The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors publicly announced yesterday that it will not be able to help the Cedarwood Apartments tenants in their campaign against being evicted.
A number of UCSB students and several tenants, including children, spoke at the supervisors’ meeting downtown Tuesday to discuss tenants’ rights and why they feel the evictions are unjust. The comments, which were translated into Spanish, were followed by a discussion wherein the five district supervisors pledged their support and sympathy for the tenants, but said their hands were tied in terms of county law.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, whose jurisdiction extends to I.V. and the Cedarwood Apartments located at 6626 Picasso Rd., joined the other supervisors in pledging to continue trying to help the tenants in the coming weeks.
“I’m hopeful that we can continue our aggressive consideration [of the issue],” First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said.
Over 60 people continued the campaign to support the evicted tenants into the night, camping out in front of Storke Tower in a civil protest. The sleepover also served to promote affirmative action in the UC system as well as raises for UCSB service workers. Protestors marched onto campus from I.V. chanting, “Aqui estamos, y no nos vamos,” which means, “Here we are, and we are not leaving.”
The rally included speakers from UCSB’s staff of janitors and members of the Latino community. Service workers said their wages have decreased over the years, and they feel like the administration forgets they exist.
“We do it with a smile on our face though, because we love the students, who we know support us,” a senior janitor said.
A large percentage of attendees were Latino, and workers from the service sector at UCSB were well represented. Most people listening to the speakers were splitting their sympathy between the service workers and the evicted tenants.
“I’m here because workers deserve a chance to be able to survive,” Eric Blanc, a fourth-year history major, said.
Jeronimo Saldana, an organizer for last night’s camp out, spoke for the Cedarwood tenants at the late-night rally and at the board meeting. Saldana said he also spoke for the students of I.V. when he asked the supervisors to not only solve the problem for the Cedarwood tenants, but to protect I.V. tenants’ rights for the future.
Since 1998, Saldana said, I.V. landlords have followed a pattern of evicting low-income tenants to make room for students. He asked the supervisors to set a precedent and stem such acts of gentrification by helping the Cedarwood tenants.
Santa Barbara County Counsel Shane Stark said he could not find an ordinance in the law to fight the tenants’ evictions, but he said he was willing to try something radical or new. Stark also said courts rarely side with tenants when they have received unlawful detainers.
The tenants received unlawful detainers, which are a legal means by which a property owner can take possession of their rented premises, on Wednesday, Sept. 27.
“The question is: What can we do?” Firestone said. “We cannot find anything else to do that we can do – even though we want to.”
Saldana said he does not believe the supervisors are powerless in this situation. At the rally, he said county supervisors in Orange County and San Francisco have faced similar situations and managed to reverse tenants’ evictions.
Of the tenants who received eviction notices on August 18, approximately half are still refusing to move. Firestone said some of the families have been relocated, including six families that moved to other residences in I.V.
At the board meeting, some speakers spoke in support of Firestone, including Second District Supervisor Susan Rose, who said she believed he was working to help the tenants. Other speakers, however, including Saldana and a young girl named Paulina, expressed their frustration with Firestone.
“All we’re asking you, Brooks Firestone, is to help us,” Paulina, one of the tenants, said.