Los Angeles sues NoHo apartment owner over alleged gang activity
On a nondescript stretch of Vanowen Street in North Hollywood sits a squat yellow apartment complex that spans an entire city block.
The complex, which holds 116 units, sits adjacent to a Catholic church and is about 450 feet from a middle school. It’s also an alleged stronghold of the North Hollywood Locos gang, according to a new nuisance abatement lawsuit filed by Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer.
The suit, filed Feb. 15 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that there have been nine gang-related shootings at the complex in the last 15 months, with five occurring since December due to an “ongoing turf war” with rival gang MS-13.
“In our lawsuit, we allege that the owner — one of the largest landlords in California — and operator have allowed these incredibly dangerous conditions to persist,” Feuer said in a statement.
The complex is owned by Swaranjit “Mike” Nijjar, whose “billion-dollar real estate empire” consists of more than 1,000 units in the city alone, the suit says.
The complaint targets Nijjar and his company, Group IX BP Properties Inc., as well as the building’s management companies, Golden Management Services Inc. and Pama Management Inc. The director of Pama Management is Nijjar’s sister, Daljit Kler, according to court documents.
Representatives for Nijjar and Kler could not immediately be reached for comment.
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In a statement, Feuer, who is also running for mayor of L.A., accused the owner and operators of allowing gang-related violence and dangerous activities to occur regularly at the property.
Nijjar took ownership of the complex — which is composed of 12 two-story buildings in the 13100 and 13200 blocks of Vanowen Street — in 2001.
“The violence at and around this gang-ridden property has got to stop now,” Feuer said. “It’s so bad that the church next door had to suspend youth activities during this recent outbreak of shootings to keep young congregants out of harm’s way, then erect a metal barrier to deflect bullets.”
According to the complaint, members of the NH Locos gang have tagged the building with graffiti to “make clear to the tenants, community members and rivals that the gang claims control of the property and will aggressively and violently defend it.”
In one incident last December, two victims were robbed on the sidewalk in front of the property after gang members placed guns to their foreheads, the suit says. After the robbery, one of the suspects opened fire and struck a victim in the hip and foot before fleeing into the property.
In a separate incident in October, approximately 60 children were playing in the parking lot at the nearby St. Paul Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church when a stray bullet whizzed overhead, the suit says. A stray bullet also passed through a church window in May 2020.
Gang members have also attempted to recruit students on their walk to the nearby James Madison Middle School, the suit alleges. The school is attended by more than 1,600 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
“No tenant in this city should be forced to live in the kind of conditions that have existed at 13100 Vanowen,” Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian said in a statement.
Krekorian, whose district includes North Hollywood, added that “despite our work to uplift this neighborhood, the owner of this property has continued to fail to keep the tenants safe.”
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Feuer said he is asking the court to order Nijjar to live in the complex until an array of improvements have been implemented, including the installation of secure fencing and video monitoring systems.
“Let him learn what it’s like to live with shooting after shooting, because that’s what the hard-working families at this property endure all the time,” Feuer said.
Other requested changes include improved screening of tenants and the addition of security guards. The suit also seeks civil penalties against Nijjar and Kler.
It’s not the first time the city attorney has taken action against the owner.
In 2017, Feuer sued Nijjar for similar gang-related nuisances at another property, the 415-unit Chesapeake Apartments in Baldwin Village. That case was settled after court-mandated improvements were made, he said.
In announcing the suit this week, Feuer urged the city’s residents to report unsafe and violent conditions in their neighborhoods.
Problem properties can be reported anonymously online or by calling (213) 978-8340.
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