One tenant advocate says it'll be the "largest mass eviction... seen in the city since Chavez Ravine to build Dodger Stadium."
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A judge denied a request by tenants of the Barrington Plaza apartment complex in West Los Angeles to stop evictions set for next month, and the building's owners say they are pleased with the decision.
The rent-controlled buildings are owned by Douglas Emmett Inc., which maintains the evictions are necessary to install fire sprinklers in a complex with a history of dangerous fires.
The Barrington Plaza Tenants Associated filed a lawsuit last month aimed at stopping the eviction of tenants in the 712-unit high-rise. They claim the evictions are illegal.
In a finalized ruling issued Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant found that the balance of harm favored the landlords.
"The tenants' harm in having to defend individual (eviction) actions and face eviction are significant," Chalfant wrote. "However, these harms are undermined by their adequate legal remedies ... and the fact that they will have to move out of their units anyway."
The landlord's harm stems in part from the financial impact of any delay in asserting its right to evict and perform its planned renovation, Chalfant wrote.
Although the tenants make fair points, Douglas Emmett has consistently stated that it cannot proceed with the renovations until every tenant has moved out, Chalfant further wrote.
"Allowing the tenants to stay longer with the landlord unable to file (eviction) actions will delay the move-out process and the intended improvements," according to the judge.
In their suit filed June 12, the tenants said the company is unlawfully using the 1985 Ellis Act to evict all residents, and that the legislation actually was created to allow mom-and-pop landlords to leave the rental business and take the units off the rental market.
Larry Gross, with the Coalition for Economic Survival, says the owners are illegally using the Ellis Act for renovations and as a way to avoid going out of the rental business.
"They're essentially putting a target on the back of every rent-controlled tenant in the city and throughout the state," he said.
Tenant Claudio Montanari believes the owners of the property are using the Ellis Act to temporarily go out of business and come back later with dramatically raised rents.
"I've been looking for rents in the city and there's nothing I can afford in that area. I'm being priced out," Montanari said, adding that he won't leave by the Sept. 5 eviction date.
Tenant advocates are now calling on the city to step in and stop what they call a massive exodus of residents who will have a hard time finding affordable housing elsewhere in the city.
"Barrington Plaza is the third largest complex of rental apartments under the RSO in the city of Los Angeles. If they are evicted, it'll be the largest mass eviction... seen in the city since Chavez Ravine to build Dodger Stadium," Gross said.
A representative for the landlords issued a statement regarding Chalfant's ruling.
"We are grateful to the court for this quick decision," the statement read, adding that the building owners have all along been in compliance with state law.
The statement added that Barrington Plaza has funded more than $7.5 million in tenant relocation payments to facilitate the move-out process.
The complex has seen two fires within seven years. One in 2013 and another in January 2020 that resulted in the death of a college foreign exchange student. After that blaze, eight floors were red-tagged, according to the representative's statement.
City News Service contributed to this report.