A Costa Mesa residential complex at the center of a lawsuit between the city and the building’s landlord will soon be evacuated and its tenants relocated under court-ordered receivership, so that unauthorized construction and safety issues can be corrected .
An Orange County Superior Court judge appointed a receiver for the property and, in a May 16 order, approved a relocation assistance plan authorizing up to $267,000 in loans to be contracted to rehouse tenants at 1963 Wallace Ave., refund their deposits and help them with moving costs.
Another court-awarded $48,000 can be borrowed for physical improvements, Costa Mesa City Atty. Kimberly Hall Barlow confirmed on Tuesday.
City officials alleged in a February 2020 complaint that the ownership of four buildings had been illegally subdivided so that eight units, a manager’s office and four of the eight on-site garages were reconfigured into 19 dwellings, when only nine were allowed.
In response to a resident complaint filed in January 2019, Costa Mesa code enforcement officers inspected 10 of the units and reportedly observed “numerous illegal and extremely dangerous violations of substandard buildings.”
Officers then obtained a warrant to inspect the rest of the units, which they did on March 26, the lawsuit says. In addition to the illegal subdivision of units, they observed illegal plumbing and electrical connections, illegally added doors, and a deteriorating exterior staircase and walkway.
“Some units had rooms without windows, [and] several of the units had sealed doors,” the complaint alleges. “The walkways of the balconies were unstable and shook when someone crossed them; many units had an insect infestation problem.
Other violations range from insufficient parking and unmaintained landscaping to inoperable vehicles on site and a lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
City officials say that despite repeated visits and at least one violation notice, the building’s owner — Nevada-based property management company D’Alessio Investments, LLC — has failed to reduce violations.
“Given the substantial danger and imminent threat to the health, safety and life of any occupants or residents, the city has no other recourse but to seek immediate court intervention,” they said. supported in the pursuit.
D’Alessio Investments also owns commercial properties deemed problematic by city officials, including a Newport Boulevard smokehouse frequently cited for litter and nuisance issues and a complex on Fair Drive that has historically been occupied by dispensaries. marijuana shops and massage parlours.
It was at this resort last June that two people – a masseuse and a man on site – died of drug overdoses while on the property, according to toxicology reports later provided by the Orange County Coroner’s Office.
This property, located at 440 Fair Drive, is the subject of a separate legal dispute between business owner Dennis D’Alessio and the City of Costa Mesa that has spanned more than a decade and is still ongoing.
Writing against the city’s complaint about the Wallace Avenue apartments in July 2020, D’Alessio’s lawyers offered a different account of the buildings and their condition and described their client as the target of repeated harassment from officials. from the city.
They claimed that no substantial issues regarding the upkeep or livability of the property were raised with the owners until a resident – the same one who filed the original code enforcement complaint with of the city – be evicted and ordered by the court to pay $9,910 to D’Alessio for several months of back rent.
“On February 12, 2019, D’Alessio raised [his] concerns about the evicted tenant’s complaint, the city’s past abuses against D’Alessio and wanted to know the specific violations the city wanted him to correct, but said he was ready, willing and able to quickly correct any violations “, indicates the document. .
Despite multiple correspondence from the owner and his legal counsel with city officials asking for more details about the violations, attorneys say city officials have never provided clarification.
They further argue that the building, built in 1956, is legally non-compliant, meaning past improvements were made when laws and codes differed from today but were compliant at the time, and said that the city’s building department approved a 17-unit configuration in 2015. They asked for a reasonable amount of time to remedy any violations.
Superior Court Judge David A. Hoffer authorized receiver named Eric Beatty to obtain a one-year loan of up to $315,000 to carry out the relocation assistance plan, secured by the property. The loan will be a lien on the property with super priority repayment status, Hoffer said.
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