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Tenants Refuse to Leave Illegal Apartments in Hospital

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A number of squatters at an abandoned South Los Angeles hospital refuse to leave because they have no place to go or have paid rent into next month, residents and police said Thursday.

Meanwhile, local housing advocates said they are working with various city agencies to relocate the remaining tenants through temporary hotel vouchers.

“I’ve never seen a case like this,” said Ray Noble, housing coordinator for the Fair Housing Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Los Angeles.

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At one time, as many as 20 hospital rooms in the 48-room Crenshaw Center Hospital were rented to tenants who had answered an ad in a local newspaper. The security guard at the property, in the 3800 block of Stocker Street, has acknowledged collecting rent from the tenants, who paid from $300 to $400 a month per room.

The building has no hot water and no heat. Building and health inspectors discovered fire exits chained shut, numerous plumbing problems--clogged sinks and nonfunctional toilets--and recently ordered residents not to use hot plates in their rooms.

Harvey Glasser, who owns the building, said he had no idea the squatters were in the facility until he met a real estate agent there last month and discovered that the hospital was being used as a makeshift apartment complex.

Although Glasser said he wants the squatters out, he said he will leave it up to city agencies to force them out.

City building officials have ordered the premises vacated but add that they lack the legal authority to evict the tenants. If people remain, inspectors could file a complaint against Glasser with the city attorney’s office, Bob Steinbach, chief inspector for the Department of Building and Safety, said Thursday.

“It’s the owner’s responsibility to move them,” said Steinbach.

Thursday was moving day for several of the building’s residents who had found places to live. Others, including Roland Haymond, 32, and his girlfriend, Kiesha Agnew, 19, were upset.

Haymond, who said he works two jobs and has his rent paid through Dec. 10, said he didn’t get enough notice to move out and has little time to look for another apartment.

“I’m going to stay here until the wheels fall off,” Haymond said Thursday morning. “It ain’t like I can take two to three weeks off because of something I didn’t do.”

Squatters in a few of the rooms had no intention of leaving, said officers of the LAPD’s Southwest Division’s abatement unit, which inspected the hospital Thursday.

“They haven’t even started packing yet,” said Officer Carolyn Coward.

Noble, of the Fair Housing Foundation, has been taking complaints from the tenants and said his first priority was helping people relocate.


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