Santa Barbara County building officials are reviewing a second wave of geo-technical reports submitted by three Del Playa Drive property owners who must prove their structures are safe enough from blufftop erosion to allow for continued occupancy.
A move out deadline of Dec. 1 had been set for tenants living at 6619, 6701 and 6703 DP, but as per an agreement with the county board of building appeals, that deadline has now been extended one month since the property owners completed their additional engineering reports by Nov. 30. Lincoln Thomas, a supervising building inspector with the county, said the planning and development department will complete its review of the documents and render a decision as to the buildings’ safety by the end of December. If the county concludes again that the buildings are unsafe, their occupants will be evicted Jan. 1.
“We accepted [the additional reports], but that doesn’t mean there won’t be corrections,” Thomas said. “We’re hopeful we can get the whole thing wrapped up before too long.”
Lou Ventura, of Oceanside Investments, which owns the property at 6619 DP, said his company submitted the additional reports requested by the county well before the Nov. 30 deadline.
“The county deemed it complete; now they’re supposed to get back to us,” Ventura said. “We actually paid almost double for this one outside contractor to work weekends.”
Ventura said he wanted to avoid the possibility of his 48 tenants receiving only a one-day warning before the county forced them to move out. According to the agreement between lawyers for the property owners and the county, reached after two appeals hearings in October, such a situation would have occurred if building inspectors judged his additional reports incomplete on Nov. 30. His tenants would have been forced to leave on Dec. 1.
Ventura said he was thankful for this second extension and hopeful that the planing department would deem 6619 DP safe in light of his new reports.
“We’re happy that [the county’s] taking the students into consideration,” Ventura said. “We’re confident in the building.”
The owner of 6701 DP, James Gelb, said he and fellow owners facing the eviction of their tenants have spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to hire experts to evaluate their properties and provide the county with the additional reports requested.
He also said he hopes the planning department will declare 6701 DP safe after reviewing his most recently submitted documents.
“I hope this is just going to end,” Gelb said.
David Willows, who owns 6703 DP, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Gelb, who owns two other properties at 6741 and 6743 DP that the county ordered evicted in late September, said he plans to demolish those structures as early as next week. He said he will replace them as soon as possible with two story homes set 40 feet away from the cliff, and will hopefully be ready to lease them again by June 2005.
On Aug. 27, 2004, county building inspectors initially deemed nine properties along DP’s ocean side unsafe for habitation on the basis that severe erosion had destabilized the concrete caisson pillars that anchor the structures’ foundations into bedrock below the sand. Building officials posted eviction notices on the properties giving tenants one month to move out.
Several property owners appealed the planning department’s eviction order, using structural engineering and soil composition reports compiled by their own hired engineers, architects and geologists to contradict the expert opinions rendered by county engineers and geologists.
After two days of dueling testimony from witnesses regarding the structural integrity of several of the properties, lawyers for the property owners and the county board of building appeals agreed to extend eviction deadlines for the three properties at 6619, 6701 and 6703 DP. However, eviction orders for the other properties at 6741, 6743, 6745, 6747 and 6757 DP remained standing, and those properties remain vacant.