Suit Filed Over Building Vacant Since ’94 Quake

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles is suing the owner of a 13-story Panorama City commercial building that has been vacant since it was damaged in the Northridge earthquake a decade ago.

The lawsuit contends that owner Taghi Shoraka, 60, has failed to maintain a property that is plagued by graffiti, broken windows and barricades that fail to keep out criminals, gang members and vagrants.

City officials noted that Shoraka has earned income from the property through the years by renting space on the building’s roof to cable companies for satellite equipment.


The suit contends that some equipment was installed without permits, and the permits for other equipment have expired.

“This lawsuit sends a strong message that we will continue to improve the quality of life for our residents and eliminate these types of eyesores from our communities,” said City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo in announcing the lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 5. The suit seeks to force Shoraka and M.T. Shoraka Inc. to clean and secure the property.

An attorney for Shoraka said he was baffled by the city’s allegations.

“The property is not a nuisance and it’s true that it’s vacant, but there’s no criminal activity,” Berj Boyajian said. “There’s a fence around the property and nobody can come into it. An employee spends all day long sitting in front of the building. The city acts in surprising ways sometimes.”

The property, known as Panorama Towers, at Van Nuys Boulevard and Titus Street in a commercial strip of Panorama City, is the only remaining quake-damaged vacant building in a local redevelopment zone.

“This is important because the community has had to deal with this blighted, really disgusting property in an area trying so hard to revitalize,” said Deputy City Atty. Liora Foreman-Echols. “Mr. Shoraka has been in violation of so many codes for so long, and he has been unwilling to meet anyone halfways.”

Last year, the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, a business development group, announced a volunteer effort to draft a plan to restore Panorama City with a “town center” that would include a transit center, parks, community gardens, boutiques and pedestrian malls with fountains and sculptures.


In recent years, the Van Nuys Boulevard corridor has seen a new Wal-Mart and other developments. However, critics of Panorama Towers have said that the building has hindered efforts to revitalize a neighborhood hit hard through the years, most recently by the riots, the 1994 quake and recession.

“It’s a blight. It has depressed business and made economic survival questionable,” said Paul Lindblad, a local architect who is helping to form the Panorama City Neighborhood Council.

Lindblad said he and other residents will be at a Planning Commission hearing Friday to oppose Adelphia Communications’ request for a permit to keep the satellite equipment atop the building.

Boyajian said Shoraka is in negotiations with developers to turn the property into senior housing. In a previous interview, Shoraka said the mostly low-income neighborhood has a reputation that has made selling the property difficult through the years.