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State court signals it could void Sunset and Gordon high-rise permits

A state court issued a tentative ruling Tuesday that would void building permits for a newly completed Hollywood high-rise and probably lead to tenant evictions.

The action marked the latest round in a three-year legal battle over the 22-story residential tower at Sunset Boulevard and Gordon Street. Though the 2nd District Court of Appeal's tentative decision was not available for public viewing, a three-judge panel and lawyers discussed it at a hearing Tuesday.

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Justices said they were leaning toward upholding a previous court's decision to void the project's permits.

"If we do not change our minds," asked associate Justice Elizabeth A. Grimes, "can't the developer just ask the city to revise the project conditions" and issue a new permit?

Robert Sacks, attorney for the building developer, CIM Group, said that while the developer could apply for a new permit for the building, he believed invalidating the existing permit would be an unwise decision.

"That doesn't void the fact that we now have a building that people are living in," Sacks said.

Tenants began moving in to the 299-unit luxury apartment building late last year, by which time legal action was already being waged against the building's developer.

When the project was approved, the site included a building that once served as an actor's studio and later an Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant. City officials required the developer to preserve the historic facade around the building and incorporate it into the residential tower. CIM Group said in 2012 that the facade was too deteriorated to be saved, opting to raze the structure and build a replica instead.

City officials approved the demolition permit, but the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Assn. went to court to invalidate the project's permits, saying CIM Group had failed to comply with the terms of the city's original approval of the project.

"It's not acceptable," said neighborhood association attorney Robert P. Silverstein at Tuesday's hearing.

A Superior Court judge sided with the neighborhood activists last fall, after which CIM filed this appeal. The three-judge panel is expected to make a final decision on the appeal within the next few months.

Earlier this year, city inspectors ordered CIM Group to empty the building. The appeals court issued a stay blocking that order that will remain in effect until a ruling is reached.

Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report. 

Follow @skarlamangla on Twitter for more L.A. politics news.

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