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Chase Knolls Tenants Celebrate Victory

August 14, 2000|ZANTO PEABODY

A postcard affixed to Sandy Roberts' refrigerator with a Marilyn Monroe magnet reads "Beat Goliath."

In January, when Irvine-based real estate developer Legacy Partners bought the 53-year-old Chase Knolls apartment complex with plans of leveling it to make room for a larger apartment building, the phrase became a battle cry for the 120 residents who fought to save the 260-unit complex.

"We all became Davids," said Roberts, a Chase Knolls resident.

On Sunday, they celebrated their first victory in the struggle--a July 11 decision by the Los Angeles City Council to designate Chase Knolls a historic cultural monument. The designation temporarily protects the apartments from demolition.

To gain monument status for the complex, tenants enlisted the help of City Councilman Mike Feuer, the Los Angeles Conservancy and the West Valley Community Development Corp. The 120 tenants celebrating Sunday are those who turned down a $15,000 resettlement offer from Legacy Partners.

"The easy route would have been to take the money and run," said Mary Jane Atkins, a tenant who spearheaded the residents' movement. "We didn't. We stayed here, and we're proud we did."

Atkins presented Feuer, members of his staff, West Valley Community Development Corp. Executive Director Ellen Michiel and LA Conservancy Director of Preservation Issues Kenneth Bernstein with ficus trees, a symbol of the complex's park-like atmosphere.

"I've said in City Council meetings that it must be something special about the place to turn out so many special people," Bernstein said.

Feuer told the group about a City Council measure approved Friday requiring landlords to give tenants 120 days' notice before evicting them for a demolition.

Speakers lauded the tenants group for its solidarity during the seven-month campaign to stop the wrecking ball.

The group showed its unity again Sunday when a woman announced that a 4-year-old boy was lost in the complex. The celebration stopped while nearly all of the 100 people in attendance looked for the child, who was soon found.

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