UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica (Daniel Archuleta daniela@www.smdp.com)

Busy Bee Hardware, located at 1521 Santa Monica Blvd., is being sued by the Regents of the University of California for damages caused to their property at 1525 Santa Monica Blvd.

The two properties are adjacent to each other and the dispute is based on a shared wall that is part of the Busy Bee business, but sits on the UCLA property.

The lawsuit, which was served to Busy Bee on July 2, alleges that Busy Bee is leasing its property from owner George A. Haine, and the business as well as Haine are named in the suit because UCLA is “unaware of the true names and capacities of defendants sued.”

“After more than a year of trying to resolve this issue with Busy Bee in a friendly and neighborly fashion, the University of California has been forced to seek legal action to obtain a response from the property and business owners,” Simi Singer, spokesperson for UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, said.

Busy Bee told the Daily Press they were unable to contact Haine, who had moved to Hawaii several years ago, during the time that UCLA was discussing the problem with them.

“We have since located Mr. Haine and he is in good contact with us now and is aware of the situation,” Joseph Hunter, supervisor of Busy Bee, said.

“This situation goes back to June of 2014, when we received word from UCLA, our neighbor of three years, via a representative who came over to our store on a Friday and told us that the following Monday they were going to begin demolition on the building next door with which we share a concrete block wall in an ‘L’ shape,” said Hunter.

Hunter said the wall spans 30 feet (north side) by 60 feet (east side/northern section) by 18 feet (height).

“Initially, UCLA was under the impression that there were two concrete block walls between us and told us not to worry because they were going to demolish their wall but, they were going to keep our wall intact,” he said.

“I explained to them that there was only one wall for a big part of the area that they intended to demolish, which they couldn’t believe until I took pictures from the roof which clearly show that, although there’s two walls for a short distance, approximately 22 feet, then there is an area that extends for over 90 feet where there is only one wall.”

Hunter said UCLA attempted to convince Busy Bee to quickly build a different wall on their property’s side so workers could tear down the entirety of the current ones.

But Hunter said the concrete block walls constitute the walls of Busy Bee’s warehouse.

“The roof of the warehouse uses these walls for lateral and subjacent support. We have used them peacefully, openly, honestly and continuously since the time the current owner has had possession, over 50 years,” he said.

Hunter said that Busy Bee did have estimates done to determine the cost of a replacement concrete block wall, “but due to the complexity of the job … we secured five estimates which averaged out to $144,000. Permits, architectural drawings and structural analysis not included in these estimates,” he said. “That’s just to have the wall rebuilt.”

Singer said UCLA has repeatedly attempted to resolve the issue with Busy Bee, “including a goodwill offer to subsidize the cost of removing their encroachments,” but “both Busy Bee and the property owner have ignored our efforts to compromise and refused to work toward a resolution,” she said. “They have left us no choice but to seek legal action to achieve a solution.”

The documents served to Busy Bee Hardware by UCLA and obtained by the Daily Press state they are suing Busy Bee for trespass, nuisance title and quiet title. They are demanding damages for each of these claims.

“Busy Bee Hardware’s unpermitted storage area encroaches on property of the University of California and could present a safety hazard if left in its existing condition. Busy Bee’s encroachment has also halted plans of the University’s hospital to build on its property,” Singer said.

Hunter said these claims are unfounded, as the store has been in peaceful possession by the owner for over 50 years; an agreement that promises the tenant of a real property a right to possess the property in peace, without disturbance by antagonistic claimants.

Hunter stated that while Busy Bee had hired a lawyer when the situation began in 2014, they cannot afford ongoing legal fees and are currently without legal representation.

“[Busy Bee] has been running at a loss over the past few years, partially due to current economic challenges, but most severely impacted in a negative way over the last year while UCLA was demolishing the building next door, we saw an immediate and substantial loss of customer flow that coincided with the demolition project next door,” Hunter said.

Hunter said that if this case goes to trial, “Busy Bee will most certainly go bankrupt.”

jennifer@www.smdp.com

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