The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday approved nearly $383,000 in emergency relocation assistance for residents ordered to vacate two warehouses that the fire department has determined must be closed.

Both of the warehouses are owned by Morad “Ben” Neman, who was charged with several misdemeanors last December by City Attorney Mike Feuer over the conditions at one of the warehouses, which is located at 931 E. Pico Blvd. The other is at 1518 Paloma St.

Feuer, who alleged the Pico building contains unlawfully constructed residences without smoke alarms and accessible fire escapes, filed the case in the wake of a Dec. 2 fire that killed 36 people in an Oakland warehouse called the Ghost Ship, where many artists lived and worked.

Some of the residents of the Los Angeles warehouses appeared before a City Council committee on June 7 and said Neman was refusing to pay relocation assistance.

An attorney for Neman did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

The emergency motion unanimously approved by the council was introduced by Councilman Jose Huizar and approves the transfer of $382,850 from the Foreclosure Registry Penalty Fund to the Tenant Relocation Inspection Program to be dispersed to the residents.

The residents were originally told they had to vacate the buildings by Thursday, according to the motion, but Huizar’s office announced after the motion was passed that it worked with the fire department to extend the deadline to June 28.

“Today’s vote was critical in preventing residents caught in legal proceedings at no fault of their own from becoming homeless,” Huizar said. “This is exactly what we should be utilizing these type of funds for. My staff did an excellent job of working with our city departments and my colleague Councilmember (Paul) Krekorian’s office to expedite these much-needed funds as quickly as possible.”

The motion said the city could seek reimbursement from the property owner for the funds.

The city maintains that Neman unlawfully built 50 or more dwelling places in the Pico warehouse and that the construction of the units was never inspected, evaluated or approved.

“So profound are these construction deficiencies that some unit ceilings are nothing more than the wood floor above, joist and all,” according to the City Attorney’s court papers.

–City News Service

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