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  Ocean Park Beach Front Towers Sell for $95 million

By Jorge Casuso

Santa Monica Shores, the landmark twin towers on the beach in Ocean Park, sold Thursday for $95 million, perhaps the largest real estate transaction in the city's history.

The 17-story, 532-unit rent-controlled complex was purchased from eccentric millionaire Larry Kates and his partners by Douglas-Emmett & Co., which has been quietly buying up some of Santa Monica's most prominent buildings.

"It is a very large deal, there's no question about that," said city manager John Jalili.

The transaction ends the quarter-century-long "Kates Era" for the beach front high rises, which were built for $11 million in the mid 1960s as part of an urban redevelopment project. Originally, the project was to include a row of high rises and even an island attached by a causeway.

The anchor for the proposed redevelopment, Santa Monica Shores displaced some 1,000 families tucked away in quaint courtyard streets by the beach.

"It was kind of charming," said Chuck Perliter, the owner of Santa Monica Radiator, whose family was displaced by the proposed project. "There was something about that little beach community. There was a lot of character to that neighborhood."

"It was a town," recalled Michael Hill, who managed the towers in the late 1960s. "It was downtown Ocean Park."

The towers' units failed to fetch the rents paid for neighboring apartments, and by the early 1970s Santa Monica Shores had fallen into financial trouble. The five-acre complex was picked up by a partnership headed by Kates, one of the state's biggest landlords.

When rent control was approved by voters in 1979, the modest rental rates were locked in, and Kates became a leading foe of rent control. Over the years Kates was the force behind initiatives to convert units into condominiums and efforts to buy out the tenants.

"I'm sure a lot of money (to fight rent control) came through Larry Kates," said former Mayor Judy Abdo, who fought the redevelopment project in the mid-1970s. "But he was never able to succeed."

When the state passed a bill four years ago that allowed landlords to rent vacant units in 1999 for what the market could bear, Kates stopped renting or had tenants sign temporary occupancy agreements. During the past few months, the landlord offered tenants between $20,000 and $25,000 to move out. Some forty tenants reportedly took up the offer.

By the time the sale of the building closed on Thursday, tenants estimate there are more than 100 vacant units in the city's largest residential complex.

For more on the sale TOWERING SALE
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