UPDATE: The City Council unanimously approved the nuisance abatement for the 739 Westbourne Drive property.
Tuesday night, the West Hollywood City Council will hold the first in what will be a series of nuisance abatement hearings related to vacant properties which are not being maintained to city code and pose a public safety hazard.
At its Jan. 19 meeting, the City Council instructed Danny Rivas, the city’s code compliance manager, to move forward with nuisance abatement hearing for the “worst of the worst” vacant properties in the residential areas of the city. In many cases, transients have broken into those vacant properties and are now living there.
The “worst of the worst” of these vacant properties are those about which the sheriff’s station and code compliance officers have received the most calls for service.
“Boarded up building in our neighborhoods that have people living in then, that’s just not safe,” said Councilmember John D’Amico.
Nuisance abatement hearings are a necessary legal step to a force property owner to bring the property into compliance. Numerous fees and fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars can be brought against the property owners.
“It is not cost effective for an owner to maintain the property” with the fines and administrative fees and other costs connected to the property following a nuisance abatement hearing Rivas explained.
He said they can usually get a property back into compliance in 60 to 90 days via a nuisance abatement hearing, whereas if they pursue criminal or civil charges in the court system, it can take six months or longer.
Rivas presented a map of 38 vacant properties in the city, 14 of which are viewed as priorities. Of those 14, three have since been demolished. While some of the vacant properties are commercial buildings, the ones the Council is currently concerned with are in the residential areas.
The property the Council will hear Tuesday night is at 739 Westbourne Drive, at Sherwood Drive, in the Tri-West neighborhood. Sheriff’s deputies and/or the fire department have responded to over three dozen calls about this property in the past year. Code compliance has issued numerous fines. Several neighbors have also contacted WEHOville about the property.
It appears that transients have broken into the property and are living in the four units on the property. Arrests have been made twice with people on the property and the fire department put out a fire there on Dec. 26, 2020.
Records show that the property is owned by SEJ Properties, L.P., which is largely controlled by Beverly Hills-based JESS Enterprises, LLC. Elias Shokrian is the managing member of JESS Enterprises and the agent for the property.
Code compliance officers and sheriff’s deputies met with Elias Shokrian on Oct. 28, 2020, according to a staff report. During that meeting, officers tried to educate him on the city’s vacant property ordinance, the public safety hazard the property posed and the many calls for service officers have responded to regarding the property.
The staff report stated Shokrian “was not cooperative, became verbally belligerent with staff, and left the inspection stating, ‘he would repair the property on his terms and not the City’s’.”
Among the 19 violations the city is charging the 739 Westbourne Drive property owner are:
- Allowing building to deteriorate and fall into disrepair including broken or missing doors or windows.
- Failure to secure the property and the individual units.
- Failure to prevent unauthorized access.
- Failure to install security lighting and security cameras.
- Failure to maintain the fence around the property.
- Failure to remove unsafe landscaping.
- Failure to register the property as a vacant property.
Depending on the outcome of the nuisance abatement hearing, the city can also station a security guard at the property 24 hours a day, the costs of which are added onto the many other fines and fees the owner must pay.
If the owner does not correct the problems and pay the fines/fees, the city can place a lien on the property for the expenses it has incurred connected to the property.