LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- More than 500 people who are being forced out of a West Los Angeles apartment complex are raising money through a GoFundMe page in hopes of hiring a legal team to fight the mass eviction in court.
Barrington Plaza Apartments has been the scene of two fires over the past decade, including one in 2020 that killed a 19-year-old man.
Firefighters discovered the building had no sprinklers.
Shortly after the blaze in 2020, Eyewitness News filed a public records request with the Los Angeles Fire Department seeking to identify all the high-rises without sprinkler systems.
On the list were 55 residential high-rises and one hotel.
The owners are now ready to spend roughly $300 million to update the building and install fire sprinklers, but they want tenants out by the end of the summer.
Tenants were told they'll be given thousands of dollars in relocation expenses, but many of the units are rent controlled.
Lewis Fendell said he's lived at Barrington Plaza for 50 years.
"I just had surgery, and I don't want to move, but I have to I guess," he said.
Douglas Emmett Inc., the company that owns Barrington Plaza, is pushing tenants out using the Ellis Act, which is a law used by property owners who plan to leave the rental business.
"Douglas Emmett has said very clearly that they intend to keep this vacant for a certain period of time, upgrade the places and then move tenants in at higher prices," former L.A. City Council member Mike Bonin said. "And that certainly violates the spirit of the Ellis Act."
The 25-story apartment complex had gotten away with not having a sprinkler system since it was built in the early 1960s and sprinklers were not mandated until 1974.
According to Randy Roxson, a fire consultant for the Sprinkler Fitters Local Union 709, adding fire sprinklers to the building would not cost nearly $300 million and it would not require the displacement of tenants.
"A lot of people will be homeless because of this eviction," tenant Oli Safdari said.
Douglas Emmett declined an on-camera interview, but a spokesperson said in part:
"... These fire and life safety improvements cannot be installed without vacating all three towers since building systems are shared among all three towers, and structural changes, including changes to ceilings and walls, need to be made to carry the weight of the sprinkler system..."