February 21, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

City Denies That Upgrades Are Needed Amidst LA’s Largest Rent-Controlled Housing Eviction in 40 Years

Barrington Plaza Evictions Coincide with Lavish Makeover Plans 

By Dolores Quintana

As we have reported previously, tenants of the Barrington Plaza Apartments complex were served with eviction notices in May of this year in a controversial decision. The property owner, Douglas Emmett Inc., stated in a press release, as part of a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, that the evacuation was necessary to facilitate mandated fire safety upgrades imposed by the city of Los Angeles. Fires in 2013 and 2020 damaged the building, which led to eight floors of one of the buildings being declared uninhabitable. 

According to the owner, the city conditioned permit approval for restoring the fire-damaged floors by installing sprinklers and additional safety equipment, prompting the evacuation of all three towers. The estimated cost for the required work surpassed $300 million, with completion anticipated to take several years.

The Barrington Plaza Tenant Association’s press release states that Barrington Plaza’s corporate landlord, Douglas Emmett, is currently serving Unlawful Detainers to tenants whom they did not approve for extensions and could not vacate the premises by the September 5th Ellis Act eviction deadline. When asked, the BP Tenant Association responded via email that the Ellis Act is a California state law allowing landlords to evict tenants in rent-controlled units if they are permanently leaving the rental business and that the court will decide on the outcome. They also added that the Barrington Plaza Ellis Act Eviction has been the subject of multiple discussions in the chambers of the Los Angeles City Council, but the City Council has gone silent since. 

The Barrington Plaza Tenants Association and the Coalition for Economic Survival are assisting these tenants with their “Notice of Related Case,” which is part of the earlier-filed motion to overturn our May 8, 2024 eviction, scheduled for trial in Santa Monica Court on February 13, 2024.

The City of West Hollywood and the City of Santa Monica have issued resolutions supporting The Barrington Plaza residents. West Hollywood’s resolution reminds us that this is the largest mass eviction since the eviction of the residents of Chavez Ravine. It also states that the city has supported multiple attempts to repeal the Ellis Act. 

The City of Santa Monica’s resolution states,“The City Council of Santa Monica implores Barrington Plaza owner Douglas Emmett, Inc., a company headquartered in Santa Monica, to honor the City’s commitment to protecting renters’ rights by not evicting the tenants of Barrington Plaza or implores Barrington Plaza owner Douglas Emmett, Inc. to offer the tenants the right to return to their units at the lawful rent in effect at the time the notice of intent to withdraw the accommodations was filed…”

The City Council of Santa Monica adds,” The City Council of Santa Monica implores Barrington Plaza owner Douglas Emmett, Inc. to offer the tenants the right to return to their units at the lawful rent in effect at the time the notice of intent to withdraw the accommodations was filed…”

Robert Lawrence, a Barrington Plaza tenant who is scheduled to be evicted in April 2024, said, as quoted by Capitol and Main.com, “This is going to be premiere property on the Westside, three state-of-the-art high-rises with all the amenities. They’re going to charge, you know, double or triple the rents.” As it is, Lawrence currently pays $2,400 each month for his one-bedroom apartment in Barrington Plaza. 

Contrary to the company’s assertions made to the City Council and investors, a city spokesperson contradicted the purported requirements according to Capitol and Main. The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety clarified that the mentioned enhancements were neither requested nor mandated. Todd Golden, business manager for Sprinkler Fitters U.A. Local Union 709, said, as quoted by Capitol and Main.com, “I’ve just never heard of such a thing that they have to evacuate all three buildings. It’s not part of what we do.” 

The Los Angeles Department of City Planning approved plans on May 11 for exterior remodeling, and shortly thereafter, Douglas Emmett issued the Ellis Act eviction notices. According to Capitol and Main, the proposed “Landmark Plaza” includes new amenities, balconies, landscaped gardens, glazed windows, a state-of-the-art gym, updated storefronts, and a refurbished pool area with cabanas. 

Eric Rose, the spokesman for Douglas Emmett, told Capitol and Main.com, “At this time, the owners of Barrington Plaza are removing the units from the market and have options as to how those units will change, be rehabilitated through new life safety measures or become something different.”

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