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Ben-Shahar v. Pickart

California Court of Appeals, Second District, First Division

October 31, 2014

ADI BEN-SHAHAR, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
DANIEL PICKART et al., Defendants and Appellants. ADI BEN-SHAHAR, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
DANIEL PICKART et al., Defendants and Respondents.

Appeal from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. BC502792, Richard L. Fruin, Jr., Judge.

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COUNSEL

Ballard Spahr, Peter Haviland, Daniel M. Benjamin and Ethan Chernin for Defendants and Appellant and for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, David B. Shapiro, Lynda J. Kim, David D. Samani and Roy G. Weatherup for Defendants and Appellants and for Plaintiff and Respondents.

OPINION

JOHNSON, J.

Defendants Daniel Pickart, Stephanie Pickart, Savoy Bellavia, Annamarie Bellavia, John Acierno, and Luanne Acierno appeal the denial of their Code of Civil Procedure section 426.16[1] special motion to strike plaintiff’s first amended complaint. Plaintiff Adi Ben-Shahar cross-appeals the trial court’s denial of his request for attorney fees in defending the motion. We affirm the denial of defendants’ motion to strike, and reverse the denial of attorney fees and remand to the trial court for further proceedings on attorney fees.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

1. Plaintiff’s Occupancy and the Gilliland Agreement

Plaintiff occupied a rent-controlled penthouse apartment located at 202 Bicknell Street in Santa Monica. The apartment is in a three-story brick

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unreinforced masonry building that was built in 1912. Plaintiff has resided in the apartment since 1989, and is a licensed electrical contractor. Plaintiff spent about $70, 000 to remodel his apartment based upon representations from Geraldine Gilliland,[2] the owner of the building, that she would not sell the building and that plaintiff would be reimbursed for all costs he expended on the remodeling. Later, plaintiff negotiated an agreement with Gilliland memorialized in a letter dated November 29, 2011 in which Gilliland stated that she would pay $212, 000 to plaintiff for the work he had performed. The agreement also provided that plaintiff would move out of the unit and Gilliland would pay plaintiff a relocation fee.

2. Defendants’ Purchase of the Building and the Unlawful Detainer Proceedings

In March 2012, defendants[3] purchased the building and defendant Daniel Pickart served plaintiff with a 60-day notice to quit. The Santa Monica rent control ordinance, found in the Santa Monica City Charter (SMCC) at article XVIII, section 1806, permits a building owner to displace a tenant, but the owner must occupy the unit within 30 days after the tenant vacates. If the owner does not occupy the unit within this time frame, the owner must offer the unit to the displaced tenant.[4]

After plaintiff told Pickart that he would not vacate the apartment, Pickart initiated unlawful detainer proceedings.[5] At the trial of the unlawful detainer action, Pickart informed the court he intended to move into the unit with his family. In opposition, plaintiff presented evidence to show that Pickart’s goal was to raise rents by pushing out the rent-controlled tenants. ...


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