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Strip mall under fire from city


The City Attorney’s Office this week sued the owners of a Vermont Avenue strip mall, seeking a cleanup of “a cesspool of lawlessness” that has allegedly existed there for two decades.

The Los Angeles Superior Court complaint targets what is known as the Hut Village or the Hut in the 5500 block of South Vermont Avenue and names as defendants landlords Evert and Betty Williams, who could not be immediately reached for comment.

The suit seeks a court declaration that the commercial center is a public nuisance and an order for the enactment of various improvements, including an Internet-connected security video system accessible to the LAPD, patrols by an armed security guard and the appointment of a receiver to carry out the directives.

The property is a “cesspool of lawlessness marked by violence, including murder, shootings, batteries, robberies and narcotics sales,” the suit alleges.

The location also is a “stronghold for two allied gangs” that loiter there in large groups to claim the property as their turf, according to the complaint.

“They are often armed and have been known to deal narcotics in the parking lot,” the suit says. “Their constant presence on the property makes it an easy target for shootings by rival gangs.”

Many of the businesses lack proper licenses and permits “and some even appear to facilitate and/or permit the gangs’ activities in their respective businesses,” the suit alleges.

Four schools are within a half-mile of the Hut Village, according to the city attorney.