By Jared Sichel / Los Angeles Jewish Journal
After sitting dormant for nearly three years following a foreclosure and a lengthy lawsuit between Chabad of California—the previous owner—and Pacific Mercantile Bank, a 78-acre campground and resort center in Running Springs was sold Friday for $7.1 million to a different Orthodox Jewish group, Bnei Akiva of Los Angeles.
An international Modern Orthodox youth organization, Bnei Akiva is raising another $2.9 million to refurbish it so that it can be used as a summer camp and a year-round resort for the local Jewish community. Running Springs is in the San Bernardino Mountains, about 90 miles outside Los Angeles.
Beginning in November 2011, when Pacific foreclosed on the property due to Chabad’s defaulting on a $8.25 million loan (the campground was collateral), the two parties have been engaged in 33 months of legal proceedings in San Bernardino and a victory in a state appeals court by Chabad in July 2013 that set back Pacific’s attempts to sell the property. Chabad purchased the property for $4.3 million in 2005 and used it for summer camp and year-round events.
Whether Chabad of California will challenge the sale is unclear—the appeals court established that Pacific improperly evicted Chabad from the property, even though Chabad’s default and Pacific’s foreclosure are not in question.
One issue that Chabad’s attorney, Michael Simkin, has raised is that the group has a large amount of personal property still at the site—including bunk beds and expensive, kosher kitchen equipment—likely worth as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars.