The weekend brought with it no good news for residents of the five Del Playa Drive properties earmarked for eviction this week.
Val Alexeeff, director of planning and development for Santa Barbara County, said the eviction deadline for the residences at 6741, 6743, 6745, 6747, and 6757 DP is still this Thursday, despite landlords’ attempts to win a temporary restraining order against the county last Friday.
A press release sent out by the county Friday afternoon said after the final orders to vacate are posted Thursday morning, “residents will not be allowed back into the buildings to retrieve belongings” and attempting to enter the buildings “constitutes a misdemeanor under county ordinances and state law.”
Alexeeff said he did not know what will happen to the properties once the students move out.
“The occupancy is the big deal,” Alexeeff said. “We don’t want people living in the houses if they are unsafe.”
Once the properties have been vacated, Alexeeff said, the county will turn its attention to working with the landlords on determining what repairs are necessary and how long they will take to complete.
“I suspect the landlords will come up with a solution,” Alexeeff said. “The properties are just too valuable to abandon.”
James Gelb, owner of the properties at 6741 and 6743 DP, said his attorney, Susan Petrovich, failed to convince a judge Friday that there was sufficient evidence that the houses were safe enough to place a temporary hold on the eviction orders.
Gelb said the judge ignored the numerous scientific reports submitted by Gelb’s hired team of experts and ruled that it was within county building official Mike Zimmer’s power to issue the eviction notices.
“The judge based his decision not on scientific data, but only on the authority of the building official,” Gelb said. “I’m at the mercy of the circumstances here.”
In its press release, the county also stated that reports submitted to them by the landlords thus far “…do not include required information from a licensed geotechnical engineer detailing the basic soil conditions.”
However, Gelb said the missing soil sample makes up a small part of the survey conducted by his hired team of geologists. He said his geologists told him the soil sample is of minor significance to their overall geotechnical report, as the soil throughout the I.V. bluffs is of roughly the same composition.
“According to all my experts, that was not a critical part of the assessment,” Gelb said.
Sassan Salehipour, the licensed geotechnical engineer hired by Gelb, is in the process of completing his analysis of the bluffs, but will not have a report ready until later this week, when all the tenants have been forced to move out.
As of Friday afternoon, Salehipour said he had not uncovered anything that would lead him to believe Gelb’s blufftop properties are unsafe.
“I did not see signs of distress,” Salehipour said. “I don’t see signs of separation between the columns and the structure.”
Salehipour said he was confident enough in his assessment to live in the residences himself.
“I don’t think they are in imminent danger,” Salehipour said. “I would sleep here, and enjoy the view.”
Gelb said he believes the county is unfairly dealing with his properties at 6741 and 6743 DP in the same way as the nearby property owned by David Willows at 6757, which he said failed to receive a clean bill of health from engineers.
“We’re being lumped together with the adjacent properties,” Gelb said. “Each property should be judged on its own merits.”
While the county made its initial assessment of the bluffs in June, property owners and tenants were not notified of the findings until Aug. 27. Gelb said he has made every effort to ensure that residents of his properties have access to reports on the structural integrity of the buildings.
“If they had real concerns, they should have notified us sooner,” Gelb said. “I’ve kept my tenants informed the entire way through. If there had been reports of any problems, I would have notified them before the county did.”
Kevin Colombo, a senior communication major and resident of 6741 DP – one of Gelb’s properties – said he and other tenants had difficulty knowing who to believe until they received the news that the eviction date would stand.
“We were getting mixed signals from everyone,” Colombo said. “We didn’t get a straight answer from anyone until Friday.”
Colombo said he had seen several reports on the safety of the house done by engineers hired by Gelb, all of which gave a favorable assessment. Colombo said the reports made him feel confident he would be allowed to stay in the residence.
“We were under the impression that the whole thing would be overturned,” Colombo said. “I feel completely safe here.”
Colombo said he did not blame Gelb for encouraging residents to stay put.
“I can’t be upset at Gelb,” he said. “He did pretty much everything he could – we heard from him pretty much every day.”
Now that he is faced with the reality of moving out, Colombo said he expected he and his five roommates would have to split up and move into what will likely be much less favorable housing conditions.
“If this were any other college town, it would not be such a big deal,” Colombo said. “But right now, there’s no way six guys can find a place to live together in I.V.”
In an effort to make the moving process easier – and less expensive – for the ousted residents, Joel Goforth of The Storage Center at 7246 Hollister Rd., said the company will be offering half-price storage unit rentals to those displaced by the DP evictions.
“We do a lot of business with UCSB students this time of year,” Goforth said. “When we saw the news, we decided to do what we could to help out.”
Goforth said he sympathized with the evicted tenants, and hoped the discounted storage prices would provide them with at least some small consolation.
“It seems like there should be some more support for these students,” Goforth said. “I can’t imagine starting my semester and being told to move out right away.”
Arin Rouse, a senior mechanical engineering major and housemate of Colombo’s at 6741 DP, said he appreciates The Storage Center’s gesture, but he said he and his housemates are simply too busy with classes and work to take the time to transfer their possessions in and out of storage.
“We don’t have the time to go through the moving process now,” Rouse said. “A lot of stress could have been avoided if the county had told us about this sooner.”
The county recently granted three properties a 30-day extension to the eviction deadline, giving tenants of those residences until Oct. 22 before they will have to move out. Rouse said he thought it would be especially difficult for those students to find new housing so far into the quarter.
“For them, I hope they don’t get put in the same situation I’m in,” Rouse said.
Carl Bowers, a junior electrical engineering major and friend of Rouse’s, lives at 6703 DP – one of the properties that received the 30-day extension.
“We got lucky,” Bowers said. “We haven’t even really talked about what we’re going to do yet.”
Despite the extra time and assurances from his landlord Willows, Bowers said he was concerned that he and his housemates will soon face the same fate as Colombo and Rouse.
“We’re trying to weigh our options,” Bowers said. “It’s supposed to be safe, but I’m definitely worried about it.”