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Landlords Miss Their 2nd Repair Deadline

Two donors to City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo are given another extension on Koreatown building.

October 28, 2005|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Eight months after a tenant rights group filed a complaint with the Los Angeles city attorney's office, housing inspectors said Thursday that repairs have still not been completed on an apartment building operated by political supporters of chief prosecutor Rocky Delgadillo.

Housing officials, who cited the 28-unit Koreatown building for 286 building code violations in July, said they would grant a third extension of up to 30 days because 80% of the work was finished. The city had previously extended the deadline to Thursday.

"You have to remember, our goal is compliance," said Wayne Durand, chief inspector for the Housing Department.

The building, at 974 S. Gramercy Place, is operated by a partnership that includes Stanley Treitel, as well as Lance Robbins, two landlords who have donated $16,600 to Delgadillo for his campaigns and political expenses.

The Times reported Wednesday that all but $1,000 came after Delgadillo agreed to settle a lawsuit against the men and their associates for $1 million, one-third of the $3 million that the city had originally sought for unpaid water and power bills and penalties on various other properties operated by the pair.

Robbins and Treitel have an extensive record of operating buildings that have been cited for violations of the city's housing laws.

A spokeswoman for the Gramercy Place building's owners, who spoke on condition that she not be identified, said the work is "in process" and could be completed in about a month.

Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a tenant rights group, filed a complaint with the city attorney's office in February, saying residents of the five-story building were living in substandard conditions.

The property is owned by Gramercy Artiste Ltd., a partnership led by Brick Investment Corp. Treitel is chief executive and chief financial officer for Brick Investment. His frequent business partner, Robbins, acknowledged in court papers that he was responsible for the building because of an interest stemming from his legal representation.

The settlement with Robbins and Treitel required them to maintain their properties, an agreement that the city attorney's office could have used as leverage to force the landlords to make quick repairs. But the agreement expired in late April without any city action on the complaint.

"It would behoove the city to in some way monitor the practice of someone who has shown to have a history of problems," said Elissa Barrett, an attorney for Bet Tzedek. "I did report a number of problems and did not hear back from them."

A representative of the city attorney's office passed the Bet Tzedek complaint to the Housing Department's inspectors, but they did not follow up until The Times inquired about the complaint in June.

Senior housing inspector Lee Smith said no one from the city attorney's office called to check on the complaint or to urge inspectors to expedite it because the settlement agreement was set to expire.

Five days after the agreement did expire, Brick Investment Corp. contributed $5,600 to Californians for Rocky, Delgadillo's campaign committee for his bid to become state attorney general.

Delgadillo said last week that he was not aware of the contribution, it did not affect his decision-making on housing cases and he is dependent on the Housing Department to carry out inspections before noncompliant landlords are referred to him for legal action.

A spokesman for the Delgadillo campaign for attorney general said Wednesday there were no plans to return the contributions.

Smith, who visited the property June 2, concluded that the building was in "disrepair" and set up an inspection.

The full inspection, conducted July 15, cited 286 problems that included a malfunctioning elevator, mold, cockroach infestations, broken power outlets, inoperable smoke detectors, leaking windows, peeling paint and unapproved wiring.

The Housing Department gave the building owners until Sept. 15 to make the repairs. A follow-up inspection on Sept. 27 found that so many of the problems had not been repaired that Smith said he would refer the case for enforcement.

However, Smith said last week that the owners had complained that the notices were sent to a wrong address, so Smith gave them until Thursday to bring the building into compliance.

Housing officials would not disclose what repairs remain but said the problems yet to be dealt with are not life-threatening.

If repairs are not completed by the latest deadline, the issue could be submitted to a hearing before the general manager of the Housing Department. The landlords would then have a chance to demonstrate that the work had been done or plead hardship.

If the general manager is not satisfied that the problems have been addressed, the case could be forwarded to the city attorney for enforcement.

The general manager of the Housing Department reports to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who received $2,250 in political contributions during the last year from Treitel, his wife and Brick Investment.

Villaraigosa representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

One tenant of the building, Julie Landholt, said Thursday she was glad the building was getting some attention from repair crews.

"It's certainly not great," she said of the building's condition. "A lot of times, we don't have hot water. I didn't have heat until they repaired it last week."

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