Receiver brings “checkered history” to oversee 29 buildings in DTLA

L.A. Times investigation of Skid Row Housing Trust case examines billing, judges’ rulings

A photo illustration of California Receivership Group's Mark Adams and Los Angeles' Skid Row neighborhood (Getty, California Receivership Group)

A photo illustration of California Receivership Group’s Mark Adams and Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood (Getty, California Receivership Group)

A judge has appointed a receiver with a troubled history of managing distressed properties to oversee 29 residential buildings in L.A.’s Skid Row, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation.

The receiver, Mark Adams and his Santa Monica-based California Receivership Group, were appointed at the request of Mayor Karen Bass and City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto to oversee affordable complexes operated by Skid Row Housing Trust, the Times reported.

The financially embattled trust, based Downtown, has worked since February to divest its 29 residential hotels and complexes that serve as home to more than 1,500 formerly homeless tenants.

Before Adams’ appointment, many tenants lived in fear and squalor, with three people dying of drug overdoses in one day last month. City officials spoke of an “impending humanitarian crisis.” 

And Adams, they said, was singularly qualified for the receivership role because of his “wealth of knowledge and experience.”

But a Times review of court records and dozens of interviews with those involved in Adams’ past receiverships raise questions about his ability to manage the trust’s beleaguered portfolio and to care for the tenants under his control.

In two cases comparable to the Skid Row Housing Trust case, Adams left years before they were resolved. In court filings, he also omitted key facts about his involvement.

In other cases involving Adams, tenants faced the risk of eviction and property owners lost their houses. At the same time, his fees have risen as high as $465 an hour.

In multiple instances, judges and local governments have determined that Adams has padded staffing, increased his staff’s rates without informing the judge and engaged in duplicative billing — inflating his fees by six-figure amounts, according to the Times investigation.

A judge in one case likened Adams’ billing to a “feeding frenzy.”

In East Los Angeles, Adams took control of a dilapidated triplex, sold it and tried to bill the estate $530,000 before an angry judge cut the amount by more than half. The 70-year-old property owner lost everything and has mostly lived in shelters and cheap hotels ever since.

In the Coachella Valley, Adams acted as receiver over a community of 4,000 residents, primarily migrant farmworkers. He saddled the receivership with $220,000 in debt; a judge removed him from the case.

In an interview with The Times, Adams defended his record, saying he has taken on hard cases throughout his career, which makes criticism inevitable.

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Los Angeles mayor Karen Bass; Skid Row Housing Trust's Joanne Cordero (Skid Row Housing Trust, Getty)
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Adams argued that his firm has handled nearly 300 receiverships, more than anyone else in the state, and that cities and judges wouldn’t keep putting him in charge if he wasn’t getting results. He said he’s the only one with the expertise in contracting, property management and financing needed to handle the magnitude of his current assignment.

“There is nobody other than me, in California or anywhere in the United States, that would even have a chance of solving the problem at Skid Row Housing Trust,” Adams said.

— Dana Bartholomew