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BOYLE HEIGHTS : Apartment Owner Learns Hard Lessons

June 06, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

James Carone had never been to East Los Angeles before he became the reluctant owner of a troubled apartment building there last August.

The Mission Viejo investor simply foreclosed on the previous owners of the Hollenbeck View Hotel when they failed to make payments on their loan. On his first visit as the new owner, Carone met the former manager, who is now serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery.

"I was scared to go there after the first time I went out there," said Carone, who had never owned an apartment building before. "I had men who were afraid to work there."

But Carone, 53, started removing trash, fixing exposed wires, patching holes in the walls, replacing a fire door and installing smoke detectors at the 24-unit building. He also started eviction procedures against residents of 22 units, some of whom had fallen behind on their rent and others who were said by some tenants to have been involved in gang and drug activity.

Then in November, to add to what Carone calls a "bad investment," City Atty. James K. Hahn announced he was filing criminal charges against Carone and his wife, Gwendolyn, for numerous code violations at the building at 2033 E. 4th St.

Refusing to accept a plea bargain, the Carones went to trial in late May before Municipal Judge Ronald Schoenberg on 28 counts. If convicted, the two could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and fined $1,000 on each count, according to Deputy City Atty. Michael R. Wilkinson.

Said Carone: "This has been an incredible nightmare."

During the trial, hotel residents told the jury about the improvements that have been made since the Carones took over the building.

New manager Rosa Venegas, who has lived in the building 10 years, said she feels safer after the evictions cleared out people who she says threatened her and her children. "Most of the people were afraid to complain (about the former managers)," Venegas said. "They collected money from the people and didn't turn it over to the owners."

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