The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit targets Group IX BP Properties Inc., its president and CEO, Swaranjit S. (Mike) Nijjar and the building's two management companies, Golden Management Services Inc. and Pama Management Inc.
Pama Management's director is Nijjar's sister, Daljit K. Kler, the suit states. Representatives for Nijjar and Kler could not be immediately reached for comment.
The complex is a 116-unit structure made up of 12 two-story buildings in the 13100 and 13200 blocks of Vanowen Street, between Coldwater Canyon and Woodman avenues, which the suit states is part of Nijjar's "billion-dollar real estate empire" consisting of more than 1,000 units in the city alone.
The property has been under Nijjar's control since 2001. Since then, gang-related shootings and other violence have occurred there regularly, including at least nine gang-related shootings in the past 15 months, five of which occurred in the weeks leading up to the filing of the current lawsuit, the complaint states.
The building is 450 feet from James Madison Middle School and adjacent to St. Paul Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church.
According to Feuer, alleged gang members attempt to recruit students on their walk to school. The church is also impacted by the alleged gang violence, and on Oct. 15, about 60 children were playing in the parking lot when a bullet was shot and flew by the head of an adult chaperone.
Feuer also said that a person at the property flashed a gun to a group of people at a women's group meeting at the church, and in May 2020, a stray bullet hit the mirror in the pastor's dressing room.
"The violence at and around this gang-ridden property has got to stop now. It's so bad that the church next door had to suspend youth activities during this recent outbreak of shootings to keep young congregants out of harm's way, then erect a metal barrier to deflect bullets," said Feuer.
"In our lawsuit, we allege that the owner -- one of the largest landlords in California -- and operator have allowed these incredibly dangerous conditions to persist. We've successfully sued this owner before over another sprawling property. Now we're asking the court to order him to live in his Vanowen complex. Let him learn what it's like to live with shooting after shooting, because that's what the hardworking families at this property endure all the time."
The church put a metal barrier along its border to prevent bullets from going into the church, but it didn't stop a bullet from hitting a television on the church patio on Feb. 2, Feuer said.
Councilman Paul Krekorian said the property has been a problem since he was sworn into the council in 2010 and it is particularly personal to him because his children have attended Saturday school at the church.
"We have been to that church personally as a family many times because it also serves the Armenian community as well as the Assyrian community. My kids have been in that very room that the city attorney described, where there have been bullets entering that room, my kids have sat in those chairs, learning Armenian on Saturdays," Krekorian said.
Within the suit's pleadings are several color photos showing graffiti at the property, alleged gang members loitering and an aerial view of the sprawling property.
"While they and their affiliates have left a trail of disreputability wherever they operate in the state, the defendants' gross mismanagement and neglect of this property, specifically, has allowed it to become a stronghold of (a North Hollywood) criminal street gang," the suit states.
The nuisance abatement lawsuit seeks to have Nijjar and Kler live onsite until physical and managerial improvements are made, including secure, electronic fencing and gating; and an internet-connected video monitoring system that the Los Angeles Police Department can access; improved screening of tenants and the hiring of security guards. Civil penalties are also sought against the defendants.
Efforts by members of the LAPD and the City Attorney's Office to resolve the issues during meetings with the defendants in 2009, 2010, 2018 and 2019 did not bring about meaningful change, according to the suit.
People can report properties that are causing problems like this for tenants or the surrounding community by calling 213-978-8340 or by clicking here.