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Deceased philanthropist 'has done so much for Los Angeles'

August 29, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Ezat Delijani and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca
A prominent philanthropist and developer who died over the weekend was hailed Monday for his contributions to Los Angeles.

Ezat Delijani fled his native Iran during the country's 1979 revolution and became a real estate magnate, notably in L.A.'s fashion and textile district. His death was confirmed Sunday.

"He has done so much for Los Angeles," said Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar. "People like Mr. Delijani are rare nowadays. You could shake his hand and that's all you needed."

In 1982, then-Mayor Tom Bradley asked Delijani to buy the Los Angeles Theatre, which was scheduled to be demolished. It was one of a number of historic but timeworn movie palaces that lined Broadway.

Delijani went on to buy three more Broadway movie houses: the Palace, State and Tower theaters.

Several years ago, he began working with Huizar and business leaders on a campaign to revitalize the Broadway corridor. In June, the Palace Theatre reopened with a showing of “Sunset Boulevard” after a $1-million restoration.

Huizar said Delijani was a pioneer in redeveloping long-ignored pockets of the city. He called Delijani's work with the Broadway theaters particularly important for the city.

"People don't realize how much he's done for downtown Los Angeles," Huizar said. "He wasn't making money off these theaters. He thought it was important for the city not to lose its history."

Delijani’s son, Shahram Delijani, once described the theaters as his father’s gift to Los Angeles -- a way to thank the region for taking in the family.

The intersection of 7th Street and Broadway was formally dedicated as Ezat Delijani square in 2009.

Delijani was also instrumental in the creation in 1999 of an Iranian American Jewish center in Hollywood.

Delijani’s political ties raised eyebrows in 2008. He had long donated campaign money and gifts to Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and found himself in a lease dispute with one of his tenants in Beverly Hills, a pharmacist.

When Beverly Hills police declined to investigate because the case appeared to be a civil matter, the Delijani family contacted Baca.

According to a Times investigation, Baca launched a criminal investigation, which was assigned “rush” status, typically reserved for high-priority cases. When prosecutors declined to file charges, citing a lack of evidence, Baca met with L.A. Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley to learn how to appeal that decision.

Late in 2010, prosecutors reversed their decision and filed a forgery charge against Delijani’s tenant.

Baca denied that he’d given Delijani special treatment, and Cooley said he was not involved in the decision to pursue charges.


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Photo: Real estate magnate Ezat Delijani, left, and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca at a 2009 event. Credit: Los Angeles Times