SOURCE: Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

January 25, 2008 19:45 ET

Conquest Student Housing -- University Gateway Development Project

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - January 25, 2008) - Conquest Student Housing is pleased to announce that it has settled all litigation and other disputes between it and the University of Southern California, developer Urban Partners, financier The Blackstone Group, and Los Angeles property owners the Shammas family.

On Friday morning, January 18, a Los Angeles court was scheduled to rule on Conquest's environmental, zoning violation, and other challenges to the University Gateway project, a mixed-use commercial and residential project that Urban, Blackstone, and USC want to build across from the USC campus in Los Angeles. Hours before the hearing was to start, USC, Urban, and Blackstone agreed to drop various legal claims against Conquest in exchange for Conquest dropping its claims against USC and Urban as part of a settlement that achieves peace among all the parties. "We are confident that the court would have agreed with Conquest's objections to the University Gateway project last Friday, which is why USC and Urban were so anxious to settle this case before the Court ruled on those objections," states Kent Raygor, Esq., counsel for Conquest.

The parties had become embroiled in disputes arising out of the University Gateway project and other projects in the local area in which Urban is involved.

As part of the settlement, Conquest agreed to drop its claims against Urban arising from Urban's recent interference with Conquest's "Tuscany" student housing complex, which faces the main entrance to the USC campus. Urban tried to persuade the City of Los Angeles to revoke the building permit for Conquest's Tuscany project, even though the project had already been under construction for almost one-and-a-half years. The City rejected Urban's challenges, thereby allowing Tuscany to be completed. Conquest also agreed to drop its claims against USC arising from recent litigation USC had filed and then dropped.

In addition, Urban, Blackstone and the Shammas family agreed to not challenge any existing Conquest real estate or development project. Conquest, in turn, agreed to not challenge any Urban, Blackstone, Shammas family or USC project.

Conquest's primary concerns in challenging the University Gateway project were the lack of adequate parking for the project and its violation of the City of Los Angeles zoning ordinance. Now that these concerns have been thoroughly aired by means of this lengthy litigation, Conquest is confident that similar issues will not arise again in future projects proposed by Urban, USC, and others.

USC and Urban had filed a lawsuit against Conquest in federal court in September 2007. Conquest responded by filing a motion to dismiss all of USC's and Urban's claims. The Court never ruled on Conquest's motion to dismiss. Instead, it asked that Conquest withdraw its motion and then ordered USC and Urban to try and narrow their claims and file a new, viable complaint by January 17. USC and Urban failed to file the ordered new complaint by that deadline and instead, immediately thereafter, dropped all of their claims against Conquest.

"USC and Urban were using this lawsuit to try to muzzle the public's First Amendment right to tell the City or the courts, or even fellow community members, about development projects they believe violate environmental, health and safety, zoning, or other such restrictions, a constitutional violation no court will allow," states Mr. Raygor. "The settlement was mutual, voluntary, and without any admission of liability by any party," he added. "All of the parties, including USC, Blackstone, Urban and Shammas, expressly agreed in writing that no part of their settlement or any of the claims any of them had asserted was to be seen as admitting any liability or any wrongdoing by anyone involved, and that they all had just decided that it was better to resolve their differences and avoid the expense and uncertainties of litigation." Mr. Raygor adds that, "Conquest remains a proud partner of the greater USC community and will continue to work with the community in efforts aimed at revitalizing the area."

About Conquest Student Housing

Conquest Student Housing, founded in 1993, is the premier provider of housing for students at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Today the company houses over 1,400 students in 19 buildings at USC and over 500 students in 3 buildings at UCSB. Conquest operates under the core belief that students want and deserve safer, higher quality housing and better service. The company also operates under a no "nickel and dime" philosophy, by which parking and services such as Ethernet and DISH Network television are operated in-house and included in rent.

The company has rapidly grown its real estate acquisitions, development, and management company, engaging in 21 acquisitions and development projects in the last 15 years. In late 2006, construction was completed on "Tuscany," Conquest's latest development. Tuscany is a $40,000,000 mixed-use project that houses over 500 students upstairs and 6 national retailers on the ground floor. The Tuscany complex is located directly across the street from the main entrance to the USC campus.

The company started with one building at USC called "Chez Ronnee" on Shrine Place that housed about 65 students with one manager in the office and one maintenance tech in the field. Today the company is made up of a 43-person staff consisting of a diverse group of individuals representing 8 countries and speaking 7 different languages.

For questions about this press release, please contact Kent R. Raygor, Esq., Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, 1901 Avenue of the Stars, 16th Floor, Los Angeles, California 90067, (310) 228-3730.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Kent R. Raygor, Esq.
    Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP
    1901 Avenue of the Stars, 16th Floor
    Los Angeles, California 90067
    (310) 228-3730