Conquest Student Housing, the company that received hundreds of protests last year when it evicted several low-income families from Cedarwood Apartments, has finally settled with the University of Southern California.
The housing firm was sued in September by USC and its co-developer, Urban Partners, after the two accused Conquest of illegally harassing and blocking the university’s plans to create new student housing. USC and Urban had also accused Conquest of attempting to monopolize in the area. As part of the settlement, Conquest has agreed not to contest any housing development within two miles of the university.
Conquest Student Housing attorney Kent Raygor said the parties agreed to end all litigation just hours before a Los Angeles court was to rule on Conquest’s claims against USC’s University Gateway project – a housing development which will accommodate 1,600 students upon completion. All parties involved agreed not to interfere with any of the other parties’ existing development projects. Also, the settlement called for all legal disputes between the developers to be dropped.
“Everybody just realized that these are developers that are in the businesses of developing student housing,” Raygor said. “That’s what they do best, not litigate. Why waste time and money to show who’s right in a specific statement? Let’s get back to the business of putting students in beds. There’s a housing shortage.”
Raygor said the litigation began when Conquest filed a prior claim against USC and Urban Partners, arguing that their University Gateway project did not provide adequate parking and went against the City of Los Angeles zoning ordinances.
USC and Urban Partners in turn filed a suit in federal courts, challenging that Conquest was attempting a monopoly over the student housing industry in the area.
“Every citizen has a right to use the courts and city administration to object to things like this on public interest grounds,” Raygor said. “[Conquest] moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis it was trying to stop us from using the courts.”
Conquest Student Housing has also experienced controversy over its projects near the UCSB campus. In 2006, Conquest purchased the Cedarwood Apartments in Isla Vista and served eviction notices to residents, many of whom were low-income families, in order to renovate the building into a higher end property aimed at students now known as Coronado Apts. The company’s actions caused Associated Students to enact a boycott against Conquest.
USC Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Jackson said that the school plans to move on with the University Gateway project in order to provide much needed student housing. According to USC, development of University Gateway was set back two years by the litigation.
Although Conquest’s claims were not ruled on in court, Raygor said Conquest believes its concerns received enough attention.
“Developers will be more aware of the city regulations that they have to comply with,” Raygor said.