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North Hollywood disabled woman sues L.A. redevelopment agency

December 12, 2011 |  6:10 pm

A North Hollywood woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, alleging that it helped finance several apartment buildings in her neighborhood without providing sufficient accommodations for disabled residents.

Mei Ling, who has used a wheelchair for five years, alleged that officials with the Community Redevelopment Agency violated the law by failing to ensure that their residential projects in North Hollywood had “any guaranteed number of wheelchair-accessible units.” Mei Ling said she tried without success to obtain wheelchair-accessible units in at least two development projects -– the Lofts at NoHo Commons and NoHo 14 -– and wound up living in a third that lacked design features that would allow her to fully use its bathroom.

City officials provided a copy of the lawsuit Monday, after The Times reported that the U.S. attorney had opened a fraud investigation to determine whether city agencies failed to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Mei Ling’s lawyer, David Geffen, said he did not know what sparked the broader federal investigation. But the lawsuit covers some of the same ground as letters sent Nov. 30 to the city by the U.S. attorney’s office -- including questions about whether the city violated federal law while receiving federal funds designated for housing.

In her lawsuit, Mei Ling alleged that her unit at the Piedmont, a 198-unit development built with federal funds, lacks a ramp in the bathroom that would make it possible for her to take a shower. The unit also does not have handle bars in locations that would allow her to use the toilet, the lawsuit said.

Mei Ling “has been waiting now for several years for an accessible apartment at any publicly funded building near public transportation so she can move from the inaccessible apartment where she now lives,” Geffen wrote in email.

Although Mei Ling’s lawsuit was filed in September, it was not received by the redevelopment agency until Friday, said William Carter, chief deputy to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich. Carter had no comment on the allegations contained in it.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

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