Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, April 26, 2002


Page 8


Delgadillo to Unveil Bill to Address Neighborhood Nuisance Buildings




City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, are scheduled today to unveil a bill to make it harder for nuisance property owners to sell their buildings without first cleaning them up.

AB 1868, the Neighborhood Protection Act of 2002, would also require landlords to live in their slum properties until improvements are made.

Koretz spokesman Scott Svonkin said the bill is intended to improve neighborhoods more than it is to go after slumlords.

“Sometimes it’s really hard to find these folks,” Svonkin said, referring to slum property owners. “[We had to ask] what’s in the public’s interest? Finding these owners or making the properties [safe]?”

The bill holds the property accountable rather than any individual, Svonkin said.

Under current law, every property used for drug sales, gambling or prostitution can be declared a nuisance, and courts may issue injunctions ordering clean-up.

Delgadilloís office said current laws provide a loophole under which owners can “flip”—sell or transfer—the property, thus avoiding the court-ordered improvements.

AB 1868 allows any injunction or temporary restraining order to be placed on all subsequent owners and lessees of the property with notice, but without requiring a new court proceeding.

Notice of the injunction to potential buyers is presumed when the order is recorded with the county.

Charles Isham, Vice President of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, praised the fact that potential buyers would be warned about problem buildings. According to Isham, a lack of notice serves as a disincentive to someone who wants to rehabilitate a building.

“It provides relief to the legitimate owner who wants to buy [a property] and clean it up,” Isham said.

The Apartment Association is listed as a sponsor of the bill, but Harold Greenberg, the association’s president, said yesterday they were not sure they would back it. He called the current bill “one-sided.”

Greenberg told the MetNews that he seeks a “fair application of the law” where tenants could be held responsible for the disrepair of a building. He said strict liability unfairly holds the landlord responsible for building damage despite the source.

Isham said that ultimately the bill does nothing for the buildings that are issued injunctions because no one is going to buy and clean them up when the new owner would face the penalties.

The California Land Title Association, an opponent of the bill, echoed Isham’s concerns over the ability to sell buildings with injunctions.

“No other buyer is going to want to buy as long as there’s an injunction...hanging over someone’s head,” CLTA Vice President and Legislative Counsel Craig Page said.

Svonkin conceded that the bill is not as attractive to all potential buyers, but said that the type of transactions it would encourage would be with people who really wanted to clean up the neighborhood.

“It may not be as attractive as a building without an injunction, but it’s still more attractive than if we do nothing,” he said.

The CLTA has suggested formalized regulatory agreements listing the terms of previous injunctions. Page said this would still hold the subsequent owners liable for the terms of the injunction, but would not place as much of a stigma on the property for potential lenders and investors.

“The last thing [Los Angeles] wants to do is make the property more undesirable to investors and lenders,” Page said. “We sympathize with what the city is trying to do; we disagree with how.”

According to a bill analysis, the CLTA suggestion was not acceptable to the City Attorney’s Office.

The office did not return calls for comment yesterday.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company