Tenants union prepares legal challenge to CBC & The Sweeps mass eviction

Letters delivered to residents outline differing interpretations of local legislation

Organizers are urging tenants not to move out and are preparing legal arguments in challenge to the upcoming displacement. Mark Alfred / Daily Nexus

May 6, 2023 at 11:30 am

As every resident living at the CBC & The Sweeps apartment complex faces eviction in the coming weeks, organizers are urging tenants not to move out and are preparing legal arguments in challenge to the upcoming displacement.

The Core Spaces Tenants Association (CSTA) formed after the Core Spaces real estate firm purchased the complex and delivered eviction notices to all tenants, sending families and students scrambling to find housing.

The tenants association, founded with the help of the Santa Barbara Tenants Union, delivered undated letters to residents last month, urging them not to move out unless out of choice and arguing that a recently passed county ordinance — Urgency Ordinance No. 5171 — invalidates the letters of eviction.

After retaining local legal counsel with the Santa Barbara-based firm Thyne Taylor Fox Howard, LLP, Core Spaces delivered followup letters to residents on April 28, calling the CSTA’s messaging “incorrect” and warning that heeding its advice could jeopardize tenants’ relocation assistance.

The letters serve as a preview for possible legal arguments, should the matter end up in a courtroom. Arguments will hinge on the interpretation of said ordinance, which was passed by county supervisors in the wake of the eviction to strengthen tenant’s protections.

“The requirements herein shall apply to termination notices provided after the effective date of this urgency ordinance and in any unlawful detainer action initiated after the effective of this urgency ordinance,” the ordinance read.

Core Spaces quoted the first half of the line in its letter to residents and said, “This ordinance does not retroactively change the notice requirements in effect at the time your notice was issued.” The association effectively argued that regardless of the requirements set out in the ordinance, it does not apply retroactively to the letters of eviction it delivered prior to its passage.

CSTA focused on the second half of the line that states its application in unlawful detainer cases that entail an eviction lawsuit between a tenant or landlord determining which has the right to possession of property. CSTA argued that the ordinance will be viable in rendering the evictions unlawful in such cases.

“Core Spaces’ reasoning for mass evicting all of us is NOT in ‘good faith’ and may be considered illegal any way they attempt to do it,” CSTA’s letter read. “Our recommendation to you is that you do NOT take the money Core Spaces is offering you unless you genuinely wish to move.”

The Santa Barbara County Counsel, which authored the county ordinance, declined to comment on varied interpretations of the legislation.

Core Spaces Director of Communications Kim Lyons said the company is concerned about the “misinformation” being spread and that its goal is to “avoid litigation if possible” in a statement to the Nexus.

“However, because the buildings need to undergo substantial work, if residents do not vacate pursuant to the notices served or arrange for a new move-out date with our office, we will have to pursue legal recourse,” Lyons said in her statement.

According to Core Spaces, 70% of tenants already collected relocation checks. Local leaders have continued to speak out against the evictions.

2nd District Supervisor Laura Capps — an outspoken critic of the evictions her constituents face — sought to raise the issue with elected officials on the state and federal level in a May 3 letter underscoring the impact the evictions will have on the community.

“These tenants, along with many other low-income renters, are now at risk of becoming homeless or being forced to relocate outside of the County of Santa Barbara,” Capps said in the letter. “Dozens of these tenants provided public testimony to the Board on March 21, 2023 and April 4, 2023 detailing the trauma they are experiencing.”

Capps urged California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, Congressman Salud Carbajal, State Senator Monique Limón and Assemblymember Gregg Hart to see if the evictions violate any state laws, including the Fair Housing Act and Unruh Civil Rights Act.

“My team and I are providing options to ease the stress; one that our County Ordinance already exceeds what the state offers for tenants facing evictions and two, I am moving swiftly to engage you, my colleagues at the state and federal level to look into this matter,” Capps said in the letter.

A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the May 5, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

Mark Alfred
Mark Alfred (he/him) was the University News Editor for the 2022-23 school year.