Yeah, there's more to the story.
I pointed out, at the time, the paradox of owner Douglas Emmett Inc. Ellis Acting the tenants, yet behaving as though the units would return to rental usage. I also mentioned that their story on the future of the complex kept changing.
It seems that Douglas Emmett Inc.'s cover story of needing to install fire sprinklers is based on lies.
As Jessica Goodheart explains in her latest Capital and Main piece:
The owner said the city made its approval of a permit to restore the fire-damaged floors contingent “upon the installation of sprinklers and other life safety equipment.” The safety improvements, including installing sprinklers, “cannot be accomplished without vacating all three towers,” the company news release said. The work “can take several years at a cost of over $300 million,” the news release added.
The company continued to cite the city requirements as the reason for the evictions to the City Council and its investors, and news stories reported it as a fact.
But a city spokesperson said there are no such requirements. When contacted by Capital & Main, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety said it has not mandated the work the building owner said was required. “No enhancements were requested or required by LADBS,” Department of Building and Safety spokesperson Gail Gaddi said in an email response to questions.
So Douglas Emmett Inc. lied about the real reason it plans to mass-evict 577 people. Is anyone surprised?
Barrington Plaza has had three devastating fires (one of which rendered eight floors of one tower empty for the past 8 years), and installing fire sprinklers is common sense. But it doesn't really require removing the tenants:
“I’ve just never heard of such a thing that they have to evacuate all three buildings,” said Todd Golden, business manager for Sprinkler Fitters U.A. Local Union 709. “It’s not part of what we do,” he added. Even if the job is more disruptive, occupants can temporarily be housed in hotels or in a building’s empty apartments, said Golden, who is an experienced sprinkler installer and was invited by a tenant to tour the complex last summer.
Golden estimated the cost of installing fire sprinklers at $10 million for each tower, for a total of $30 million.
So why remove the tenants? MONEY. It's an older, rent-controlled building.
Tellingly, DEI also submitted plans for exterior changes suspiciously close to handing out eviction notices:
The planning department approved the exterior remodeling plans with little fanfare on May 11, a few days after the eviction notices were served to the tenants.
Those plans include new amenities such as balconies, lush landscaped gardens, glazed windows, a state-of-the-art gym, updated storefronts and a refurbished pool area complete with cabanas. The proposed new name, “Landmark Plaza,” aligns Barrington Plaza with its more luxurious neighbor, a Douglas Emmett tower called “The Landmark.” That 34-story apartment building leases 607-square-foot studio apartments for monthly rents ranging between $3,800 and $5,000.
Balconies, new gardens, a fancy new gym, pool cabanas, and a snobby new name? Yeah, those are things that landlords add when they want to attract wealthier renters.
Oh by the way, here are Douglas Emmett Inc.'s political contributions. They've given quite a bit to a district attorney candidate.
And do be sure to read the entire Capital & Main piece - it's damning.