Santa Barbara’s Rental Housing Roundtable held a town hall meeting Thursday to discuss tenant’s rights issues in the county.
The meeting was held at Isla Vista Elementary and served as an opportunity for tenants to share their experiences, voice their concerns and ask local officials questions about upcoming legislation. Speakers noted that 90 percent of Isla Vista’s residents are renters, making the community especially vulnerable to evictions and other abuse from property owners.
Thursday’s meeting focused specifically on the area’s mass evictions, most notably a 2006 incident in which over 53 families were evicted from the Cedarwood apartments — now known as the Coronado Apartments — on Picasso Road. Belén Seara, co-chair of the roundtable, said such evictions have long-term repercussions on the community.
“After each eviction, we see tenants who have moved three or four times a year, losing thousands in security deposits, forcing children to switch schools and ruining entire neighborhoods,” Seara said. “Increasing tenants’ protections that will discourage landlords from evicting families is a cost-effective way for the county to prevent displacement and preserve its workforce.”
The meeting was also geared toward facilitating discussion of an amendment to Ordinance 4444, which was originally adopted in 2002 to supplement state laws outlining the rights and duties of landlords and tenants. The proposed amendment, which would strengthen protections for renters, will soon be considered by the County Board of Supervisors.
Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who attended the forum, said the current ordinance has not effectively addressed tenants’ issues.
“I think if you talked to people who lived in Isla Vista years ago, the same issues existed, so it’s obviously not getting better,” Farr said. “The County needs to take another look [at existing legislation], specifically Ordinance 4444.”