Construction began in early 1980 on a nine-unit condominium building on a posh section of Los Feliz Boulevard. The project should have been completed in about 18 months under normal circumstances, city building officials said.
However, circumstances were not normal. Seven years later, the three-story building remains unfinished and is at the center of a controversy involving angry neighbors, the possibility of its city-ordered demolition, the bankruptcy of a hotel in Hollywood and the collapse of a Canadian bank.
"This has been a pain since way back when," Richard Hovious, an inspector for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, said of the project at the northeast corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Nella Vista Avenue. "It's been a nuisance to us and a nuisance to the neighbors."
Called an 'Eyesore'
The building's exterior is a patchwork of unpainted stucco and black glass panels. Rusty scaffolding climbs outside walls and a peeling, graffiti-scarred wooden fence blocks the front entrance. Scraps of lumber lie in a side ditch next to a half-finished cinder-block wall with support rods sticking up.
"It is an eyesore. There is nothing advantageous about it," said Edmond Stephan, president of the Los Feliz Improvement Assn. To make matters worse, the building is located on a very busy stretch of the boulevard and is probably noticed by thousands of motorists a day, he said.
Last month, after complaints from Stephan's group and Councilman John Ferraro's office, the city notified the building's owner and builder, Gary H. Mamian, that the structure is a nuisance and faces possible demolition. Such a threat is rarely made against new structures, officials said.
Owner Says 90% Complete
Mamian, who lives only three blocks away and owns several other buildings in the Hollywood area, said the Los Feliz condominiums are more than 90% complete. But the city considers them abandoned because so little, if any, work has been done there recently.
Meanwhile, Mamian is engaged in a legal battle with Canadian Commercial Bank over repayment of a $6-million loan the builder used to construct a high-rise hotel in Hollywood and for which the Los Feliz property and other Mamian holdings were pledged as collateral, according to court records.
The bank, which was declared insolvent in 1985, claims Mamian defaulted on the loan and mismanaged the hotel. In December, the bank obtained a court order placing in a receivership the Hotel Hollywood and the adjacent shopping center owned by Mamian. Mamian claims the bank is holding the deed to the Los Feliz property hostage because of the bank's own financial problems and that the deed should have been released after partial payment of the loan.
Filed Under Chapter 11
On Feb. 17, Mamian transferred title of the Los Feliz building from his personal ownership to that of a corporation of which he is the president, court records show. That corporation, also called Hotel Hollywood, owns the 2-year-old, 90-room hotel Mamian built at 5825 W. Sunset Boulevard. The next day, the Hotel Hollywood corporation filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws. That move at least temporarily postponed the bank's request to foreclose on the Los Feliz building.
In an interview this week, Mamian called the situation "very unfortunate" and stressed that he wants to complete the Los Feliz building by the summer. All that remains to be done, he said, is installing cabinets, appliances, flooring and fixtures and decorating the exterior walls. He said he intends to take off the black panels--similar to those on the hotel but criticized by Los Feliz residents as out of character with their neighborhood--and simply paint the stucco underneath pink.
Mamian said work is slow because he has to pay for it out of pocket. He said he spent about $700,000 on the project but needs an additional $200,000. The dispute with Canadian Commercial Bank makes it impossible for him to obtain any other loans, he said.
No Power Line
In addition, Mamian said that work is delayed because the Department of Water and Power has not been able to hook up a permanent electrical power line to the condominiums. He alleged that DWP erred in not taking into account how the design of a subterranean garage would affect power lines.
"I am stuck in a Catch-22 and am not getting any relief from the city," said Mamian. "It's just my bad luck."
A DWP spokesman said Wednesday that he could find no record of any request for a permanent power line for the building.
Mamian denied allegations from some neighbors that the building is used as shelter for vagrants and that it is a fire hazard. "There is nothing wrong with the building. Nobody can go into it. It's just not pretty," he said.
City officials said they do not expect the building to be knocked down. A demolition order can be appealed within the Building and Safety Department and to the courts by anyone with a financial interest.
Structure Called Sound
"I feel that someone is going to jump out of the woodwork and finish it," said William Nazaroff, the city inspector who would be in charge of any demolition contract. He described the building as structurally sound.
Tom LaBonge, a field deputy to Ferraro, agreed. "Once we have the bulldozers warmed up in the yard, so to speak, the banks will fall in line. The threat will force whoever is doing all this to finish the building up," said LaBonge, who has been handling the matter.
"We're just going to keep pushing till it hurts," he said, "because it has hurt the community long enough."