Judge rules in favor of evicted tenants at LA’s Barrington Plaza

Court finds landlord Douglas Emmett can’t empty complex for upgrades, then raise rents

Douglas Emmett's Jordan Kaplan with 11740 Wilshire Boulevard (UCLA, Google Maps, Getty)
Douglas Emmett's Jordan Kaplan with 11740 Wilshire Boulevard (UCLA, Google Maps, Getty)

A judge has decided Douglas Emmett broke the law in evicting tenants from 577 rent-controlled apartments in Barrington Plaza in West Los Angeles.

Superior Court Judge H. Jay Ford III tentatively ruled that the Santa Monica-based real estate investment trust had violated the state Ellis Act, which allows landlords to empty their buildings when they plan to “go out of business,” LAist reported.

The investor had aimed to evict residents from 712 rent-controlled and market-rate units to install fire sprinklers at the 62-year-old complex at 11740 Wilshire Boulevard in Sawtelle.

The decision to halt the city’s largest mass eviction will likely be made final in a second court hearing. It immediately affects more than 100 people who still live at Barrington after Douglas Emmett tried to evict them last year.

The court ruling hinged on Douglas Emmett’s plan to vacate the building to conduct renovations, then re-rent the apartments at higher rates, according to a tenants’ attorney. 

Douglas Emmett attorneys said evicting tenants for refurbishing that could take years was, in effect, going out of business — even if the move was temporary.

The judge said the landlord had no intention of permanently going out of business when it filed the evictions a year ago, while planning to continue renting the apartments after the job was done.

“The court concludes [the landlord’s] intent to temporarily withdraw Barrington Plaza from the rental market with the present intent to return it to the rental market after the renovations are completed is inconsistent with an intent to go out of the rental business under the Ellis Act,” Ford wrote.

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Representatives for Douglas Emmett said the company hasn’t decided whether to appeal the ruling, but that the fire safety upgrades would continue. 

Barrington Plaza had two life-threatening fires in the last nine years, including one in 2020 that killed one. Eight floors in one of the buildings remain vacant.

“This is, no doubt, one of the most important tenants’ rights legal victories in state history,” Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, told LAist in an email on the ruling. “This victory shows when tenants unite and organize they can win.”

Monique Gomez, a member of the Barrington Plaza Tenants Association, which filed wrongful eviction lawsuits against Douglas Emmett, said a ruling in its favor would have allowed other landlords across the state to use renovations as a pretext to evict rent-controlled tenants.

“We have been fighting these bogus evictions for over a year now,” Gomez said in an email to LAist, run by public radio station KPCC 89.3 FM. “Tenants here have faced harassment, intimidation and uncertainty without little to no help from the city.

“It shows when we stick together we can win. I am overjoyed.”

In February, Douglas Emmett secured a $550 million construction loan, backed by Barrington Plaza and three other residential properties, The Real Deal reported.

— Dana Bartholomew

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