One year after the county taped eviction notices to the doors of the eight blufftop properties considered to be unsafe on Del Playa Drive, four of the properties are in the process of being remodeled and the rest have been deemed safe for habitation.
County officials have been working with the owners of three of the properties to create individual remodeling plans. Santa Barbara County Supervising Building Inspector Lincoln Thomas said the rest of the properties were deemed livable.
Unless there is a major weather event, the county has no immediate plans to reevaluate the safety of the other blufftop properties, Thomas said. Since they sit on eroding land, the county will eventually have to find a permanent solution for the properties, but Thomas said he does not know when that will happen.
“Eventually, everything that’s on the bluff will have to be addressed one way or another because the bluff keeps eroding,” Thomas said.
The owners of the eight DP properties received initial notices from the county a year and a half ago, informing them that, due to erosion, their properties were no longer safe for habitation. The county received appeals regarding several of the properties.
Thomas said the county is still working with three of the landlords to renovate their properties up to code. The three properties are allowed to have conditional occupancy, meaning they can only be rented out if the owners fix certain problems with them. All of the properties are still vacant. One property is under construction and the owners of the other two properties are awaiting approval from the county before remodeling.
Santa Barbara County Development Review Planner Dan Gullet said he has been working with DP property owner James Gelb on plans to rebuild and remodel two of Gelb’s properties, located at 6705 and 6707 DP. The county’s zoning administrator will review the plans for Gelb’s land on Feb. 27.
Gullet said the plans call for the demolishment of each of the existing structures and for the removal of concrete patios on the bluff-side of each property. Each duplex’s carport will then be converted into a bedroom. Both properties will be downsized from approximately 1,364 to 934 square feet during the remodeling.
Lou Ventura, owner of the formerly condemned apartment complex at 6619 DP, said he spent $300,000 on geological tests to prove that the bluffs beneath his property were not eroding. He said the county is now asking him to reimburse them for the money it incurred in fighting his appeal.
“The county deemed the property safe,” Ventura said. “As a matter of fact, they said it was one of, if not the safest, property on DP.”
Ventura said county officials are currently asking him to reimburse them for approximately $27,000. While the county has a legal right to recover its costs if a property is found to be noncompliant with local safety ordinances, Ventura said he thinks the county does not have the right to ask for the fees because his complex was deemed safe.
“They never gave a reason why it was out of compliance,” Ventura said. “It was never out of compliance, so they don’t have the right to recover the fees.”
Ventura said the county only recently requested the money, but if officials continue to demand the funds, he will consider suing the county. He said he thinks the county should just absorb the costs, but he said he does not think that will happen.
“Requesting the $27,000 after the run around they gave us is real salt on a wound,” Ventura said.