Monday, April 29, 2002
Appeals Court Rejects Lawyer’s Reverse Condemnation Award on Blighted Long Beach Building
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A lawyer who took a fee payment in the form of notes secured by deeds on a run-down hotel in Long Beach was not entitled to an inverse condemnation award when the city demolished the building because he never offered to clean it up, this district’s Court of Appeal has ruled.
In an unpublished opinion authored Thursday by Justice Miriam Vogel of this district’s Div. One, the court rejected the suit by Modesto attorney Robert F. Farrace.
The court acknowledged that the city of Long Beach sent notice of nuisance abatement hearings to Farrace’s client, Richard E. Dorame, who was the maker of the notes, but failed to properly notify Farrace.
But Vogel noted that Farrace’s call to city officials before the demolition to determine whether he could be compensated showed that he had actual notice of the proceedings. Vogel also pointed out that after Farrace sued the city in November 1998, the city not only answered but reminded Farrace that he could still prevent demolition by repairing the hotel.
“Farrace simply ignores the fact that he had actual notice of the City’s intent to demolish the building, and he ignores the fact that he had more than a reasonable time within which to challenge the City’s findings or abate the nuisance,” Vogel said. “His arguments assume that he had no notice at all. Since he did have notice, his arguments fail.”
The case has its genesis in April 1997, when to pay his legal bills to Farrace, Dorame delivered a note for $30,000 and another for $100,000. Both were secured by separate deeds of trust encumbering land in Long Beach and a hotel on it. Farrace recorded the deed securing the smaller note.
The Planning Commission conducted a hearing in October 1997 at which it determined the building was a public nuisance and had to be repaired or demolished. A notice of substandard building was sent to Dorame and was supposed to be sent to all lien holders, but none was sent to Farrace.
In June 1998 a city appeals board affirmed the Planning Commission’s decision, which then was adopted by the City Council in October of the same year.
It was a month later that Farrace called the city and spoke to Principal Building Inspector Leinani Ronca and was told about the proceedings. Farrace sent the city a demand letter calling on it to halt the demolition.
The hotel was demolished in May 1999, and the following February Judge Marvin M. Lager granted the city’s summary judgment motion in Farrace’s inverse condemnation case.
Lager ruled correctly, Vogel wrote, given the fact that Farrace knew of the administrative rulings before he sued and that he knew he could keep the property by cleaning up the building, but failed to do so.
The case is Farrace v. City of Long Beach, B146741.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company