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Orange County

Disputed Surf City Condos Are Legal

Villa Warner units were lawfully converted from apartments in 1979, a city inquiry discovers.

June 13, 2004|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

After researching real estate records, Huntington Beach officials have concluded that the 1979 conversion to condominiums of Villa Warner, a large apartment complex, was done legally.

Suspicion over the status of Villa Warner, 6600 Warner Ave., was raised at a community meeting held to update residents on an investigation into how apartments in the city were illegally converted to condos.

Howard Zelefsky, the city's planning director, said the 256-unit complex, built in the late 1960s as apartments, was converted to cooperative units.

"If you were a legalized stock co-op prior to January 1981, there was an exemption" to state law that requires a subdivision map, he said.

Elsewhere in Huntington Beach, about 120 illegally converted condominiums have been identified by city officials as part of the investigation.

The illegal conversions have prevented residents from buying, selling or refinancing their homes, they say. Owners also face more than $7,000 in city fees to comply with codes and regulations.

Almost all the illegal conversions are duplexes or fourplexes built decades ago around City Hall and downtown.

The conversions have sparked a criminal investigation that could lead to charges, city officials said.

The illegal conversions came to light because of several code enforcement complaints last year, when city officials compared Orange County records with city permits and found about 120 units in four-, three- and two-unit buildings that were illegally converted.

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