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Lincoln Place Tenants Assn. Marks 20 Years, Court Win:

The remaining tenants at the Lincoln Place Garden Apartments complex, along with several of their alumni, celebrated both the 20-year anniversary of the founding of their association and a victory in the California Court of Appeal on Sunday, August 5, at the Penmar Park Community Center in Venice.

On July 23, the Second Appellate District reversed a trial court ruling that had dismissed an action for declaratory relief brought by two tenants against landlord AIMCO Venezia, LLC seeking a declaration of the parties’ rights under the Ellis Act. Marlin v. AIMCO, No. B188407.

The Ellis Act allows landlords who comply with its terms to go out of the rental business by evicting their tenants and withdrawing all units from the market, even if doing so would otherwise violate a local rent control ordinance. In March 2005, AIMCO served Frieda and Leslie (Spike) Marlin with a notice that their unit was being withdrawn from the rental market and that they had to vacate.

The Marlins’ lawsuit seeking a declaration of rights was dismissed by the trial court as a SLAPP suit – a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Ironically, the SLAPP statute was enacted to prevent real estate developers from using expensive litigation to deter homeowner groups from challenging new developments. In this case, landlord AIMCO used the statute to block the Marlins’ action challenging their eviction.

The court of appeal held that the SLAPP statute did not bar the tenants’ lawsuit and sent the case back to the Los Angeles Superior Court for further proceedings on the merits of whether AIMCO is entitled to Ellis Act protection.

The tenants association’s 20-year anniversary marked a milestone in the Lincoln Place saga that has pitted tenants against a succession of owners of the 38-acre apartment complex originally consisting of 795 apartments in 52 buildings built between 1949 and 1951 in an open, garden-like setting in Venice, east of Lincoln Boulevard and south of Rose Avenue. Some of those buildings have been demolished, and only a handful of tenants remain on the property, but the battle continues both in the courts and in the neighborhood – the tenants on Sunday passed out packets of flyers to be distributed to households within a 500-foot radius of Lincoln Place.

The anniversary celebration included cake and ice cream (rocky road, of course) and remarks by LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, on his way to another celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Mar Vista neighborhood. Rosendahl’s Venice deputy Mark Antonio Grant drew sustained applause when he told the tenants, “You folks here are really what democracy is all about.”

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