August 9, 2007
Briefs: Scholarships memorialize fallen Israeli troops, Prizant and Federation settle suit, Teriton residents block evictions
(Page 2 - Previous Page)The ruling marks just one event in a long-standing battle between the tenants of the Teriton -- a three-story, 28-unit garden apartment designed by architect Sanford Kent in 1949, which sits on almost an acre at 130-142 San Vicente Blvd. -- and the religious nonprofit Or Khaim Hashalom, which was incorporated in January 2006 and is headed by Rabbi Hertzel Illulian.
Attorney David Shapiro of Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard and Smith, representing Or Khain Hashalon, said at the hearing that the nonprofit had amended its bylaws and now intends to establish housing for "poor and needy people without regard to race, religion or national origin."
In response to questions from the judge on specifics of how the apartments would be used and the new tenants might be found, Shapiro responded only that the plan "has always been a work in progress."
Wu imposed the preliminary injunction until further notice, saying, "I don't understand how this serves the entity's [Or Khaim Hashalom's] purpose. It seems the client wants to provide low-income housing, but it's not connected to anything," he said. Defendants have been instructed to submit a detailed plan by Aug. 17.
Meanwhile, the city of Santa Monica concurrently filed suit on July 24 against Or Khaim Hashalom, Perry and others for discriminatory practices.
Many of the tenants have already moved out, meeting the original eviction date of Aug. 7. Others, including those disabled or 62 and over who had a year to leave under the Ellis Act, are remaining. Additionally, Or Khaim Hashalom has moved in one indigent Iranian family, a single mother and her two sons.
Several days before the hearing, Khaim Hashalom's Illulian expressed frustration at the process. "There are people who are trying to stay there forever, and they don't let people like us do good for others."
Timeline: The Teriton and Or Khaim Hashalom
November 10, 2005: A "Notice for Pending Demolition Permit" sign is posted on the lawn of the Teriton. Because the building is more than 40 years old, it is automatically placed on the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission's agenda.
November 14, 2005: The Landmarks Commission reviews the Teriton's eligibility for landmark status and requests the item be returned at a later date with more information. The demolition permit is withdrawn.
January 30, 2006: Or Khaim Hashalom files with the California Secretary of State as a religious nonprofit corporation.
April 2006: Residents receive notice that Or Khaim Hashalom has purchased the Teriton.
July 7, 2007: Rosario Perry, the attorney representing Or Khaim Hashalom, sends a letter to the Santa Monica city attorney declaring that under state law, Government Code Sections 37361 and 25373, the Teriton cannot be designated a landmark because it is owned by a religious nonprofit. (This law has been used only once previously in Santa Monica, on behalf of the First Church of Christ Scientist, a pre-existing religious establishment.)
August 11, 2006: Or Khaim Hashalom holds a public forum at the Gateway Hotel in Santa Monica to explain why the Teriton is exempt from landmark status and to allow the public to respond.
September 11, 2006: The Landmarks Commission unanimously votes to nominate the Teriton for landmark status, pending further study.
November 13, 2006: The Landmarks Commission designates the Teriton a historical landmark.
January 17, 2007: In response to a City of Santa Monica investigation into allegations that Or Khaim Hashalom is violating fair housing laws by basing tenant selection on religion and national origin, attorney Rosario Perry states that Or Khaim Hashalom would "provide housing in a legal manner." He also states owners are seriously considering selling the building. (A sale never takes place.)
April 12, 2007: Tenants receive eviction notices informing them that they must vacate their apartments by August 8 or, for those 62 and over, by April 8, 2008. The evictions are legal under the Ellis Act, a state law giving landlords the right to withdraw from the rental business for at least five years.
June 12, 2007: In response to an appeal by Or Khaim Hashalom, the Santa Monica City Council upholds the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission's decision to designate the Teriton a landmark.
June 22, 2007: The tenants file a lawsuit against Teriton owners Rouhollah Esmailzadeh, Eman Esmailzadeh, Arash Esmailzadeh Ashkan Esmailzadeh, attorney Rosario Perry and Or Khaim Hashalom claiming that the mission of the non-profit to evict tenants and resettle the building with Middle Eastern Jewish refugees violates their civil rights according to 42:405 of the Fair Housing Act.
July 24, 2007: The City of Santa Monica files suit against Or Khaim Hashalom, Rosario Perry, and others claiming the defendants have engaged in unlawful business practices, including housing discrimination, in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Santa Monica Civil Code, the Ellis Act and other laws.
August 6, 2007: Federal Judge George H. Wu, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, grants a preliminary injunction against religious non-profit Or Khaim Hashalom, halting its plan to evict Teriton residents under the Ellis Act. He instructs Or Khaim Hashalom to submit a plan detailing its amended mission to establish housing for "poor and needy people without regard to race, religion or national origin" by August 17.
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-- Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor
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