Big Cleanup at the Elegant Manor

Big Cleanup at the Elegant Manor

After 25 years of raucus parties, community outrage and two murders close doors on a public nuisance. 20 tons of junk and 33 disabled vehicles are towed from the decayed West Adams landmark.

By Leslie Evans

[Photo: October 28 press conference at gates of Elegant Manor. Three at podium, from left, are Deputy City Attorney Jan De Andrade, Councilman Martin Ludlow, First AME Pastor Cecil Murray.]

On Thursday, October 28, City Councilman Martin Ludlow, joined by First AME Church pastor Cecil Murray and Deputy City Attorney Jan De Andrade conducted a press conference on the steps of the Elegant Manor at 3115 W. Adams Blvd. at the corner of Arlington Avenue in West Adams, while 15 city tow trucks completed the towing of 33 inoperable vehicles from this blighted property. In the days before, more than 20 tons of trash and debris had been removed from the site by city workers.
Twenty-Five Years as a Public Nuisance
The Elegant Manor

The Elegant Manor has been a major public safety and nuisance property in this part of the city for decades. The property is a large 1903 Italian Gothic home at the corner of Adams Blvd. and Arlington Avenue on almost an acre of land. Though it now sports peeling paint and many broken windows, it once was elegant. It was used for perhaps forty years as a location that could be rented for weddings or family gatherings. But already by the late 1970s it had begun to slip into decay and shady practices. Back in May and July of 1979 the city Department of Building and Safety revoked the property’s conditional use permits as a community center and night club and ordered it restored to a single-family home because of loud parties and spillover parking.

The owner, Ronald Carroll, who had inherited the property from his mother, appealed. In November 1980 the Board of Zoning Appeals authorized Carroll to reopen with the imposition of 15 conditions. This authorization was for a limited time and was set to expire in 1984. At the 1984 re-hearing it was found that Carroll had not lived up to the conditions, which basically prohibited the sale of alcohol, set a limit of 150 guests, required that parties end at midnight, that there be no outdoor sound amplification, that adequate parking be arranged for all guests, and that trash from parties on the property and surrounding streets be cleaned up by the owners of the property. Carroll’s permit to operate was revoked and it was ruled that “the property shall not be used for a private communty center.”

The Elegant Manor then operated illegally for the next five years. At the beginning of 1989 the city waffled again, agreeing to renew Carroll’s permit to run a community center for weddings, birthday parties, and club meetings. Four years later, in December 1992, on reviewing Carroll’s conduct, the Zoning Administrator found that the property had continued to be a public nuisance and had not adhered to the conditions imposed more than a decade earlier and reimposed in 1989. The conditions were renewed and Carroll was given two years to come up with a written plan to implement them. At that point the city forgot about the Elegant Manor for the next 12 years — until the murders in January 2004. Carroll never submitted the plan. And while the city sent him an occasional reminder or even an order to stop doing business, twelve years drifted by and nothing was done.
The January 2004 Murders

In the 1970s and even into the late 1980s the Elegant Manor was used mostly for weddings and birthday parties. Then as that business declined, the owner began to rent out for rave parties and to gang members. On the evening of January 31, 2004, some 300-400 supporters and members of the Black P Stone gang, a Bloods affiliate and offshoot of the Blackstone Rangers gang in Chicago, were partying at the Manor. Several cars of Latino teenagers saw the party and, assuming it was public, parked and asked if they could come in. Jason Ramos, 16, and his sister Shulma Ramos, 17, had walked up to the door when a gang member demanded that Jason hand over his Celtics basketball jersey. Jason complied, then tried to get out of there. Gang members opened up a hail of gunfire, leaving Jason and Shulma dead and several of their friends wounded. They were the only children of a single mother. They had no connection to gangs.

This finally galvanized the city authorities — although even then the wheels of justice were a bit creaky. On February 5, Building and Safety inspected the property and filed criminal complaints against Ronald Carroll for gross violations of sanitary and building codes. On April 6, two months after the killings, there was a hearing in front of Zoning Administrator Anik Charron at City Hall. I attended along with more than forty community residents. One after another they testified to years of amplified music thumping for a block from the Manor into the early hours of the morning. They told about gunfire in the streets as parties ended, of party goers urinating on their lawns, parking cars in their driveways and threatening them with violence if they complained, of trash and broken bottles on their sidewalks after every party.

Not a single person spoke in support of the Elegant Manor except Carroll himself. His argument was really curious. He claimed that he had no responsibility for anything that happened on his property, because he turned it over the community or his clients. It was like a public park, he said. No one is personally responsible for what other people do in a public park. Anik Charron listened to this with incredulity plainly written on her face.

On May 20, 2004, she issued her report. Charron ruled that no conditional use permit existed for the Elegant Manor, and that the property had operated illegally without permits for most of the previous 25 years. She declared in her report:

“The Elegant Manor constitutes a problem location for the LAPD and the community due to the weekend activites allowed by the owner of the property. The type of nuisance activities ranges from noise, trash, debris, loitering, littering, public drinking and urination, car racing, overspill parking, blocking of neighbors driveways, verbal assault, trespassing, and more recently homicide.”

A few weeks later, in June, Building and Safety prohibited any further public activities on the property. This time it appears that Ronald Carroll is paying attention. He has been threatened with jail time if he violates the order.
The Big Cleanup
City tow truck with one of the dozens of rusted vans.

In the fall, the city began to look at the accumulation of debris in the side yard and back yard of the Elegant Manor. When I was there a few weeks ago I counted 24 inoperable cars and trucks. Most were part of a long-dead fleet of rusty white delivery vans from the late 1940s. There were heaps of scrap metal and other debris against the back fence higher than my head. At the end of October, on the order of Councilman Martin Ludlow, city dump trucks were sent with labor crews who cleared away the 20 tons of junk. Underneath they found an additional 9 cars and vans for a total of 33!

The property is now up for sale. Carroll is asking $1.2 million for the main house and an additional $800,000 for the side yard on the east side of the property.

Published: 10/31/2004

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