A comprehensive settlement agreement has been signed by representatives of the parties to multiple lawsuits, potentially ending the 20-year Lincoln Place saga that has pitted tenants against a succession of owners of the 38-acre apartment complex in Venice.
Although the agreement is subject to ratification by present and former tenants, and there are certain other contingencies, a spirit of optimism now dominates the statements from all sides of what has been a long and sometimes bitter ordeal.
Lincoln Place originally consisted of 795 units in 52 buildings built between 1949 and 1951 in an open, garden-like setting, east of Lincoln Boulevard and south of Rose Avenue in the City of Los Angeles – a paradigm of affordable housing for its time that could once again provide shelter desperately needed in the community now. Today, Lincoln Place is all but vacant, with only 11 households occupying the property.
Some of the 52 buildings have been demolished (sparking litigation), and many tenants were evicted (more litigation) or accepted relocation packages (as a result of “threats, omissions, and misstatements” according to yet more litigation) as owners of the property sought to replace the buildings with new higher density condominiums.
Parties to the lawsuits issued the following joint statement regarding the settlement agreement:
“On August 11 and 12, 2009, Aimco Venezia LLC (“AIMCO”), the Lincoln Place Tenants Association (“LPTA”) and certain tenant leaders and representatives executed a settlement agreement that will move the parties closer to resolving years of litigation over the future of Lincoln Place Apartments, help pave the way for a redevelopment of the property, including rehabilitation of existing structures, return many of the tenants to Lincoln Place, and help the return of much-needed rental housing to the Westside of Los Angeles.
“The settlement agreement is complex and subject to ratification by all settling tenants, a process which will take some time, as the documents must be reviewed and executed individually by all of the former tenants and current occupants involved. In addition, the city is still reviewing terms involving its participation in settling the litigation, and certain contingencies must be satisfied before the settlement agreement becomes a final reality. The parties have been meeting regularly for many months to achieve a workable compromise on some very thorny issues, and hope to have good news to report in the near future.”
Party representatives decline further comment on the settlement details, as the agreement is subject to approval by some 162 households and there are open issues involving the City of Los Angeles which is a party to some litigation and which must approve certain development aspects. A court hearing involving the City’s role is scheduled for September 23.
Court documents obtained by the Mirror indicate that the pending settlement involves not only the return of many dispossessed tenants to Lincoln Place and the long-delayed rehabilitation and redevelopment of the property, but the payment of settlement money to be allocated among tenants.
Cindy Duffy, AIMCO Director of Communications, told the Mirror that the company is “very optimistic that we have taken a big step forward toward resolving issues that have been outstanding at Lincoln Place” and that it “wants to have a positive impact on the goal of affordable housing in the City of Los Angeles” by “working cooperatively with the City.”
LPTA President Sheila Bernard said, “Our agreement and our goal is that every one of our people will sign off, and that is what we are going for,” adding, “I think [the agreement] is going to be ratified by all.” Noel Weiss, a lawyer representing certain tenants in a not-yet-certified class action suit, said, “Everyone is going into it with a positive attitude.”
The parties have been meeting in serious settlement discussions since early this year and on March 23 filed a “deal points” memorandum with the court under seal [Santa Monica Mirror, April 30-May 6, 2009].