Lincoln Place tenants went on the offensive last week, as a group of eight present and former tenants filed suit against property owner AIMCO seeking restitution and damages “for the wrongful and illegal actions of Defendants” over the past several years, according to the complaint.
The action was filed Friday, January 4, in Los Angeles Superior Court; as is typical in such civil suits, no sum of money is specified in the complaint. Plaintiffs include present tenants, tenants who were evicted, and tenants who accepted relocation packages as a result of “threats, omissions, and misstatements,” according to the complaint. Defendants are various AIMCO entities and Robert Shober and his relocation company, Shober-Livas Relocation, who had been retained by AIMCO.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer John Murdock of Santa Monica said the chances for success were “very good” inasmuch as the suit is based on the September 2007 decision of the court of appeal which held past evictions unlawful and enjoined future evictions.
The City of Los Angeles was not named in the suit, said Jan Book of the Lincoln Place Tenants Association (LPTA). “The City demonstrated its desire to cooperate with us when it refused to join AIMCO in appealing [the September 2007 decision] to the Supreme Court [the appeal was denied last month]. We want to build on this goodwill.” She added, “If we were in litigation with the City, we would not be able to meet and work as effectively with the various City agencies…the Department of Building and Safety and the LA Housing Department to see that our buildings meet all habitability standards and are made ready for the return of tenants.”
A separate class action lawsuit was filed a month before on December 3, 2007, in Federal court, seeking redress on behalf of all tenants who were actually evicted. It does name the City of Los Angeles and two executives at the AIMCO headquarters in Denver as well as the AIMCO entities. Speaking of the City, Noel Weiss, the plaintiffs’ lawyer in that case, said, “They’re the ones who failed to enforce the law and ignored the tract map conditions” that guaranteed on-site relocation to the tenants.
Murdock’s complaint has not yet been served on defendants in that case. Weiss’s complaint has been served on the City, but no response has yet been filed, according to Weiss, who said he is in the process of serving the AIMCO defendants in that case. AIMCO’s local attorney did not return a request for comment.
Unlike Weiss’s class action suit, the complaint filed by Murdock is not a class action but what Book called a “mass action” which only involves the claims of the named plaintiffs, who now number eight persons but could grow as other tenants and former tenants are expect to join the case.
There is no connection or coordination between the two lawsuits, except that each represents an offensive initiative on behalf of Lincoln Place tenants, who have been on the defensive for most of the 20-year battle over demolition and development plans for the 38-acre garden apartment complex in Venice built between 1949 and 1951. Murdock’s complaint asserts that AIMCO is the nation’s largest owner and operator of apartment communities.
“We are now playing offense instead of defense,” said LPTA’s Book. “AIMCO has done serious damage to our community and to people’s lives, and AIMCO must be held accountable.”
Weiss said he has two goals in the class action suit. “I want to get this development done in a way that is consistent with community values; and I want to get my people paid, with the right of potentially returning” to Lincoln Place.