Promising Settlement Reached between Charity and City in Building Dispute: What You Need to Know

Catholic Charities Inc. and the city of Los Angeles have reached a settlement “in principle” in their legal dispute. The organization sought permission to demolish a 100-year-old building it purchased in the Westlake District in 2018. However, it was allegedly prevented from doing so due to historical and environmental reasons.

During a hearing, attorneys informed Los Angeles Superior Court James C. Chalfant about the tentative resolution. Final settlement approval is pending from the city attorney and the City Council. If the agreement is not finalized by the next court hearing on Jan. 9, Chalfant will schedule a trial.

According to the petition filed by Catholic Charities, the building at 846 S. Union Ave., built in 1923-24, is three stories tall and spans 20,775 square feet. It has housed various organizations throughout the years, from the B’nai B’rith Lodge Association to the Lighthouse Mission Church.

“Catholic Charities has repeatedly stated its intention to demolish the building due to its mold, structural insecurities, and seismic risks, which make it dangerous and economically unviable to use or maintain,” says the petition.

The charity also spends a significant amount of money each year to maintain and secure the vacant and deteriorated building. The petition was filed on Jan. 26.

Catholic Charities purchased the building in September 2018 because of its proximity to the organization’s main office, Immaculate Conception Church, and school. The petition mentions that there are no definitive plans for the land once the building is demolished.

In 2019 and 2020, the organization submitted two demolition permit applications. The second application, submitted in February 2020, was denied for historical preservation reasons. Catholic Charities was advised to contact the city’s Office of Historic Resources in response.

According to the petition, Catholic Charities contested the historical preservation claims during a meeting with the Los Angeles City Council in June. The city later dropped the historical and cultural arguments and instead argued that an extensive environmental review and a more detailed project description were necessary before granting a demolition permit.

While the organization has considered possible uses for the property, those ideas remained theoretical and aligned with Catholic Charities’ mission of collaborating with diverse communities, serving the poor and vulnerable, upholding human dignity, and advocating for social justice.


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