WESTLAKE : Landlord Is Fined for Slum Violations

A Las Vegas resident must pay $13,032 in fines and costs after pleading no contest to slum violations at the now-closed Hotel Californian, a 201-unit apartment building at 1907 W. 6th Street.

Syed Ali, 55, was charged with five violations of fire, health, building and safety codes in the five-story, 1920s brick structure. Still more costs to be billed to Ali are pending.

The hotel was severely damaged in an apparent arson fire last November and is currently being demolished by the city.

Housing authorities followed a trail of paperwork for several months in search of the building's owner. Richard Bobb, housing enforcement supervisor, said the ownership had been transferred among four parties since early 1993, when it was purchased by a company called Dali Dale Inc. It was sold later that year to Ali's wife, Dora Ali, for $1.

Records show that within months, Dora Ali filed for bankruptcy and turned the property over to William Gilstrap, who in turn transferred it to Josefa Lerner and Gregorio Groisman. Groisman lives in Brazil.

City officials closed the building in July after failing to find anyone who would correct the slum conditions, then filed a complaint against Lerner and Groisman, who were believed to be the owners of record, as well as Gilstrap and the Alis.

But investigators found that Lerner and Groisman were unaware of the property being transferred to them and were told by the hotel's manager that it was Syed Ali who had been coming to collect rent money.

Ali, who owned another area hotel that was destroyed by an arson fire in 1988, was placed on three years' summary probation by Los Angeles Municipal Judge Veronica Simmons McBeth and ordered to pay restitution to tenants who were displaced as a result of the building's closure.

An estimated 50 tenants were displaced, and Ali might have to pay as much as $2,000 for individuals and $5,000 for families according to city laws. The amount will be determined in a May 23 hearing.

In addition to fines and restitution, Ali will also have to reimburse the city for boarding up and demolishing the hotel, said David Marquez, a legislative deputy for Councilman Mike Hernandez, who represents the area.

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