Douglas Emmett sued for fire safety before Barrington Plaza evictions

Tenant alleges REIT ignored “ticking time bomb” at West LA apartment complex

UCLA Anderson School's Jordan Kaplan and Barrington Plaza at 11740 Wilshire Boulevard (Getty, UCLA Anderson School, DocFreeman24, CC BY-SA 4.0 - via Wikimedia Commons)
UCLA Anderson School's Jordan Kaplan and Barrington Plaza at 11740 Wilshire Boulevard (Getty, UCLA Anderson School, DocFreeman24, CC BY-SA 4.0 - via Wikimedia Commons)

A lawsuit against Douglas Emmett preceded the landlord’s eviction of more than 600 tenants this week from Barrington Plaza, one of West Los Angeles’ largest multifamily buildings.

The publicly traded real estate investment trust removed the renters under a California law called The Ellis Act in order to prepare for a $300 million fire sprinkler retrofit. About a week before the widely reported eviction, the company got a reminder to deal with the property’s fire safety. 

On May 1, Barrington Plaza tenant Sergei Maidaniuk filed a lawsuit against Douglas Emmett in Los Angeles Superior Court for breach of contract and private nuisance for allegedly ignoring the problem. 

The complex has had two fires, one in 2013 and another in 2020 where one man died. Douglas Emmett settled a lawsuit over Barrington Plaza’s fire safety in 2019. But issues with safety remained for some tenants.

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“Simply put, Barrington Plaza was a ticking time bomb and fatally unsafe,” the lawsuit alleges. The company also allowed short-term rental companies to sublease space, according to Maidaniuk’s suit.

“Douglas Emmett’s permitting and enabling of Airbnb strangers into the Barrington Plaza property for short-term stays give rise to the dangerous potential of a different convicted felon or bad actor next door every night of the week,” the suit states.

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Plaintiff’s lawyers, personal injury firm McNicholas & McNicholas, did not return a request for comment. A Douglas Emmett representative said the company had not seen the complaint and would not comment on litigation.

Barrington Plaza is located at 11740 Wilshire Boulevard in the Sawtelle area of West Los Angeles. It is three miles away from 1221 Ocean Avenue, a luxury building that Douglas Emmett bought last year for $330 million.