Los Angeles Times

Vermin, decay: ‘We’re tired of it,’ tenants say

Landlord of South L.A. complex is sued

- By Liam Dillon

Nearly 100 residents of a large, troubled apartment complex in South Los Angeles have sued their landlord in recent months, alleging rampant vermin infestatio­ns, faulty plumbing, deficient electricit­y and heating and other significan­t habitabili­ty problems.

The claims made across three Los Angeles County Superior Court lawsuits filed since December reflect deep frustratio­ns from tenants at Chesapeake Apartments against their landlord, Pama Properties. Although residents have long complained about the World War II-era, 425unit complex, the issues came into public view last spring when city code enforcemen­t and public health officials found sewage being discharged on public grounds outside the apartments and squalid conditions inside.

“We’ve been living in these conditions for all these years,” Diana Dean, 35, said on the steps of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse downtown before one of the lawsuits was filed last month. “We’re tired of it.”

Dean has lived in a one-bedroom apartment with her husband and five children since 2019. She said her family has made numerous complaints, but property managers have not fixed problems with electricit­y and vermin.

“We basically sleep with the roaches,” said Dean, who pays $1,678 a month in


Dean and the other tenants are seeking damages and civil penalties against Pama and related entities.

Michael Goldberg, a spokespers­on for Pama, said in a statement to The Times that the landlord works to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its residents.

“While it is unfortunat­e that these allegation­s were raised against us, we will continue to work tirelessly to address any and all reasonable requests made by tenants,” Goldberg said.

The complex, which sits on 17 acres along Obama Boulevard and Rodeo Lane, has nearly two dozen twostory buildings constructe­d around courtyards and parking lots.

Over the last five years, county public health inspectors had found an average of more than three violations per month at Chesapeake Apartments, the most of any residentia­l property in L.A. County during that time, a May 2022 Times analysis determined. Companies linked to Pama Properties President Mike Nijjar own more than $1 billion in real estate, predominan­tly in Southern California. Many of the properties have had serious health and livability problems, according to a 2020 investigat­ion by LAist.

Last year, 16 Chesapeake Apartments tenants agreed to resolve a habitabili­ty lawsuit filed in 2020 against Pama Properties. The tenants together received a $520,000 settlement, according to court records.

Christofer Chapman was an attorney for those tenants, and now he represents 42 more in a case filed in December. He said the landlord ignores its obligation­s to tenants.

“They’re such a large outfit and they really don’t care,” Chapman said. “These are owners that just operate this way.”

Goldberg, the Pama spokespers­on, said the landlord provides needed housing for low-income residents that prevents gentrifica­tion and homelessne­ss.

“We will not deviate from our mission of serving the unheard and underserve­d,” he said.

In 2017, then-City Atty. Mike Feuer sued Pama Properties and Nijjar over crime problems, reaching a settlement that required safety and habitabili­ty upgrades.

Early last year, city code enforcemen­t officials completed an assessment of Chesapeake Apartments that’s required every two years and gave it a clean bill of health. But following an April 2022 Times article that revealed serious ongoing health and livability concerns at the complex, city code and county public health officials underwent new inspection­s at the Chesapeake, ultimately identifyin­g more than 2,000 violations.

In the fall, the agencies cleared the lion’s share of those violations. They committed to continuing to inspect all units at the property, including those where they needed to secure warrants to enter.

Tenants have complained about shoddy repairs after the city and county investigat­ions.

 ?? Gary Coronado Los Angeles Times ?? MARTHA MARTINEZ points to damage at her home in April. A spokesman says the landlord works to ensure the safety and welfare of tenants.
Gary Coronado Los Angeles Times MARTHA MARTINEZ points to damage at her home in April. A spokesman says the landlord works to ensure the safety and welfare of tenants.

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