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L.A. councilman says 'squatter' moved into house, cut clothes, burned books in fireplace

January 15, 2010 |  1:18 pm
L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon, under investigation over questions about his residency, said today that he has not been living in a house in his district for nearly three months because of safety concerns prompted by a burglary at that address.

Alarcon said that in late October a mentally ill man broke into his house, changed the locks on at least three doors and destroyed his possessions, including many of his clothes. “We haven’t been there since then, that’s for sure,” he said.

Alarcon said the situation does not affect the legality of his residency in the district. He said the man was in his house for less than 48 hours. “He cut up some of our clothing. He was burning books in the fireplace,” the councilman said. “I think he intended to be a squatter but he didn’t have time.”

Investigators served search warrants at both houses -- one in Panorama City, the other in Sun Valley -- earlier this week. Alarcon said that he could have stayed in a hotel in the wake of the burglary but chose the Sun Valley house instead. Both homes are owned by Alarcon’s wife, Flora Montes de Oca.

The councilman, who represents part of the San Fernando Valley, said he has been living in a house in Sun Valley in the 2nd District represented by Councilman Paul Krekorian since that incident occurred. Repairs are being made to the house in Panorama City that he claims as his “domicile” in his 7th Council District.
Alarcon said he could not remember where he was at the time of the break-in. Los Angeles Police Department officers broke down the door to arrest the man, he said.

“I’ve been making repairs to make it a safe home. I’m not going to move my baby into an unsafe home,” added Alarcon, whose wife gave birth to a daughter nearly two years ago.

Alarcon’s neighbors, including a man living in a camper on the block told The Times  on Thursday that they had not seen anyone recently in the Panorama City home, a 1950 tract house on Nordhoff Street. One said no one had been living in the Panorama City home for three years.

Scott Folden, who lives across the street and is involved in Neighborhood Watch, said that the day after the burglary, a pile of clothes, family pictures and bank records appeared on the curb outside Alarcon’s house. Folden said he also saw small appliances and furniture items in the pile.

-- David Zahniser and Maeve Reston