The Los Angeles city attorney's office Wednesday employed for the third time a law primarily associated with enforcing health and safety zoning violations to combat drug dealing in a residential Sunland neighborhood.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, City Atty. James K. Hahn asked a judge to impose a series of restrictions to stop drug sales and drug use reported at two homes on one lot that Hahn called "flophouses for drug users."
Similar suits last year stopped drug dealing at a home on Cyril Avenue in East Los Angeles and one on East O Street in Wilmington, said Deputy City Atty. Pamela A. Albers. Ted Goldstein, a spokesman for the city attorney, said the suits were unusual because they use civil penalties to encourage a property owner to stop drug sales or use.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jerry K. Fields granted Hahn's request for a temporary restraining order Wednesday on the Sunland property. The order instructs police to post signs at the property stating that it is under court-ordered restrictions and police surveillance.
The action also bans non-residents from living at the houses in the 10500 block of Jardine Avenue and orders the owner, Virginia J. Stevens of Tujunga, to clean up the property to comply with the city health code. The suit names Stevens and her son, Robert Stevens, 41, as defendants. It came in response to complaints by 32 neighbors, Albers said.
'Overrun by Rats'
"Health inspectors report that the property is overrun by rats, that there are open sewer lines and huge piles of trash and garbage," Hahn said in a prepared statement.
Albers said police arrested six people for drug violations during the past six months on the property. Albers said officials viewed the order as a last resort to force the owners of the property to clean it up. The city sent the first violation notice on May 29, 1986, she said.
"There are 10 to 20 people staying at the property at any given time and, in addition to the houses and a garage, they're also sleeping in tents, cars and campers," Hahn said.
Virginia Stevens said the garbage has been cleaned up. "It's ridiculous," she said of the lawsuit. "It's positively uncalled for."
She said the problems stemmed from personality conflicts between neighbors and her son, who lives in the rear house.
Stevens, who described herself as "past 70," said she has never used drugs and attributed reports of drug dealing to partying by friends of a man living with her son. Stevens said her son is trying to combat the late-night problem.