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Apartments

The 1,176-unit Wyvernwood Garden Apartments in Boyle Heights, one of the largest housing complexes in Los Angeles, has been sold by owner Samuel Mevorach to Thurman Los Angeles LLC.

The 1940s-vintage apartments, which have been troubled by lead paint contamination, sold for about $25 million, said Dallas attorney Cynthia Brotman, who represents Thurman. She said the new owners plan a major restoration, including the removal of all lead paint.

“Our plan is to get in there and fix the problems, and have a good and profitable, and respectable, property,” Brotman said.

Hugh McColgan, Mevorach’s attorney, said his client sold the apartments in order to invest in other commercial property.

In April, Mevorach settled an environmental protection lawsuit filed against him by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, agreeing to make the housing complex safe from deteriorating lead-based paint by December 2000. The cleanup has been in progress about a year and a half, said Vincent Sato, deputy city attorney.

The owner is under the same obligation to follow through with the work, Sato said.

One source said Thurman plans to spend millions on a “major renovation” of the run-down apartments, along with lead abatement.

The sprawling complex of two-story buildings sits on 60 acres off East Olympic Boulevard. Home to about 8,000 people, it is the second-largest privately owned housing complex in the county after Park La Brea in the Wilshire District, according to the City Attorney’s Office. Mevorach had owned it for about 15 years.

Notices of the change in ownership have been circulated to tenants. One tenant, who declined to give her name, said her apartment had plumbing and heating problems, including gas leaks, and would welcome any improvements.

A notice in the Wyvernwood leasing office warns residents that the complex contains lead paint, which, if ingested, can cause reduced intelligence and birth defects. Lead-based paint was banned for residential use in 1978, but more than three quarters of California’s housing stock was built before that, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

The complaint filed by City Attorney Jim Hahn accused the Wyvernwood management of failing to adequately respond to orders from the Los Angeles County Health Department to make the complex safe from lead hazards. The complaint also alleged that the owners used unsafe paint removal methods and failed to warn residents and workers of their exposure to lead.

Under the settlement, Mevorach was required to set up a $1 million trust fund. Among other things, the money will be used to fund a three-year program of blood testing for children to screen for lead poisoning. Mevorach was also required to pay $200,000 for medical treatment for any lead-poisoned children.

The Los Angeles Times has reported that Mevorach is involved in an FBI investigation of Councilman Richard Alatorre, who unsuccessfully sought to arrange a meeting between Mevorach and prosecutors investigating the lead contamination problem.

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