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Housing and Homelessness
Your guide to renting in this complicated — and expensive — place.

Hundreds Of Renters In This West LA Apartment Complex Are Being Evicted As COVID Protections Expire

Damage from a fire at the Barrington Plaza apartments is seen on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.
(David Wagner
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Hundreds of renters are being evicted from a West L.A. high-rise apartment complex more than three years after a massive fire broke out on the property.

The owners of Barrington Plaza said the 712-unit apartment building must be completely vacated in order to install fire sprinklers and other safety equipment required by the city as part of plans to rebuild following the 2020 fire.

“These fire and life safety improvements cannot be accomplished without vacating all three towers,” said a spokesperson for the building’s owners in an emailed press release. “Barrington Plaza has stopped leasing vacant units,” they said, and the repairs could take several years and upwards of $300 million.

One foreign exchange student died as a result of the 2020 fire.

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The landlord, a major Santa Monica-based real estate firm called Douglas Emmett, is carrying out the evictions under California’s Ellis Act. That law gives landlords a way to evict tenants and remove their properties from the rental market.

During the pandemic, the city of L.A. protected renters from Ellis Act evictions. But those COVID-era protections expired earlier this year. Barrington Plaza now represents one of L.A.’s largest-ever mass evictions under the Ellis Act, according to the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and the Coalition for Economic Survival.

Facing an eviction?

Douglas Emmett is clearing tenants from 577 currently occupied units. David Lee, an eviction attorney with Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, said those tenants could struggle to secure new apartments.

“They will need to find new housing in a rental market that's already stretched very, very thin,” Lee said. “The cost of moving is extremely high. And, especially in rent-controlled units, tenants might have to face rent increases of $1,000 or more for the same number of bedrooms.”

Barrington representatives said tenants will receive relocation payments, as required under the law. Those payments will range from $9,200 to $22,950, depending on factors such as how long tenants have lived in the building, their age, their income and whether they have a disability.

In most cases, tenants will be required to move out by Sept. 5, the building representative said. But older adults or disabled tenants can stay for one year if they apply for an extension.

The Ellis Act is often used by landlords seeking to leave the rental business permanently — for example, by converting rental apartments into for-sale condos. However, Barrington Plaza’s owners said they plan to put the property back on the rental market following the repairs. Under the city’s rules, if the owners re-rent Barrington Plaza units within the next 10 years, they will have to first offer the apartments to their current occupants.

Barrington Plaza is not the only large apartment building in Los Angeles that lacks fire sprinklers. In 2014, KPCC’s Frank Stoltze and Karen Foshay identified 60 high-rise buildings in L.A. without sprinklers. As their reporting showed, the city’s laws do not require such safeguards in properties built between 1943 and 1974.

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