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Sanctions Sought for Illegal Razing

May 14, 2003|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles city officials said Tuesday that they will pursue sanctions against a developer who last month tore down the last 19th century home left in Bunker Hill.

The Giese Residence, a Queen Anne-style cottage that was built in 1887, was razed April 19 by a contractor for G.H. Palmer Associates, a Brentwood-based developer constructing an upscale apartment complex on Cesar Chavez Avenue. Palmer did not have a demolition permit to level the structure.

The wooden house, which was deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, was the last remaining example of the Park Tract homes built in downtown L.A. by Prudent and Victor Beaudry. In recent years the structure had become dilapidated and vandalized, and was cited by the city as a public nuisance.

"We are absolutely stunned to see that it was so wantonly and willfully destroyed," Christine Peters, a member of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, told the City Council during a discussion of the matter Tuesday.

David Keim, head of the Department of Building and Safety's code enforcement bureau, told the council that the department will seek to invoke the "scorched-earth ordinance," which allows the department to halt all construction on the site of an illegally demolished structure for five years. The department will hold a hearing in the next month to determine whether the ordinance applies.

Keim also said the department will be asking the city attorney to file criminal charges against developer Geoff Palmer, who could face a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

Ben Reznik, an attorney for Palmer, said the house was mistakenly torn down by a contractor clearing the land for a staging area for the apartment complex.

"There was miscommunication with the contractor, who did not understand that that structure should not be damaged," Reznik said.

Palmer "most definitely is regretful of this act," he said.

However, the City Council unanimously urged officials to pursue action against Palmer, saying the demolition of the building was a crime.

"I truly believe this is the only way we get the message across that our communities and our buildings do matter," said Councilman Ed Reyes.

Councilman Hal Bernson urged the city attorney's office to seek a full six-month jail term for Palmer.

Reznik said he hopes city officials will realize the destruction of the home was an accident.

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