Upon closer inspection of a newly proposed county plan, many Isla Vista residents fear being left out in the cold.
Thursday night Mark Chaconas, 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall’s executive assistant, hosted the monthly town hall meeting for Isla Vista residents, landlords and county officials at the University Religious Center in I.V. The primary discussion was the proposed county plan to implement mandatory inspections in over 4,600 I.V. residences, which are intended to replace the current complaint-driven inspection program. The plan, which has yet to be brought before the County Board of Supervisors, would require two additional full-time inspectors, a $30 per unit, per year inspection charge paid by property owners and a five-year time span to fully canvass I.V.
Chaconas said he hoped the community meeting would help clarify the county’s intentions regarding the plan, which has already generated debate.
“The purpose of [Thursday’s] meeting was to outline the project, generate a dialogue and form an innovative way to address the issues of the community,” he said. “The ultimate goal being safe and quality housing.”
Since 1998, over 90 percent of all complaint-driven inspections have come from the I.V. area. Ken Forman, county supervising building inspector, said he felt such a statistic warranted further action.
“Our experience is we can do a better job with an increased inspection program. Maintaining safe housing will be of the utmost importance,” he said.
I.V. resident and landlord Consi Brown said the plan unfairly attacked property owners.
“The mandatory inspection program is too big of a threat to the owners. There must be some middle ground where a compromise could be reached. I just don’t understand why [the Building and Safety Division officials] want to go full steam ahead,” she said. “We need all the help we can get. This place can be a gem, and I hate to see it squandered.”
During the course of the meeting, a number of individuals voiced their concerns about the plan. I.V. resident Jenefer Jett addressed the Building and Safety Division officials, asking them if they knew what it was like to be poor.
“Of course everyone wants to live in a perfect house, but you get what you can pay for. Mandatory inspections will raise rent and cause people to be forced into leaving,” Jett said. “The reality is living in a toolshed or a house with problems happens; you just have to be happy that you have a place to stay.”
Forman said the housing officials’ primary goal was to solve problems, not create them.
“We are looking for basic substandard housing issues. No one is going to bust down walls or condemn buildings,” he said. “We’re concerned with obvious problems. We don’t want to displace anyone unless it is absolutely necessary.”
Juan Firausto, a 25-year I.V. resident, said he felt the new program could do more harm than good.
“Landowners will take advantage of the inspection program. People in general are worried about rent increases. Families can’t afford that,” he said. “What is really needed is good-hearted people looking out for the people of Isla Vista.”
Forman said the county will send the plan to the board of supervisors after the proposal is drafted, and would like to have the ordinance in place by the year’s end.