A group of protestors who camped out near Storke Tower for over two weeks on behalf of the evicted Cedarwood Apartments tenants issued new demands to the university yesterday – staging a small protest at Cheadle Hall in hopes of amplifying the efforts of campus administrators to remedy the situation.
After learning the Goleta Water District had turned off the water at the apartment building yesterday, about 10 students, staff and community members – some former participants in the 16-day Tent City Jam Fest two weeks ago – revived pressure on campus officials to help the 17 remaining Cedarwood families. Costanza Rampini, a fifth-year environmental studies major, said the protestors asked the university to raise more money for the tenants by petitioning UCSB alumni for funds and to create a task force to pressure landlords to make housing available.
Rapini said the group also asked the university to find a solution for temporary storage or housing for the 15 evicted families that have not found new residences to move in to after they vacate the premises on Nov. 30, the court-ordered move-out day.
After making the demands to administrators, the protestors threatened to return with more people or go on a hunger strike if their requests were not fulfilled – then left Cheadle Hall peacefully, Rampini said. She said the group expects to meet with university administrators sometime next week about how UCSB will respond to their requests.
Former A.S. President Cervin Morris, who participated in the demonstration yesterday, said the protesters’ goal is to raise $5,000 for each family – which he said should be enough to pay for the down payment and one month’s rent on a new apartment.
Kris Miller-Fisher, director of special projects for 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, said water in the building was turned back on by lunchtime the same day. She said the Goleta Water District shut off the supply because Conquest Student Housing, the company that owns and manages the building, had not paid the water bill for the units.
Miller-Fisher said it was Conquest’s responsibility to pay the water bill as a part of the lease agreements signed by both the company and tenants.
Julia Hack-Davie, one of yesterday’s protestors, said the fact that the water was cut off is indicative of Conquest’s apathy for the tenants’ situation.
“The fact that the water was turned off at all is another indication that Conquest doesn’t care,” said Hack-Davie, a fifth-year global studies and linguistics major. “It’s one more example of intimidation.”
Morris said the protestors originally planned to stage their demonstration on the construction site of the Mosher Alumni House, located near Cheadle Hall, to encourage the university to ask alumni for money. Paul Desruisseaux, associate vice chancellor of public affairs said the protestors relocated to Cheadle Hall after they learned they would be trespassing and were not wearing the proper attire for a construction site.
UCSB administrators wrote a check to the families yesterday for $11,465, money that had been raised over several weeks from the Families of Cedarwood Apartments Fund, an account the university recently opened at Santa Barbara Bank and Trust, Desruisseaux said. The money will be split up among the 17 families, amounting to $665 for each family.
He said the fund is still open for anyone who wants to donate, but the university cannot take money from its budget to give to the families.
“The money the university has in its budget are not funds that can be deployed for purposes like this,” Desruisseaux said.
Other monies raised for the tenants came from the County of Santa Barbara, which petitioned local Catholic charities and received a donation amounting to over $300 per family, Miller-Fisher said. In addition, the tenants’ legal fees were paid for by the $13,000 raised by the protestors over the past few months.
She also said the tenants’ financial problems should also be eased by a court order that mandated they did not have to pay rent for three months.
Only two of the 17 evicted families and individuals have found housing, and 38 other tenants who were evicted from the building earlier in August have since moved to apartments around the county. Morris said most of them went to Lompoc and Santa Maria and had to change jobs and schools.
Miller-Fisher said Firestone’s office and the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services are helping the remaining 15 to find housing. She said she gave the families surveys to determine their housing needs, but only five have returned them.
“We have found some apartments,” Miller-Fisher said. “Social services is helping us and there are a few [apartments] but they’re not really in I.V.”
Conquest, in the meantime, has been doing minor repairs on the building to prepare it for rental to students next fall. According to their website, they are planning a complete remodel on the complex that will be renamed “Coronado.”
Desruisseaux said though the university has responded to student concerns about the situation since the protests began, it can now only serve the families by acting as a communication liaison between protestors, Conquest and the county.
Morris said the protestors maintain that UCSB should take a more active roll in fundraising and helping the families find housing because the role of a university includes being responsive to the concerns of its students.
“The reason the university should be involved is because we’re asking,” Morris said. “They’re here for us and we’re not doing this for ourselves; we’re trying to help out these families.”