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Developers, L.A. must pay $1 million to hotel residents

They settle a suit filed by about 100 past and current tenants of the downtown Alexandria Hotel who alleged the defendants harassed them to drive them out of their homes or evicted them.

February 13, 2009|Carol J. Williams

Los Angeles city officials and downtown developers who evicted or harassed about 100 low-income residents of the Alexandria Hotel must pay almost $1 million to house and compensate the victims under a settlement announced Thursday.

The agreement followed a December 2007 lawsuit by 10 longtime residents of the once-elegant hotel at Fifth and Spring streets and a federal judge's order last year that the city and its Community Redevelopment Agency locate and assist the displaced -- and potentially homeless.

The lawsuit -- filed against hotel owner Ruben Islas and his Amerland Group development firm, Logan Property Management, the city and the CRA -- alleged that the defendants "systematically and intentionally worked to remove the long-term tenants of the Alexandria and replace them with non-elderly, non-disabled and non-African American tenants."

Under the settlement, the defendants must provide $400,000 for those kicked out of the hotel, ostensibly to allow for renovations, or subjected to power, water and elevator cutoffs aimed at driving them out.

An additional $550,000 in damages was agreed for the 10 named plaintiffs and their attorneys.

Hilda Quintana, 72, who has lived in two rooms of the historic hotel for more than a quarter of a century, was one of the 10 who fought to stay.

"They tried everything. It was ugly at first, with this one woman putting padlocks on the doors. But being an Indian, I don't give up easy," said Quintana, who continued to pay her $600 monthly rent despite the conditions.

"The settlement goes beyond the Alexandria because within the agreement are changes to Community Redevelopment Agency policies on in-place rehabilitation," said Barbara Schultz, senior attorney with Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

She said the provisions ensure that "the Alexandria situation doesn't recur" in downtown's ever-shrinking affordable-housing market.

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carol.williams@latimes.com

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