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City Attorney Faces Hearing in Rent Case

April 14, 1988|TERRY SPENCER | Times Staff Writer

COMPTON — City Atty. Wesley Fenderson Jr. is scheduled to answer charges today that an apartment building he owns is in violation of more than 30 county health and safety regulations.

Although Fenderson has made some repairs on the building since being cited March 25, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Environmental Health Services Department said a hearing is necessary because the lawyer has made "insufficient progress" toward correcting the problems.

Fenderson was put on notice after inspectors toured his two-story, six-unit complex, 1613 E. Kay St., and found, among other things, a cockroach infestation, faulty heating, defective plumbing and deteriorating floors and walls, according to a county report.

Two Weeks Allowed

County officials--as they do for all property owners--allowed Fenderson two weeks to make an adequate attempt at correcting the problems.

Michael Spear, an environmental health services supervisor, said Fenderson will be given a chance "to discuss his reasons for not complying with the order and to see if we should give him additional time."

Spear said the property was last inspected April 5.

Fenderson said this week that he was "very surprised that a hearing was even set." He said work on the complex was being performed even during the county inspector's visit.

"I called in plumbers, contractors, the people who do iron bars, exterminators," Fenderson said. "I guess (the county) expected the work to be finished immediately."

Fenderson acknowledges that problems have existed at the building, but he blames tenants for foiling his efforts to make improvements.

Fenderson, who since January has been leading a citywide crackdown against landlords who let their properties fall into disrepair, purchased the apartment building in 1983, according to county tax records. The building was constructed in 1959 and has an assessed value of $180,404, the records show.

Tenant Terri Hill, whose complaint to the county triggered the initial inspection, said that Fenderson has made some repairs to her apartment, but not enough to satisfy her. Hill, 21, has lived with her family in the building for two years.

Fenderson "had a man out to fix the kitchen cupboards, the two windows that were broken and he has plastered up the holes in the walls," Hill said. She also said Fenderson repaired her wall furnace, which was missing its cover, exposing the heating element.

Hill said there are still holes in her floor and problems with her plumbing.

Fenderson has filed suit against Hill and her family, asking that they be evicted for failure to pay rent. That case is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in Compton Municipal Court.

Hill admits owing Fenderson $686. But she says that is money she withheld from her $425-a-month rent for several months after Fenderson failed to install carpeting as he had promised. She said the carpeting is now installed.

Fenderson owns at least one other rental property in the county, records show. The assessor's office lists him as the owner of a triplex in South-Central Los Angeles. The building is marked with graffiti and is apparently vacant.

"That property was ready to be rented, but vandals broke in and tore the place up," Fenderson said. "They have a bad gang problem in that area."

Fenderson is serving his second term as Compton city attorney, a position that pays $73,245 annually.

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