LOS ANGELES, April 10, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A group of tenants have filed a lawsuit alleging that Townscape Partners is trying to drive them out of business in order to redevelop the Suncrest Plaza shopping center on Sunset Boulevard. The lawsuit claims that instead of honoring the leases that the existing businesses have, Townscape is violating the tenants' leases by charging customers exorbitant parking fees. The shopping center is located at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights in the heart of the Sunset Strip.
For the past twenty-five years, customers have parked for free at the shopping center. However, within the past month, new owner Townscape Partners began charging customers $3 for every 15 minutes to park at the site, with a daily maximum of $25. These charges, the tenants contend, are grossly excessive and violate their leases. Unlike many other commercial shopping centers in the area, Townscape Partners will not allow its tenants to validate customer parking.
The tenants filing suit include Subway, El Pollo Loco, a foot massage spa known as Oasis Relax Spa, and local dry cleaner Shirts N' Skirts. In the lawsuit, the tenants claim their revenues are down 40-50% since the new policy took effect, and the once-full parking lot now consists mainly of empty spaces. "Think about it, this new policy is absolutely ridiculous," claims Rosa Pinuelas, who has operated the El Pollo Loco restaurant at the site for more than twenty years. "My customers pay $5 for a burrito and then are forced to pay another $6 to $8 just to park? I'm losing customers every day who are never going to come back."
According to the tenants' litigation counsel, Jack Henningsen of the Beverly Hills law firm Turner, Aubert & Friedman, the real reason for the sudden increase in parking fees is that Townscape Partners wants to drive his clients out of business. "It's obvious what they are trying to do," states Henningsen. "They have acquired a very valuable piece of property, and they want to use it for something far more profitable than small retail stores. But some of these tenants have leases that can be extended another five or even ten years, so Townscape Partners can't tear down the property or redevelop it until those leases expire – unless they can force my clients to surrender their leases early by driving them out of business. Why else would you implement a policy that has had the immediate impact of driving away 40-50% of the customers from the site?"
The lawsuit asks for a permanent injunction to prevent Townscape Partners from charging customers excessive parking fees. The tenants also seek monetary damages against Townscape Partners to compensate them for lost profits and loss of customer goodwill, which they believe they will never recover.
Townscape Partners, a local real estate investment partnership between Tyler Siegel and John Irwin, both formerly of the Related Companies, acquired the property in 2012. On its website, Townscape Partners describes itself as a real estate investment firm "focused on the creative repositioning of its properties."
CONTACT: Jack L. Henningsen (323)653-3900Source:Turner, Aubert & Friedman, LLP