Renters and property owners alike competed for the ear of their supervisor Thursday night to voice their support of or opposition to a controversial inspection proposal.
Third District Supervisor Gail Marshall led an Isla Vista town hall meeting Thursday evening at the University Religious Center on Camino Pescadero. Close to 30 community members discussed issues ranging from housing inspections to crime. Conversation mainly focused on housing safety in Isla Vista and a current proposal to institute mandatory housing inspection in I.V.
Marshall said mandatory safety inspections are needed to significantly increase the standard of housing in Isla Vista.
"Isla Vista has probably more substandard housing in the smallest area than any place else in Santa Barbara," she said. "It’s only in the discussion phase, but the idea would be to have a mandatory program that would allow each unit to be inspected on a regular basis – probably every five years. It would mean what I feel is a pretty novel cost to property managers."
Longtime Isla Vista resident and property manager Constance Brown said only properties that receive complaints should be forced to submit to mandatory inspections.
"I don’t like to see everyone targeted with a blanket forced inspection," she said. "I’ve been a Democrat all my life, but this smacks of Big Brother. There’s just something that seems so wrong about forcing every building, whether they’re well-managed or not, to open their doors to inspectors."
Henry Sarria, a longtime I.V. resident, said tenants often fear they will incur the wrath of property managers if they complain about less than adequate living conditions.
"A lot of people don’t phone in complaints simply because of the fact that either (a) you’ll be labeled a troublemaker, (b) they’ll send somebody out to fix it and then charge you for it or (c) your security deposit will be in peril," he said.
Although she is opposed to mandatory inspections, Brown said there is room for improvement with the current complaint-driven program.
"I think we need to educate people how to complain more," she said. "Maybe at the housing office on campus there could be some complaint forms."
The cost of mandatory safety inspections would mean higher rents for Isla Vista tenants, property manager Chip Eckert said.
"If you raise the cost of doing business, the likelihood is the consumer – in this case the tenant – will end up picking up the cost," Eckert said.
Many Isla Vistan properties are in need of basic improvements, Marshall said. "We don’t want people to get electrocuted because they’ve got a plumbing problem and their carpet is wet; we don’t want people walking out upon their balconies and falling off, either," Marshall said. "What we’re trying to do is to come up with strategies to begin to incrementally upgrade the living conditions in Isla Vista."
At the end of the meeting, Butch Arnoldi presented the audience with recent Isla Vista crime statistics. Arnoldi said a party at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity last weekend drew over 500 people, and after hired security abandoned the event, the fraternity’s president phoned the I.V. Foot Patrol for assistance. Arnoldi said pepper spray had to be used to force the mob to leave.
"We have just as many party ‘saves’ as party closures," Arnoldi said.