The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office Consumer Protection Unit has filed a lawsuit against the owners of a 300-unit Santa Monica apartment complex, alleging widespread violations of the city’s affordable housing deed restrictions and laws.

According to the lawsuit filed February 18th in Santa Monica Superior Court, the owners of the Arboretum complex on Colorado Avenue, among other violations, allegedly failed to verify the eligibility of applicants and tenants in units that were designated by contract for low and moderate income tenants only.

The lawsuit identifies the owners and managers as BlackRock Realty Investors Inc., CSHV Arboretum, LLC, and Riverstone Residential Group, Inc.

The case was brought pursuant to a 1998 agreement in which the Arboretum’s developers agreed to designate 97 of the 300 units as “affordable” for 55 years in exchange for a package of assistance from the city that included reduction of standards such as unit density and parking, Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades said.

Under that agreement as well as local law, the Arboretum owners must show that the 97 units are continually rented to “verifiably” low income and middle income tenants at rates that are capped by an affordability formula, Rhoades said.

An audit by the city’s Housing Division alleged late last year that not only have the Arboretum owners failed to verify eligibility in 33 of the units, but that they are renting to ineligible tenants and employees, he said. The complex is Santa Monica’s largest single source of affordable housing.

“The city has already given the Arboretum’s owners opportunities and time to resolve these violations,” said Rhoades. “Filing this case will help us to finally achieve compliance at the Arboretum and it will also send a message to Santa Monica’s other owners of affordable units that they must hold up their end of the bargain.”

Since 1990, Santa Monica has obtained similar affordable housing deed restrictions on more than 800 units in the city.

The lawsuit seeks specific performance of the restrictions along with damages, restitution and attorneys’ fees.

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