Village West abandoned property owner faces criminal charges for LA properties

The owner of an infamous lot in Village West is facing criminal charges over conditions in one of their other properties.

Mehdi Bolour, the president of Denley Investment and Management, has been charged with 23 criminal counts related to building and code violations after the LAPD raided a building recently that contained around 60 tenants living in squalid conditions, according to multiple news reports.

The Los Angeles Times dubbed the building on 6362 Hollywood Boulevard—also known as the Palmer Building—the “Hollywood Ghost Ship,” due to the dangerous living conditions discovered inside.

Denley is also the owner of the former Rich’s Products property across the street from the Claremont Packing House. Denley bought the property in 2011 to build the Village Lofts, a three-story mixed-use development that the city hoped would finally complete the Village expansion.

But it never happened. Years passed without any movement from Denley, and former Community Development Director Brian Desatnik voided the developer’s architectural approvals for the project in January 2017. The city council upheld that decision later that summer when Denley appealed.

At the time, Denley accused the city of miscommunication, claimed they were waiting for an economic downturn that never happened and admitted they used existing money on other projects.

In addition to the Claremont property, Denley owns dozens of buildings and properties in and around the Los Angeles area. Reviews on Yelp accuse Mr. Bolour of being a slumlord, refusing to fix problems and berating tenants.

But as Denley deals with their current problems, Community Development Director Brad Johnson said they still hold control over the Claremont lot.

“That’s just another legal matter that [Mr. Bolour] has on his hands in another city,” he said. “It really doesn’t have any bearing on properties he owns in Claremont.”

Recently, the green fence that surrounded the lot was taken down in favor of a black wrought-iron gate. The lot was cleaned up and graded as well.

“We were getting some complaints from some residential neighborhoods from the west over the green construction fence,” Mr. Johnson said. “We were happy the property owner agreed to swap that fencing out, even though it will be a temporary solution.”

About two months ago, the city had its last contact with Denley. In that conversation, Mr. Johnson said, Denley said that, “they just didn’t have the resources within the next couple of years to develop in Claremont.”

The fence, he said, was a compromise to clean up the lot and put a more attractive perimeter around it.

Mr. Johnson also noted that there could be a possibility of public art on the fence itself, “just so it doesn’t look like a drab vacant dirt lot.”

This was the result of a “verbal agreement over the phone” between the city and Denley, but the city wants to move forward on it.

City spokesperson Bevin Handel, who serves as the city liaison to the public art committee, will be presenting ideas to that committee in the coming months, Mr. Johnson said.

Denley, Mr. Bolour and Palmer Building Associates are facing 23 criminal counts related to the building in Hollywood. Their arraignment date is scheduled for October 12, according to the Los Angeles Superior Court Database.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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