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Hollywood group sues L.A. over demolition of 1924 building

May 18, 2012 |  4:05 pm

Old Spaghetti Factory

A Hollywood neighborhood group has sued the city of Los Angeles, saying the Department of Building and Safety allowed a developer to illegally demolish a building on Sunset Boulevard whose facade was supposed to be incorporated into a new condominium and office tower.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Assn. said developer CIM Group violated the terms of various city agreements by razing a 1924 building that once housed an Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant. City officials called for a portion of the building to be preserved when they approved the project and a $9.9-million taxpayer subsidy, according to the group.

The vacant building, originally an auto dealership, was demolished in February. As part of their case, lawyers for the La Mirada group obtained emails from city officials saying that the facade was supposed to be preserved and that a demolition permit had been issued without clearance from the planning department. The group said a demolition permit was illegally issued after the structure had been razed. The association also demanded that city officials force CIM Group to give back $3.7 million already provided for the project.

The demolition and the city's handling of it "illustrate so much of what is wrong with the cozy relationship between developers and officials in Los Angeles," said Doug Haines, who is part of the La Mirada group. Aides to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich had no comment.

A representative of CIM Group would not discuss the lawsuit. Instead, the company sent an email saying it had amended a separate agreement with Hollywood Heritage, a nonprofit preservation group, to allow for the demolition to take place. That did not satisfy the La Mirada group, which argued that a private agreement cannot alter the city's public requirements for the new building, which is expected to rise 22 stories and house 301 condominium units.

CIM Group purchased the property -- and with it the city's package of approvals, which were originally provided to another company -- in August. Since then, the site has become part of a corruption probe into the Los Angeles County assessor's office.

The Times reported that a property tax consultant and campaign fundraiser for county Assessor John Noguez lobbied Noguez to lower the tax bill of the site and four nearby empty lots. Noguez's staff reassessed those properties at $7.8 million last year. They were resold for $21 million soon afterward.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: The 1924 building last used as an Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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