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Panel rejects veteran tenant relocation firm

Shober Consulting was city staff's top pick for the lucrative contract but housing activists say it has performed poorly.

August 08, 2007|David Zahniser | Times Staff Writer

A key committee of the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday blocked a company from receiving a lucrative contract to relocate tenants whose apartments are converted to condominiums.

The council's Housing, Community and Economic Development Committee bypassed the top-scoring firm, Los Angeles-based Shober Consulting, after hearing complaints from housing advocates who said the company performed poorly while working for landlords who were evicting tenants.

"This is really not the kind of organization which should be doing this service," said Venice housing activist Sheila Bernard, who accused Shober of mishandling relocation efforts while representing the owners of Lincoln Place, a 780-unit complex that has been partly demolished.

The housing committee recommended instead that the council give the $500,000-per-year relocation contract to Huntington Beach-based Paragon Partners, which ranked second in the city's competitive contracting process. That move infuriated Bob Shober, who said his firm had been ambushed and denied an opportunity to rebut last-minute accusations.

"I would strongly dissuade the members of taking a vote in this manner, on the basis of a mob mentality of three or four people coming up and disrupting your [contracting] process," he told the committee.

Condominium conversions are a hot-button issue in Los Angeles, which has seen 9,669 rent-controlled units disappear since 2005 -- many of them to make way for for-sale housing complexes. The council voted in April to make such conversions more costly for developers and, at the same time, decided to hire a private firm to help tenants find new homes.

Officials in the city's housing department recommended Shober Consulting, a 30-year-old firm that has worked for West Hollywood, Santa Monica and dozens of other government agencies, including the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency. The firm ranked first among seven contenders for the contract.

But Councilman Herb Wesson, who spearheaded the move to hire Paragon, said he had bad experiences with Shober in his district.

Wesson and his colleagues rebuffed Shober's request for a delay in the vote so that he could make a stronger case for his company. Councilman Ed Reyes, who also voted for Paragon, said he trusted the Coalition for Economic Survival, a housing advocacy group that spoke out against the firm.

"You probably could have had two busloads of people" to support the contract, Reyes told Shober. "But we're going by the evidence that we have today."

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