Six households at 6754 and 6764 Abrego Road, which received eviction notices last October and planned to sue Abrego Villas property owner Majestic Asset Management, Inc., for violation of County Ordinance 4444, came to a settlement before the small claims court date for an undisclosed amount.

The tenants received 60-day notices to leave the building from Van Nuys property owner Majestic Asset Management, Inc. due to renovations. The households then went to the Isla Vista Tenants Union (IVTU) and the Associated Students Legal Resource Center, which concluded that the landowners violated Ordinance 4444, a Santa Barbara county law which provides relocation assistance to tenants evicted due to renovations and rezoning.

A.S. Legal Resource Center attorney Robin Unander said the small claims court case did not occur because the two sides reached a consensus shortly before the court date.
“We made one last attempt to settle and the other side agreed and accepted it,” Unander said, “So they accepted our offer.”

According to Unander, there were several offers and counter offers, but Majestic Management agreed to give five of the six tenants an undisclosed amount of benefits. One household was exempt from benefits according to Ordinance 4444 because they were the only household within their complex to be evicted, while the other complex was home to five evicted households.

The eviction of less than two units from any apartment is considered legal because it does not force multiple groups of people to search for a limited number of available houses at once, Unander said.

“The thing about this is that landlords can evict [residents] to do renovations,” Unander said. “It is just that they cannot flood the market with tenants that are all competing and scrambling to find housing at the same time.”

Unander said the evictions occurred due to property owners’ propensity to take older, run-down homes and renovate them in order to rent units to students for higher profit.

“We would love to figure out how to get an alert to any of these potentially vulnerable properties that … haven’t had a whole lot of changes in a long time,” Unander said.

According to Unander, while evictions are common, this situation is particularly unique because most evictions occur when tenants do not pay rent.

“If you have … five, six, seven people on the list and one of them stops paying, the landlord has the right to evict the whole place,” Unander said.

Unander said the Legal Resource Center can help students and I.V. residents receive legal advice on topics such as security deposits, leases and companion animals, but that this service would not be available without IVTU’s assistance.

“IVTU is the vehicle through which we were able to help them,” Unander said. “For example, [the] legal resource center [is] only really allowed to help UCSB students, but because of IVTU and an agreement with IVTU, we are allowed to help community members in certain situations including evictions.”

Majestic Asset Management, Inc. President Brian Lezak said the company does not own and only manages Abrego Villas. According to him, the management company has followed the rules and regulations dictated by Ordinance 4444.

“Unfortunately, the facts that have been publicized have been significantly distorted and are not an accurate reflection of each individual’s situation,” Lezak said.

According to Lezak, Majestic aims to provide apartment housing that is clean and affordable for tenants and has carried out renovations partially due to utility efficiency updates.

“We are sensitive to the environment and take great pride in our changes to the landscape areas, which will serve to reduce our water consumption and will contribute to Santa Barbara’s efforts to use less water wherever possible,” Lezak said.

Lezak said he appreciates the tenants’ union and continues to support their efforts to defend tenants and uphold county policies, such as Ordinance 4444.

“We are hopeful that any future activities taken by the Isla Vista Tenants Union are done in a peaceful and safe manner,” Lezak said.
IVTU President Andrey Bogdanov said he could not yet comment on the issue.

“At the moment, we are going through some legal things in the process,” Bogdanov said.

A version of this story appeared on page 7 the Thursday, April 2, 2015 print edition.