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San Diego City Attorney takes legal action over student apartments safety issue

The Hall of Justice, where the District Attorney’s office is housed, in Downtown San Diego is shown on Jan. 29, 2019.
Megan Wood
The Hall of Justice, where the District Attorney’s office is housed, in Downtown San Diego is shown on Jan. 29, 2019.

The San Diego City Attorney's Office filed a civil enforcement complaint Monday against the owners of an apartment complex near the University of San Diego that city officials allege leased units to tenants while the building lacked a working fire system.

The complaint concerns The Carl, a 14-unit apartment complex described on its website as "designed by University of San Diego alumni for university students."

According to the City Attorney's Office, which alleges some units were rented out for as much as $4,200 monthly, college students were living in the building for months before a working fire system was installed and problems with the building were reported by students and their parents.


Tenants also allegedly occupied the building while its owners lacked a Certificate of Occupancy from the city, which certifies whether a building complies with local laws and can be occupied.

While an operable fire protection system is now in place, the City Attorney's Office says city inspectors have not been able to examine the premises and approve its occupancy.

Representatives for the apartment complex did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

City Attorney Mara Elliott said in a statement, "Students and parents, desperate to find safe and convenient housing before the school year started, were charged exorbitant rent to move into a building that lacked a working fire emergency system ... Property owners should be on notice that the City Attorney's Office will not look the other way while they endanger occupants' lives, and especially not the young lives of our community's college students."

The complaint seeks civil penalties of $2,500 per day for any ongoing violations of the San Diego Municipal Code and the state's Unfair Competition law, as well as potential restitution for The Carl's tenants.

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