A landlord who has been the moving force behind a disputed neighborhood redevelopment plan in Northridge was fined $500 and put on probation Thursday after pleading no contest to a health code violation at an apartment building he owns elsewhere in Los Angeles.
Under the terms of the 18-month probation set down by Municipal Court Commissioner John T. Rafferty, Lance Jay Robbins must correct any new building and health code violations found at his nearly 1,000 apartments in Los Angeles or face a possible jail sentence.
112 Units in Northridge
Robbins owns 112 units in the crime-ridden, run-down Bryant Street-Vanalden Avenue area of Northridge and worked closely with Councilman Hal Bernson in persuading the City Council to tentatively approve a plan making it easier to evict 3,000 predominantly low-income Latinos living there. The plan calls for the area to become a gated, middle-class community.
The plan, which must come before the council for another vote before it can be implemented, has been criticized by civil rights and tenant groups as racist and illegal.
Robbins' plea came in a criminal case in which he was accused of failing to provide water to tenants at a 32-unit building he owns at 138 Westmoreland Ave. in Koreatown. Robbins contended that the city Department of Water and Power shut off the water for two days--without advanced warning--because of what the utility claimed was non-payment of a bill.
Robbins, who is a lawyer, said after Thursday's court hearing that he pleaded no contest to the one charge in return for the city attorney's dropping of four similar charges involving alleged health code violations at another building he formerly owned in Hollywood. Those alleged violations, including large accumulations of trash, have been corrected, according to city inspectors
Civil Case Remains
The city attorney's office, which has called Robbins a slumlord, is still seeking $1 million from him in a civil case in connection with alleged building and safety and health code violations at 13 of his buildings in central Los Angeles.
Besides the $500 fine, Robbins was ordered to pay the city $1,500 to cover its investigative costs. He also will pay $350 as a routinely imposed surcharge on fines, which pays for, among other things, courthouse construction.
Bernson, who is attending an earthquake safety conference in Sacramento, could not be reached for comment. His press deputy, Margaree Klein, said he "is continuing with the project."
'No Plan Yet'
Asked whether Robbins' plea would affect the landlord's participation in the redevelopment project, Klein said, "Hal has made no decision on anybody being part of the plan when there is no plan yet."