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LOS ANGELES-Less than a month after an apartment developer scored a major court victory to demolish a low-income rental complex and replace it with a project aimed at more upscale tenants, the American Civil Liberties Union has agreed to defend hundreds of relatively poor families that might be affected by the ambitious plan.

For five years, privately held Los Angeles Lincoln Place Investors Ltd. has been trying to redevelop the aging Lincoln Place Apartments on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice. The city had steadfastly refused the group’s request, noting that the project’s hundreds of low-income tenants would likely be unable to find comparable housing for the same price somewhere else. The developer sued, and finally prevailed in court last month.

Now the ACLU has joined the fray, saying the owners illegally tried to squelch the tenants’ free-speech rights. Motions in the suit were filed yesterday and may well delay demolition at the site.

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