An Orange County judge appointed a receiver Tuesday to manage the Haster Gardens Apartments in Garden Grove, and city officials said they hope to work quickly to clean up one of the city's worst slum housing areas.
Citing substandard living conditions and continual neglect, Superior Court Judge Ronald C. Kline granted the city's request to appoint a temporary receiver to oversee the 148-unit apartment complex.
"We're happy," said Joe Forbath, a deputy city attorney. "I hope it's a new beginning."
He said the city considers it an "overwhelming priority" to clean up the property. Garden Grove Councilman Mark Rosen said the receiver will "cure the problem."
City, county, state and federal officials have denounced the deplorable living conditions at the apartments. The city hopes the receiver will consolidate ownership and management of the property and individual apartment units. Most of the apartment units have multiple owners, including a number of banks.
' It wasn't known Tuesday how the decision would affect a 2-month-old rent strike by more than half of the apartment tenants.
"We want peace," Tomas Del Rio, one of the tenants who organized the rent strike, said from his apartment. "If they're going to fix this place, fine. We're just tired of nothing getting done. We're tired of the promises."
The city wants to install James H. Donell of Jalmar Properties in Los Angeles as receiver to manage the property. Donell has been a state and federal court-appointed receiver in more than 125 cases.
The receiver will be expected to collect rents and pay for utilities, repairs to the common areas and general maintenance.
"The individual landlord tenant disputes, I really can't respond to," Forbath said. "But if there are units where the owners or lenders are not stepping up to make the needed repairs, then the receiver has the power to do it."
The action comes as Equity Management 2000, the property manager since October, was having second thoughts about removing itself from operating the complex.
"I'm a good landlord," said Peter Starflinger, who heads the company and owns 16 apartment units. "Since Oct. 1, every penny collected from rent has been used to pay bills and make repairs. We've done a lot."