Vacant homes on Wilton Pl. plague neighborhood

| August 31, 2017 | 4 Comments

ELEVEN HOMES along two blocks of Wilton Pl. are vacant awaiting demolition.

With 11 properties now sitting vacant on Wilton Pl., stretching two blocks from Melrose to Rosewood, local residents and business owners alike are complaining that the neighborhood is quickly deteriorating.

“We have been battling the situation for months now,” says a neighbor who owns the Hollywood Historic Hotel, located on the corner of Melrose and Wilton.

“It has been a nightmare.”

According to the neighbor, the vacant properties, which are slated for use in two projects to total 122 residential units, have become a breeding ground for crime.

“These properties have become crack houses,” she says. “The problem is now rampant with drug dealing going on in broad daylight!”

In recent weeks, the neighbor says that on multiple occasions half-naked men “high and out of their minds” have entered the lobby of the hotel to harass guests and staff.

One night a maintenance guy approached a man loitering in the hotel’s parking lot only to have the man pull a gun on the worker. Now the hotel locks the parking lot gate at 10 p.m. each night, a real inconvenience to guests.

Reason for vacancies

The problem stems from the 11 bungalows, all located on the west side of Wilton, which have been left vacant by two separate developers who are both waiting to demolish the 1920s houses until they are ready to move forward with construction on their respective projects.

The first project, located at 667 – 671 N. Wilton Pl., will replace two of the vacant bungalows with a five-story, 34-unit residential development. The project’s applicant Robert Assil, Syndcore Holdings, LLC, has been actively pushing the project through the planning process since Jan. 2017.

The second project, located at 501 – 535 N. Wilton Pl., will replace nine of the vacant bungalows with a five-story, 88-unit residential development. The project’s applicant James Frost, Frost Chaddock Developers, LLC, first began the planning process in Jan. 2015. Demolition permits for this project were issued by the city more than a year ago (Aug. 22, 2016), leaving residents wondering why the empty bungalows have been left standing for so long.

Residents are fed up

“We have been having so many problems,” said Willie Guzman, a resident on the 600 block of Wilton Pl.

“Sometimes I have to leave early for work, and I leave my two daughters at home. The other day, they called me crying because there was a man knocking on the door holding a knife.”

Guzman says his neighbor called the police to his house a week later because she was watching a stranger in his backyard. “We’ve never had these problems before. I don’t know why the developer doesn’t just demolish these houses,” he complains.

“I am sick and tired of this. And it’s not just me, the whole neighborhood feels this way.”

According to longtime homeowner Hugo Duarte, who has lived on the 600 block of Wilton for the past 23 years, it all started three months ago.

“I bought my house in 1994. This is a good neighborhood; everyone knows each other,” explains Duarte. But now, he says, he’s scared: “The situation is bad.”

In recent weeks, Duarte says that the windshield of his truck has been smashed (“There was nothing in it, they broke the glass for pocket change.”) and three times he’s caught men in his backyard.

“I am worried about my family,” Duarte says. “If they would just demo, we would have no complaint.”

What the developers say

Seeking answers, the Chronicle contacted the developers for both projects.

“We are almost at the finish line,” says Robert Assil, the developer for the smaller project on Wilton. “We are just waiting for the demolition permit to be issued.”

FENCES that surround the properties reveal large holes, where vagrants appear to have cut access points.

According to Assil, he has secured his two properties with fencing and boards, but trespassers keep breaking in.

“I have a guy drive by the site each day to check on the property.”

In regards to the second project, which is much larger (stretching the entire length of the block) and has been left vacant much longer, information was less forthcoming.

A representative for Frost Chaddock Developers, Jake La Joie, confirmed that the project is still moving forward, but he declined to speak further on the record.

Unsatisfied with that response, the Chronicle turned to Councilman David Ryu. 

According to Ryu’s senior planning deputy Julia Duncan, who is closely following the situation, the delay is due to Frost Chaddock’s refusal to act on the demolition until the project’s new building permits are issued.

“They have their demo permits, but not their building permits,” she explains.

Duncan says that she asked the developer’s representative whether his company would move forward with the demo, but “they signaled they were absolutely not interested in doing that” until the building permit is approved.

At this time, Duncan says it’s “not feasible” for the city to force the developer to demo the nine vacant properties.

“Regardless,” she says, “they need to get the site cleaned up. We’ve asked them to send regular maintenance crews to clean and secure the site.”

By Billy Taylor

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Category: News

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