LOS ANGELES-The owners of the former Ambassador Hotel have filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court here, apparently hoping to stop the LA Unified School District from seizing the historic property.

The owner, a partnership known as Wilshire Center Marketplace, wants to develop a shopping center and theater complex on the site of the closed hotel, but the LAUSD wants it to build a sorely needed high school. The dispute dates back nearly a decade, when the district first tried to condemn the property and paid a $49-million deposit toward its purchase.

The district later decided to back out and asked for its deposit to be returned. When the owners were unable to return the money, the district began foreclosure proceedings and revived the high school plans.

A Wilshire Center Marketplace spokesman says the owners are seeking more time to pay the deposit back to the school district. The hotel, where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, closed in 1989.

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