The fate of a 22-story apartment building at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gordon Street was discussed at an appellate court hearing on Aug. 25. The state court issued a tentative ruling that could invalidate the construction permits for the building. The panel is due to make an official ruling within 90 days.
The controversial building and its owners have been in litigation since 2012, when the
La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association filed a lawsuit against its owners, CIM Group, for razing the façade of the Old Spaghetti Factory. CIM Group was supposed to maintain and preserve the façade of the historic building, La Mirada alleges, but instead tore it down without the proper permits. In 2014, the Los Angeles Board of Building and Safety Commissioners invalidated occupancy permits for the building, ordering it to be vacated. An appellate court then issued a stay, allowing tenants to remain in their apartments while the court issues a ruling.
Despite allegations, CIM Group maintains in a statement that the Sunset Gordon building enhances the Hollywood community, provides housing and was constructed after receiving necessary permits, inspections and approvals. In addition, the building was still accepting new tenants until Tuesday’s appeals hearing.
“Enforcement of the city’s order to vacate was halted by the court until there is a ruling on the appeal in the litigation. In the interim, Sunset & Gordon has been accepting new residents to the community. These new residents signed leases after being provided with a complete disclosure of the ongoing litigation and the potential that they may be required to vacate the building. Since the hearing on the appeal, which occurred on Aug. 25, leasing activity has been suspended until the court issues a ruling,” CIM Group said in a statement.
Last week, the department of building and safety rejected an appeal from Ginosi Apartments, who is leasing space in Sunset Gordon after they were issued a violation in April for allowing short stays in the building without the proper approval from the city.
“Our issue right now, as far as the department’s current orders are concerned, is what [Ginosi] turned the use of the building into – for purposes of Airbnb and the like,” said David Lara, assistant inspection bureau chief and public information officer for the department of building and safety.
Ginosi Apartments leases 65 of the 299 units in the building. Some units were advertised online through Airbnb and other websites, which the department of building and safety determined was the equivalent of operating a hotel, for which the area is not zoned.
Some full-time tenants who remain in the building have expressed concern over the environment the occupants Airbnb create. The transcript of the Los Angeles Board of Building and Safety Commissioners shows that tenants stated they witnessed prostitution and drug use from the transient renters.
Thomas Nitti, the attorney representing Ginosi, said that his client has no knowledge of a dangerous environment created by its tenants.
“The rentals for the units were substantial enough to deter anyone who would be using them for improper purposes,” he said.
The transient occupancy rentals were ordered to stop, and Ginosi was cited for unapproved use of the apartments without having the required permits or Certificates of Occupancy.
In a statement, CIM Group stated that they, “do not condone unlawful activities or operations at any of its properties. CIM has been proceeding diligently to remove Ginosi, including serving Ginosi with a notice of termination of its lease in early March and filing a lawsuit to evict the company. The eviction action was heard by the court on Aug. 11 and judgment is pending. CIM is optimistic that CIM’s efforts will result in Ginosi leaving the property in a short period of time.”
However, Ginosi’s lease with CIM Group states their intention to sub-lease the units through online platforms for short-term rentals, leading many to believe that CIM Group was aware of the transient occupants residing in the building.
“The fact is that [CIM] allowed [Ginosi] to be in the building illegally and have profited from it. In the law we would say that CIM has unclean hands,” said Robert Silverstein, an attorney representing the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association.
If the superior court’s ruling to invalidate the construction permits is upheld and CIM’s appeal is dismissed, the Sunset Gordon building will likely be vacated and its owners will have to apply for remedies to address the outstanding issues through the city.
“We do have laws, and if you don’t follow the laws it is criminal behavior. We’re simply fighting for the zoning laws to be upheld,” said Doug Haines, of the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association. “It would be nice to see it torn down. I think it would make a good point.”
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