Los Angeles, developer reach deal to preserve Venice's landmark Lincoln Place apartments

An epic landlord-tenant battle in Venice has ended with three legal settlements that would preserve the postwar-era Lincoln Place apartments, return scores of evicted residents to their homes and add hundreds of below-market-rate units to the housing-starved Westside.

The Los Angeles City Council is expected Wednesday to ratify the city's pact with AIMCO Venezia, the owner of the 38-acre complex. The agreement, disclosed Tuesday, was reached earlier this month after 18 months of negotiations.

"This is a historic day for the city," said Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes the complex.

Rosendahl said 83 evicted households would be allowed to return to their homes. Nearly 700 units would be restored to the rental market at controlled rates. And AIMCO would be allowed to build 99 new units.

"It shows that we can transcend legal hurdles and work together to create jobs and provide homes where we need them most," City Atty. Carmen Trutanich said in a statement Tuesday.

The city's pact with AIMCO joins two other deals — one between AIMCO and tenants and one between AIMCO and preservationists who had long lobbied to protect the complex.

For nearly two decades, residents and preservationists have battled developers intent on demolishing the apartments and replacing them with market-rate housing.

Developers have long looked at revamping aging low-rise garden apartment buildings to get more use and money out of them, said Sheila Bernard, president of the Lincoln Place Tenant Assn. "That usually does not involve the people living there."

Completed in 1951, the 795-unit Lincoln Place sits a mile from the beach. It was hailed as a stylish example of post- World War II affordable housing. But AIMCO evicted many tenants years ago. Bernard said her apartment was one of only 11 still occupied.

When AIMCO bought the property in 2003, the company said it did not have to comply with previous conditions and started razing buildings. Preservationists who considered the complex of historical importance — it was one of the rare projects of that era designed by a black architect — filed suit.

In 2006, Rosendahl proposed having the city enforce a preservation agreement signed by the previous owner.

But the city attorney told the council that it would not be enforceable and would expose the city to liability. The council rejected Rosendahl's proposal and the tenants sued.

Patti Shwayder, senior vice president of Denver-based AIMCO, said she viewed the pacts as "a big group hug."

"The property was vacant for almost five years," she said. "It served nobody's interests to have a vacant property."

martha.groves@latimes.com

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