Landlord boots tenants from West L.A. apartments for sprinkler fix
All 712 units at Douglas Emmett’s fire-plagued Barrington Plaza will leave rental market
Douglas Emmett is evicting residents in nearly 600 occupied apartments at its fire-plagued Barrington Plaza in Sawtelle for a sprinkler upgrade that will cost $300 million.
The Santa Monica-based real estate investment trust will withdraw all 712 rent-controlled units in Barrington Plaza from the rental market at 11740 Wilshire Boulevard, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Tenants in 577 flats are being booted under the Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to remove tenants from rent-controlled apartments if their building is taken off the rental market.
Residents, many who have lived at Barrington Plaza for decades, must move out of the 60-year-old complex within the next year.
Tenants will get relocation expenses according to city guidelines, including as much as $9,200 for those who have lived there for less than three years. Elderly or disabled occupants could get more than $22,000.
What had been a deadly, fire-prone complex will be returned to the rental market when the upgrades are complete, the landlord told the Times. No completion date has been set. There aren’t any provisions for renters to move back to their former homes.
Barrington Plaza suffered two life-threatening fires in the last nine years, including one that turned deadly.
In 2013, one of the three towers at the Barrington Plaza caught fire, injuring two residents and displacing 125 tenants. The conflagration sparked a tenant lawsuit that dragged on for years.
Fire broke out again in the same 25-story, Tower A highrise in 2020. A 19-year-old man died and 13 people were injured, including a 3-month-old baby and two firefighters. Eight floors in the building remain vacant.
Although city law doesn’t require Barrington Plaza and other residential towers of its era to perform sprinkler retrofits, city officials made its planned repairs from the 2020 fire contingent on upgrading the safety standards of all units.
“We understand the impact removing all Barrington Plaza rental units from the market will have on our tenants,” Jordan Kaplan, CEO of Douglas Emmett, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this is the only way to comply with city directives to install fire sprinklers and other life safety improvements throughout the towers following the January 2020 fire.”
The sprinkler issue at Barrington Plaza became an issue last fall during the District 11 race for the City Council seat vacated by Councilman Mike Bonin. Traci Park, who won the election, had received a $400,000 campaign contribution from the publicly traded Douglas Emmett.
As many as 55 residential highrises in Los Angeles built between 1943 and 1974, containing nearly 9,300 units, are exempted from laws requiring sprinklers.
Tenant rights advocate Larry Gross said Douglas Emmett should have planned to temporarily relocate the tenants and allow them to return to their rent-controlled units when repairs are complete.
“That’s one of the largest complexes on the Westside,” Gross, of the Coalition for Economic Survival, told the Times. Its “rent-controlled units will be lost forever if they use the Ellis Act.”
— Dana Bartholomew
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