In a decision that left both sides claiming victory, a Santa Monica Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that a new state law prohibits the Santa Monica Rent Control Board from blocking the destruction of an empty residential motel, but left open the possibility that the city could force the building's landlords to replace the lost units.
Judge David M. Rothman ruled that the rent control ordinance, which the city said requires Fariborz, Faramarz and Moussa Javidzad to obtain a permit from the board before demolishing their 19-unit Tour Inn Motel on Wilshire Boulevard, is "in direct opposition to the Ellis Act."
The state law, passed last year, prohibits local governments from interfering with landlords who want to get out of the rental business.
Attorney Gordon P. Gitlen, who represented the Javidzads, called the ruling a victory and said it shows that the Ellis Act "means something."
"We're very pleased that the city's attitude, (which) forces an ex-landlord to go through the removal permit processes of the Santa Monica Rent Control Board, (has been proven) wrong," he said.
Rothman, however, did not order the city to issue a demolition permit, as the Javidzads had sought in their suit. The judge concluded that the city may still be able to prevent destruction of the building under a city law known as "Program 10," which requires landlords to replace the multifamily units they destroy. They must either build substitute units elsewhere or incorporate housing in a new project.
This conclusion pleased City Atty. Robert Myers.
"It's a very important victory," he said. "A landlord is still going to have to comply with the city's replacement housing regulation."
Gitlen said he would fight any application of Program 10 to his clients, who want to pave the property for a used-car lot.
He said the building no longer can be considered multifamily housing because a deed restriction placed on it by the city prevents it from being resold for residential purposes.