April 2008 – 191 Lincoln Place Tenants, Evictees Sue Landlord; AIMCO Files Counter-Suit

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On March 14, Lincoln Place Garden Apartments attorneys John Murdock and David Lefkowitz went to court to add more tenants and former tenants to their lawsuit against AIMCO, Apartment Investment & Management Co. The suit is designed to make AIMCO pay for on-going disruption to the lives of 191 tenants and evictees at the largest apartment complex in Venice.
AIMCO returned the favor, March 25, with a suit in federal court against the city of Los Angeles. The city had granted AIMCO a track map for redevelopment several years ago with the provision that the tenants not be evicted. The Denver-based corporation apparently believes that if it can persuade a court to agree that the track map was not in force, then AIMCO cannot be held legally at fault for the evictions.

Tenant leaders insist that AIMCO should restore the illegally terminated tenancies of 450 households, which included many seniors and families with children. Eviction threats persuaded many families to abandon their rent-controlled apartments. Payments they received rapidly disappeared in the local housing crisis. The lawsuit for damages demands that AIMCO compensate these households for the higher rents they’ve had to pay since leaving Lincoln Place, as well as for the destruction of their community and the harm caused to the lives of these people. Most of the plaintiffs are also asking to be restored to their former apartments. 

On December 6, 2005, AIMCO had the LA County Sheriffs lock out 52 households, including 21 children and 65 adults. This was the largest single-day sheriff lockout in the history of Los Angeles. 

In its 2007 annual report, AIMCO acknowledged to shareholders that “Plans to develop Lincoln Place have been the subject of controversy and litigation, which reduces its market value and may result in a future impairment (financial loss).” AIMCO’s idea of development apparently is to kick out the tenants, tear down the apartments and build hi-rise condos.

“AIMCO took a bad business gamble. They broke the law and hurt a lot of people. They threw families out of their homes, little children, frail elderly ladies, and people with life-threatening illnesses. You bet it’s going to cost them,” said Sheila Bernard, the feisty president of the Lincoln Place Tenants Association.

Laura Burns, a locked-out tenant observed that this is the first acknowledgment AIMCO has made to its shareholders that its plans to demolish and redevelop Lincoln Place have run aground. “AIMCO thought they could extort more height and density from the city of L.A. They used the tenants as hostages during a protracted period of eviction threats and tense negotiations spanning the last five years. But this Goliath has met its match,” said Burns. 

According to lead attorney John Murdock, who shepherded LPTA’s case against AIMCO to a stunning victory, Superior Court Judge David Yaffe has issued an injunction preventing further evictions at Lincoln Place. Attorneys for the tenants will be using this injunction to obtain dismissals for the 48 households who are currently fighting their 2005 eviction orders in court. 

“AIMCO abused its power,” added Amanda Seward, an entertainment and intellectual property rights attorney who won historical status for Lincoln Place and has learned landlord-tenant law on the job as she successfully held off the eviction of the last group of senior and disabled households who are still anchoring the complex. “The company underestimated the tenants at Lincoln Place and they are not going away.”

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