One year after more than 150 oceanside Del Playa Drive residents found eviction notices taped to their doors, Santa Barbara County has cleared several of the blufftop buildings for occupancy.
County officials declared six of the 11 condemned properties safe this summer, allowing landlords to resume renting out the buildings to new tenants, SFM Vista Del Mar property manager Valerie Sweatt said. Many of the properties that did not receive county clearance underwent construction over the summer to bring them up to safety standards.
DP property owner Lou Ventura was among the landlords who received an occupancy permit for his building at 6619 DP. Ventura said he spent the better part of a year fighting the decision to condemn the house before the county decided that his property was safe.
“They said we were right all along. There’s nothing wrong with the property; there was never anything wrong with our property,” Ventura said. “We said that at the very beginning. The county admitted it was one of the safest buildings on DP.”
Sweatt was forced to evict tenants from her property at 6757 DP last year, and she said 40 percent of the building was torn down in July. She said she hopes the apartments will be rebuilt in January, but it may take longer because the county has not yet approved a permit for the reconstruction.
Sweatt said she thinks the way the evictions were conducted hurt local landowners and leasers.
“I was very saddened to see this,” Sweatt said. “It’s a waste of people’s time and a waste of money. It sure could have been handled differently.”
Ventura said he paid for almost $300,000 worth of tests to prove that the bluffs underneath his property were not eroding, and he said the county wants him to pay $24,600 to cover costs it incurred during the debate over his property’s safety. Ventura said his lawyers are looking into the legality of the claim.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said the Board of Supervisors is monitoring properties on the bluffs and will not have a repeat of last year, in which eviction notices took tenants and landowners by surprise and caused controversy within the county.
“Everyone’s being careful, working with the landlords to address concerns well ahead of time,” Firestone said.
Victor Vassilev, a third-year business economics major who lives in one of the remodeled properties at 6741 DP, said he is not worried about his building’s safety.
“I’m not concerned that it’s going to fall into the ocean,” Vassilev said. “They moved them way back and that cliff is not going to fall this year. Plus, I was here when the county inspected it and we passed everything.”
Ventura said he thinks there will be more evictions after this year’s rainy season.
“I think a lot will be happening to properties without caissons,” Ventura said. “Come winter, a barrage of letters will be sent to people living on the bluffs.”