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Evacuation Order Hurt Latino Tenants, Landlord Says in Suit

November 12, 1987|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

The owner of the Fillmore apartment building that was condemned by city officials last month because of earthquake damage has filed a lawsuit charging that the Oct. 9 evacuation of the structure discriminated against the 100 mostly Latino residents who lived there.

In his lawsuit against the city, Eric Marsh, who purchased the 59-year-old Fillmore Hotel earlier this year, is seeking unspecified damages and a court order allowing him to reopen the building.

"We essentially had a labor camp in the middle of town, and the city didn't want a labor camp in the middle of town," Marsh said of his former low-income tenants, many of whom worked at Egg City in Moorpark. "The city used the earthquake as a ploy to evacuate the building."

Mayor Roger Campbell, who said he was advised by City Atty. Joseph Kern not to comment on the lawsuit, has maintained that the city acted properly in ordering the condemnation.

The 15-unit structure at Main and Fillmore streets was evacuated more than a week after the Oct. 1 earthquake when city building inspectors found that fractures that once were hairline cracks had grown to the width of an inch.

Officials served the mostly Spanish-speaking residents with bilingual evacuation notices at 7 p.m., and directed them to a nearby Red Cross shelter.

His lawsuit lists 17 former residents of the hotel as plaintiffs. Marsh contends that the building is structurally safe and accuses the city of unlawful eviction.

He alleges that the nighttime evacuation was part of the city's "pattern and practice of discriminatory actions directed toward persons of Hispanic national origin and descent."

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