handful of small-business owners still reeling from earthquake damage are suing their landlord to stop him from razing their establishments in Burbank’s old Magnolia Park district.

The landlord, Jack Robertson, plans to demolish a block-long business strip at the southwest corner of Magnolia Boulevard and Hollywood Way, but it is not clear to his tenants what he will do with the vacant property.

The merchants are expected to sue Robertson this month, claiming he breached contract after he failed to ask them to leave within 30 days following the powerful Northridge temblor.

One store owner, Julius Caesar Lambrechts, contends that he first heard the news in May. Lambrechts said he was forced to move to a new location across the street after he had already invested $4,700 to replace the glass at his floor and carpet store.

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“After four months, he dropped the bomb,” Lambrechts said of Robertson. “He said, ‘It would cost more than 50% of the value of the building to fix it, so I don’t have to fix it.’ ”

“This landlord has wanted to tear this building down for a long time,” said Odette Ashley, an attorney representing four store and office owners who are seeking unspecified compensation. “He’s collected insurance proceeds that he doesn’t want to apply to the building. . . . My clients all put money back into that property.”

Robertson and his attorney, Alan Kheel, declined to discuss the case. But, Kheel said, “We dispute their contentions.”

Signs of earthquake damage at the business strip still remain: scaffolding, boarded-up windows, deserted storefronts and yellow tags posted by doors that read “Habitable, Repairs Necessary.”

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The Magnolia Park district, which contains many buildings constructed during the 1940s, sustained the heaviest earthquake damage in Burbank.

Efforts to revitalize Magnolia Park are just beginning. A recent survey of 212 area residents indicates that many would like to see nicer-looking stores, a greater variety of stores and restaurants and a higher quality of goods.

A recently completed study on Magnolia Park will be presented to the public Wednesday evening at the Burbank Central Library.


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