After refusing to leave their long-held homes last week, the remaining Cedarwood Apartment tenants received unlawful detainer notices this Wednesday, calling for them to appear in court.
The tenants, who received their eviction notices on Aug. 18, have refused to leave the apartments, saying they cannot find affordable housing elsewhere. The lawyers of the Cedarwood families are currently in the process of responding to the unlawful detainer.
An unlawful detainer is the legal means by which a property owner can take possession of their rented premises. Jeff Wynton, paralegal and spokesman for the Law Offices of Oscar B. Valencia, said the tenants wish to fight the issue in court on the basis of discrimination.
“We’re saying that it’s discrimination that they’re evicting these families for student housing,” Wynton said. “They’ve created an arbitrary class that has nothing to do with the tenants.”
If the new owners of the Cedarwood Apartments, located at 6626 Picasso Rd., are evicting the tenants for the purpose of leasing only to students, they could be found in violation of state and federal law, said Michael Rieselman, an associate at the Law Offices of Oscar B. Valencia.
However, if it is proven that the owner is evicting the tenants only for economic reasons then the process would be legal and the families would be ordered to vacate their apartments, Rieselman said.
While most of the tenants are low-income Latino families, Rieselman said he would not use race as an issue.
“It’s so morally wrong to evict a group of people like this,” Rieselman said.
Depending on what is offered, Rieselman said, the tenants could settle out of court. As part of a settlement, he said the families would likely receive more time to move out.
On the property’s deed, the owner is listed as 6626 Picasso, LLC. However, the tenants and many supporters believe that Conquest Student Housing is the company behind the LLC, or limited liability company.
Conquest has not confirmed or denied that it is the owner.
Now that unlawful detainer notices have been served, Rieselman said he and the other lawyers can send discovery paperwork to find out who the shareholders and owners of 6626 Picasso, LLC are. Wynton said the law firm would probably send the paperwork out on Monday.
Conquest manages Breakpointe Apartments on Abrego Road as well as 18 apartment buildings around the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
All of the properties that Conquest manages are owned by different LLCs, including Yellow Submarine, LLC, White Album Housing, LLC, Sgt. Pepper Housing, LLC and Magical Mystery Tour, LLC. The billing address on the deeds of the 18 properties, as well as for Breakpointe, is the same address as Conquest’s main office.
The billing address for 6626 Picasso, LLC goes to California Lender’s and Attorney’s Services located in Sacramento.
Some of the properties currently managed by Conquest around the USC area were previously owned by Brian C. Chen, a Conquest executive, or the Brian C. Chen Trust.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said the county is working on alternate housing for the families and is using the entire range of social services to help. He said he could not be sure who the owners of the LLC were, but said the county has contacted Conquest in an attempt to uncover the ownership.
“We’ve tried numerous times to figure out who it is,” Firestone said. “The whole thing is buried in layers of ownership.”
– Kaitlin Pike contributed to this report.