Tenants at 6701 Del Playa Dr. will be moving out at the end of this month, following their landlord’s decision to end his costly legal battle with Santa Barbara County building officials.
Citing his mounting attorney and geo-technical consulting fees – already in excess of $130,000 – property owner James Gelb said Tuesday that he will cut back his duplex by 20 feet from the erosion-threatened bluff top and convert his structure into a single-family home. However, Lou Ventura, of Oceanside Investments, said he would continue fighting a condemnation order levied on his property at 6619 DP, and plans to seek an injunction this week preventing the county from evicting his 48 tenants. Both property owners, who are only two of several DP landlords fighting erosion-related condemnation orders issued by the county, notified their residents yesterday regarding their respective situations.
“We’re doing everything in our legal power to get these tenants a stay and to get a court to look at the data,” Ventura said. “We just have to get a fair trial from a fair judge.”
Due to large mortgages on his DP properties, Geld said that he does not have the financial resources to continue a back-and-forth with the county.
“[Oceanside Investments] is in a better position to take another round in the courts,” Gelb said. “I’m not a gambler.”
Gelb, who owns two other DP properties – at 6741 and 6743 – that were condemned and evacuated by the county this past fall, is in the process of demolishing portions of those buildings to convert them into single-family homes, a process he plans to repeat at 6701. He said he expects that the two properties currently under renovation, being moved back 30 feet from the cliff face, will be ready to lease by the end of June. He said 6701 will be renovated and ready for lease by the end of July.
Despite the stigma of possible erosion danger placed on his buildings by the county’s condemnation orders, Gelb said prospective tenants should not be afraid to rent on DP.
“I would tell them not to worry. We had a year’s worth of rain in two weeks and the properties have held up very well,” Gelb said. “I don’t think there should be any mass hysteria.”
Ventura said consultants hired by the county Planning and Development Dept. have requested that he provide a liquefaction study that shows at which point his building would fail during an earthquake. Such a study, Ventura said, could not be completed before the Jan. 31 deadline given to him by the county, especially because county consultants only notified him several days ago that he would need to submit such calculations.
“There’s no way to finish what the county is asking for in this imaginary time frame,” Ventura said. “The liquefaction study has been testified to take a month to two months.”
Beside the extensive length of such a study, Ventura said his expert consultants have told him 6619 DP does not need a liquefaction report because the soil and rock supporting his structure are not subject to liquefaction.
However, Lincoln Thomas, a supervising building inspector with the county, said that liquefaction has been an issue for the entire length of this four-month appeals process, and the property owners have had enough time to complete such calculations.
“Liquefaction was an issue from the beginning on our side,” Thomas said. “The property owners have had ample time, and they chose to ignore it.”
With hundreds of pages of structural engineering generated by his consultants, Ventura said he is still confident in his chances of receiving an injunction, and hopes his student tenants will stand by him. He also said he plans on seeking help from 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone during a meeting today.
Several of Ventura’s tenants at 6619 said Tuesday night they have been kept well-informed of their landlord’s situation by postings on their doors and mailings.
UCSB students Eddie Lukovic, a fourth-year business and economics major, and Tyler Joost, a fourth-year environmental studies major, said that, even though Ventura’s injunction could fail and they would be forced to move out in less than three weeks, they and their roommates have not made plans to move elsewhere.
“We’ll be sleeping on people’s couches,” Lukovic said. “We don’t have the time or motivation to look for another place. Definitely not the motivation.”
Several of Gelb’s tenants at 6701 said they were resigned to moving out after four months of uncertainty, which began the day they moved in to find a condemnation order from the county posted to their door late last August.
“Gelb has been amazing. He’s kept us informed,” said Anne Park, a senior global studies and history major at UCSB. “Fuck the county. This has been a really big inconvenience …”
Park and one of her housemates, Shannon Hansen, a senior law & society and communication major, said that they would be more upset about having to move if they had not already found a place to move downtown.
“It’s just a hassle,” Hansen said.