Three-dozen units of an apartment complex in Santa Barbara received eviction notices last month without warning or explanation.
On Oct. 12, MRP Santa Barbara LLC – the landlord of the complex – informed residents they had two months to move out the Hillshore Gardens apartments, but provided no reason for the sudden evictions. Most of the individuals involved are long-term residents, and the Pueblo Education Fund – a local non-profit organization – is currently helping families deal with the approaching eviction date.
Pueblo’s Executive Director Belen Seara said the group is helping the evicted families learn their rights and negotiate terms with the landlord.
“At Pueblo, we help the families organize themselves,” Seara said. “We train them on how to develop a plan B, and what it takes to prepare for negotiation. We teach them how to talk clearly and how to expose points without violating codes of mediation.”
According to Seara, many of the evicted families have turned to Pueblo’s services because of vague or confusing Santa Barbara City and County eviction laws.
“From the beginning, they came here because they didn’t know the laws and didn’t understand the process,” Seara said.
Current Santa Barbara City legislation states that landlords can give month-to-month tenants a 60-day notice without providing a reason for doing so.
With the help of Pueblo representatives, the Hillshore Gardens evictees organized a press conference last Thursday to discuss plans of mediation with the landlords. However, due to an overwhelming amount of media attention focused on the Montecito Tea Fire, the conference did not receive as much recognition as hoped.
“There was a small problem with exposure due to the development of the fires, but the press still came,” Seara said. “We didn’t get any camera coverage, but it went really well.”
Members of Pueblo and the Rental Housing Mediation Task Force of Santa Barbara will join evicted families and MRP Santa Barbara LLC at a mediation conference this Thursday to decide the fate of the Hillshore Gardens residents.
Seara said in addition to the Hillshore Gardens incident, one of the goals of the conference is to look at the issue of evictions across the entire county.
“Our goal is to really emphasize the need for better laws in Santa Barbara,” she said. “This is one eviction, but its been happening almost every other year. We really need to think about the long-term future of the city and of the county, too.”
Seara said the supportive reaction of the community has been a major asset to the evictees and Pueblo as an organization.
“The solidarity of the community was great when we first sent out the release,” Seara said. “We’re trying to teach the families to trust each other. If they can remain united through the end of the process, then they can have some control over the outcome.”
Points of discussion for the upcoming mediation conference cannot be disclosed at this time, although the press will be notified of the arrangements between MRP Santa Barbara LLC and the residents after the conclusion of the meeting.