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Council approves condo project

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Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved a condominium project that became embroiled in controversy after a city planner left a telephone message promising that it would be approved “no matter what.”

The council unanimously approved the 78-unit project in Valley Village after developer Gary Schaffel agreed to provide an additional $20,000 in relocation payments to 17 tenants who were forced out.

Council members Bill Rosendahl and Janice Hahn pressed Schaffel to give the money after they learned that planner Jack Chiang had inadvertently left the message on the machine of a tenant who had to move out.

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Chiang subsequently apologized. But Councilman Richard Alarcon argued that the telephone call had so tainted the approval process that the review of the project should start over.

Assistant City Atty. Jeri Burge disagreed and warned the council that it had no legal basis for requiring Schaffel to pay extra money, even with the complaints over the phone message.

Still, Schaffel said he wanted to resolve the controversy, which began last week when critics of his project played Chiang’s message for council members.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” said Schaffel, after Rosendahl asked him to spend the additional money. “But if this is going to end this today, and I can walk away with my tract map approved, I’m willing to do that.”

Schaffel plans to tear down a 51-unit building on Magnolia Boulevard to make way for his condominium project. The 17 tenants were living in the building earlier this year when the council passed a law increasing the amount of relocation benefits provided to evicted tenants.

Minutes after the meeting, Schaffel defended Chiang, saying the planner was only arguing that the challenge to his condominium project had no merit.

“I don’t think he meant any harm,” he added.

--david.zahniser@latimes.com


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