Catholic Charities Inc. is seeking a court order allowing it to demolish a 100-year-old building in the Westlake District which it purchased in 2018, but has been thwarted thus far from doing so by the city, initially on historical grounds and subsequently over environmental issues.

The Los Angeles Superior Court petition states that the edifice at 846 S. Union Ave. was built in 1923-24, is three stories tall, spans 20,775 square feet and has been occupied by various organizations, beginning with the B’nai B’rith Lodge Association to most recently the Lighthouse Mission Church.

“Catholic Charities has repeatedly and consistently clarified that its intention is to simply demolish the building, which is plagued by mold and structural and seismic insecurities that make the building dangerous and financially unfeasible to use or maintain,” the petition states.

The charity also spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to maintain and secure the building, which is vacant, deteriorated and unstable, the petition states.

A representative for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office said his office would have no comment on the petition brought Thursday.

Catholic Charities bought the building in September 2018 because it is located next to the organization’s main office and within a block of the Immaculate Conception Church and school, according to the petition, which further states that no firm plans are in place for use of the land once the building is razed.

The organization submitted its first two demolition application permits in 2019 and 2020, the petition states. In February 2020, the second request was denied on historical preservation grounds and Catholic Charities was advised to contact the city’s Office of Historic Resources, the petition states.

Catholic Charities raised objections to the historical preservation claims, including at an appearance before the Los Angeles City Council last June, according to the petition.

The city later abandoned the historical and cultural claims for the building and argued that an extensive environmental review was needed and a more complete project description before a demolition permit could be granted, the petition states.

Although the organization has pondered some potential uses of the property, those thoughts were theoretical and in keeping with Catholic Charities’ mission statement of “collaborating with diverse communities, providing services to the poor and vulnerable, promoting human dignity and advocating for social justice,” according to the petition.

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