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City Takes Over Dilapidated Apartment Building

By Jorge Casuso

January 12 -- A dilapidated, garbage-strewn building in Sunset Park being illegally used as a flophouse was seized from its owner after a Superior Court judge last week appointed a receiver to take control of the property.

The three-unit building at 2438 Ocean Park Boulevard, which was occupied by its owner, Guillermo Gonzalez, was in a chronic state of disrepair and had become a dangerous blight to the community, according to the City Attorney's office, which filed the case on behalf of the City.

Gonzalez had failed to make the necessary repairs after two previous convictions resulted in time served at Los Angeles County Jail, said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky, who heads the Consumer Protection Unit.

Gonzalez, who was renting out beds by the week, was charged with violating a lengthy list of code violations for, among other things, having an outdoor dining area, no heat, illegal wiring and being "overrun with garbage, flammable materials, and junk," according to the City Attorneys Office.

"There's a lot of legal violations and he wouldn't abide" by the court orders, Radinsky said. "The receivership remedy is drastic medicine but we won.

"We won't hesitate to use it in proper cases to protect the well-being of the community," he said.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the City Attorneys Office detailed the violations cited by the Building and Safety Division.

"In a single bedroom on the second floor there are approximately fourteen bunk beds which have been individually rented out by the week," the statement said.

"Due to the filthy and littered condition of the kitchen and dining area of the main unit, the front yard has been converted to a makeshift dining area with a refrigerator, microwave, TV, and the storage of food," according to the statement.

"The property lacks heating in any of its units. Temporary extension cords are used in place of proper electrical wiring throughout the building. There are a recreational vehicle and a flatbed truck permanently parked in the back yard that are filled with debris."

Judge Lisa Hart Cole's decision January 6 came after the City's Consumer Protection Unit sought the court-appointed receiver as a last resort to assure that the property was made safe and legal, Radinsky said.

The City had already filed criminal charges against Gonzalez in 1997 and again in 2002, to compel him to bring the building -- which for years had been the site of chronic criminal activity -- up to code, Radinsky said.

Both times Gonzalez was convicted and served time in county jail -- nine months in 1999 and several weeks late last year -- for refusing to make the needed repairs.

"Normally citing the owner does the trick," said Radinsky, who added that he had not seen a similar case during his 15 years with the City. "We thought the threat of jail time would compel the owner to comply. That wasn't the case."

The receiver, Century City-based attorney David Pasternak, will assume full control of the property this week, Radinsky said.

"Pasternak will eventually recommend to the judge whether the property feasibly can be repaired and brought up to code, or whether it should be demolished and the land sold," Radinsky said. "The judge ultimately will make that decision."
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