Tenants decry mass evictions by Douglas Emmet at Barrington Plaza in West LA

All 712 rent-controlled units at fire-plagued 1960s complex to shutter indefinitely for sprinkler work

Douglas Emmett's Jordan Kaplan, 11740 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles (Yelp, Getty, UCLA Anderson)

Douglas Emmett’s Jordan Kaplan, 11740 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles (Yelp, Getty, UCLA Anderson)

A fight is brewing at Barrington Plaza, where Douglas Emmet is booting residents from nearly 600 apartments in the largest eviction in Los Angeles.

The Santa Monica-based real estate investment trust is evicting tenants from 577 occupied rent-controlled units to install fire sprinklers at 11740 Wilshire Boulevard, in Sawtelle, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

The tenants are being evicted 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. When evictions are complete, a total 712 units will be affected. 

But some residents, many who have been given four months notice to leave the 61-year-old complex, say they’ll fight to stay. Others, who are at least 62 or disabled, have up to one year to get out.

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. 

Douglas Emmett says the move is necessary to install the sprinklers and other safety equipment in a complex with a history of dangerous fires.

The complex will be returned to the rental market when the upgrades are complete, according to the landlord. No completion date has been set. There aren’t any provisions for renters to move back to their former homes.

Barrington Plaza saw two life-threatening fires in the last nine years, including one that turned deadly. Eight floors in one of the buildings remain vacant.

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Some tenants are already packing their stuff while facing a significant jump in rent and the irony that their own evictions might drive up prices even more.

Goral and others believe the company is improperly applying the law and that it can make the safety upgrades without permanently displacing them. 

“In a period where we’re dealing with homelessness throughout the city and county, it’s a major issue that this company would suddenly put almost 600 people on the housing market to compete for housing,” Miki Goral, a librarian at UCLA, told the Times. “It’s not a sensible thing to do.”

Eric Rose, a spokesman for Douglas Emmett, said that when the company submitted plans to rebuild the damaged floors, the city conditioned its approval on the installation of sprinklers and other safety equipment throughout Barrington Plaza’s three towers.

Those changes cannot be done without vacating the three towers at the same time, Rose said, because building systems are shared among them and “structural changes, including changes to ceilings and walls, need to be made in order to carry the weight of the sprinkler system.”

He said the apartments could eventually return to the rental market under rules laid out by the city. There are no plans to build new condominiums on the site, Rose said.

This month, Barrington tenant Sergei Maidaniuk filed a lawsuit against Douglas Emmett for breach of contract and private nuisance for allegedly ignoring the fire safety problem. 

— Dana Bartholomew

Read more

Barrington Plaza at 11740 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles with Douglas Emmett's CEO Jordan Kaplan
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Landlord boots tenants from West L.A. apartments for sprinkler fix
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)
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Douglas Emmett sued for fire safety before Barrington Plaza evictions
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