Three tenants have evacuated their apartment on Del Playa Drive and filed a complaint with their property manager at SFM Vista Del Mar because of concerns over the presence of asbestos.
Logan Green, one of the residents who recently moved out of 6761 Del Playa Dr., said he sent samples of his unit’s ceiling to the Western Analytical Laboratory on May 5. Green, a senior business economics major, said the lab results confirmed that the house was filled with asbestos, a fibrous mineral that can cause cancer if inhaled over extended periods of time.
Valerie Sweatt, SFM properties manager, declined to comment.
Green said he moved out of his unit on May 8. On May 21, Green said, he took a letter to his landlord and asked her to return his security deposit and last month’s rent. The property manager refused to speak to him, Green said, and referred him to the management company’s lawyer.
The tenants of the DP residence have had a number of problems with their property manager, Green said, and the asbestos incident is only one of the many issues they have encountered with the unit. The apartment also contains visible mold, which recent tenants say has a very unpleasant smell.
“Living there has been a total nightmare,” Green said. “The window was broken, and when it rained, water came in and mold began to bloom. I was waking up with headaches and nausea. Mice took over our kitchen, and it was unusable for two months. The shower electrocuted people; the electrician said it gave off a 15 volt shock.”
Scott Christensen, a Santa Barbara City College student who was one of Green’s roommates, moved out on May 22, and a female roommate moved out in February, Green said. He said there are still three people living in the apartment.
As of now, Green said he has only filed a complaint with his property managers and it is up to the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District to decide what actions they will take against the company.
A representative from APCD, who declined to state his name, said the details of the investigation must remain confidential until things become finalized. However, he did say that there have been several enforcement actions for asbestos against landlords in Isla Vista over the past ten years, especially along Del Playa Dr.
Green said he took six samples from his four-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment on May 5 and sent them to Western Analytical Laboratory to undergo testing for asbestos. Western Analytical Laboratory Director Mike Maladzhikyan sent Green an email on May 9 and confirmed the presence of asbestos in the apartment.
In the email, Maladzhikyan said that wires found in the ceiling contained 70 percent chrysotile asbestos, while the acoustic ceiling spray contained 3 percent chrysotile asbestos. These percentages are far above the state and federal mandated levels at which removal of the material must commence.
Green said he was concerned about the safety of the apartment from the day he moved in and realized there was a problem when he and his five roommates began noticing acoustic ceiling scattered on the floor.
“I was worried because it’s common for acoustic ceilings to contain asbestos,” Green said. “Asbestos is a fiber that when inhaled can cause cancer and respiratory problems 20 years after exposure. If there are any problems, it happens down the line. The way it is now, you can only sue if you’re injured right now. The real issue is about the removal.”
Green said APCD is responsible for investigating and assessing the punishment for the property manager. Although he is unaware of the consequences his landlord faces, Green said he is optimistic that the problem will be resolved.
“All I can do is hope that they receive a penalty,” Green said. “This serves as a warning for other landlords in I.V. to take the health of their tenants into consideration.”
Green said he had difficulty finding resources to help give him advice about his situation.
“I felt in the dark,” Green said. “It would be better if the Community Housing Office could provide more help.”