West LA tenants scrambling to find new homes after apartment complex announces retrofit plans

Barrington Plaza, an apartment complex in West Los Angeles with a history of fires, is evicting all residents for a sprinkler renovation and safety upgrades. 

The landlord, Douglas Emmett Inc. notified city officials that it will stop renting all 712 units in the complex. The eviction process is expected to start in September, and residents were notified on Monday. 

The news comes following the complex's history of life-threatening fires, including one that killed a 19-year-old student. The most recent fire in January of 2020 has left eight floors of the building red-tagged and out of service. 

"We know that this building is not safe. This is not a theoretical concern. There have already been two fires and numerous life-threatening injuries as well as at least one fatality and we have got to get these fire sprinklers installed in this building," said Councilwoman Traci Park, who represents the district. 

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hundreds of West LA tenants face eviction in fire-plagued apartment complex

Park submitted a motion to the LA City Council Tuesday to provide tenants with relocation benefits. 

"I submitted a motion at City Council this morning directing the Housing Department to closely monitor the relocation process, ensure that all legal obligations are complied with and report back to us every 30 days, so we have oversight in this process to make sure these tenants are being accommodated and relocated as fairly as possible. The sad fact here is that this is going to impact hundreds of my constituents and so my office is going to continue to respond to inquiries as we get them," said Park.

The renovation process is expected to take several years. Many of the residents at Barrington Plaza have lived there for decades and have rent controls. 

"Ensuring that these folks are given the financial relocation assistance that is necessary, that they are utilizing the relocation specialist that the property owner is providing to make sure that they are matched with other comparable units at comparable rental rates is something that's important to me," said Park.

Residents like Iman Zadeh, who has lived in the complex for two years, said it is a really stressful situation. 

"I've been talking to people in the elevators, or the yard, and they're all stressed out so it's a very devastating situation," said Zadeh.

Zadeh said the impact is enormous for residents. 

"There are a lot of families who are living here, kids going to schools. For example, I myself work remotely. I had an option to go to the office and said no. I want to live here because of the price of the rent and everything. It's just nonsense because they knew about this plan in advance. They didn't fix the elevators, garage doors or take care of the security here. There are a lot of issues," said Zadeh. 

Zadeh said there are a lot of senior residents who have to scramble to find a new place to live too, and there are not a lot of options. 

"If you go on Zillow or any other app or platform, you cannot find more than 700 vacant units that all of the people here can go. It's not acceptable, and I see senior people here who have been living here for a while now so they're shocked. Some are on their pensions," said Zadeh. 

According to the LA Times, the complex was built in the early 1960s, which made it exempt from laws requiring sprinklers that are triggered by fire.