Nonprofit law firms back CBC & The Sweeps residents resisting eviction
Scores of residents are set to resist the eviction orders
May 18, 2023 at 2:00 pm
Executives and attorneys with two nonprofits — the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County and Housing & Economic Rights Advocates — argued in a May 6 letter that the eviction notices delivered by Core Spaces to CBC & The Sweeps residents are null under a new county ordinance.
The law firms are working with the Core Spaces Tenant Association (CSTA), a group of around 70 residents dedicated to fighting the evictions. CSTA members, as well as an unknown number of other residents, plan to fight the evictions facing hundreds of tenants at the building by refusing to move out, according to CSTA organizer and fifth-year biopsychology major Sam Szepesi.
If and when residents refuse to heed the evictions order, the complex’s new landlord, Core Spaces, vowed to “pursue legal recourse.” The company would likely file an eviction case — called an unlawful detainer — that puts the matter before a judge who would determine the eviction orders’ legality.
The law nonprofits contend that the eviction orders will be deemed invalid in any unlawful detainer case, as Core Spaces has yet to deliver all permits needed to evict residents for remodeling purposes, as is required under new regulations passed by the County Board of Supervisors on April 6.
Core Spaces’ local legal counsel, Thyne Taylor Fox Howard, LLP, argued in an April 18 letter to residents that the legal strategy put forward by CSTA is “incorrect,” and Core Spaces Director of Communications Kim Lyons told the Nexus in an email statement that the company wishes to “avoid litigation if possible.”
The nonprofits delivered followup letters to residents on May 6, claiming that Core Spaces’ prior communication to tenants “misstated the law,” and that “CORE does not have permits so cannot terminate your tenancy for ‘substantial remodeling.’”
Lawyers working with CSTA on the matter are in agreement that the eviction orders will be deemed invalid, according to Szepesi. Both nonprofits continue to collaborate with CSTA as eviction dates for many residents draw near.
“They’re both firms dedicated to helping lower-income marginalized classes, which is a lot of what CBC & The Sweeps is; we have a lot of Section 8, we have a lot of disabled, elderly, families [and] students,” Szepesi said.
In recent weeks, Core Spaces repeatedly urged residents to pick up relocation checks in letters delivered to residents in both English and Spanish, which were also seen in a number of emails obtained by the Nexus.
“They’re basically making tenants think that they have to pick up their checks now, or like within 15 days, or they won’t get it,” Szepesi said. “There’s no time limit; you can have that check at any time before you move.”
Core Spaces told the Nexus last week that 70% of residents picked up their checks already. Szepesi warned that even though residents may have collected the money, that does not constitute an agreement to move out, and tenants who have done so can still resist their eviction.
“When people are picking up their checks, they are not signing an agreement to move out,” Szepesi said. “So people that have picked up their checks and cashed them, if we get to stay, they would just pay that money back. There’s no signing agreement to move out, that’s not what picking up the check means.”
CSTA is also lobbying Santa Barbara County supervisors to pass a renoviction moratorium that would ban evictions such as the ones affecting CBC & The Sweeps residents that are predicated on a desire to renovate apartments to raise rents.
“We’re trying to preserve and protect this low-income housing and other low-income housing in the county,” Szepesi said. “We want to stay in our homes. If a giant multibillion dollar company with old ex-Goldman Sachs executives and Blackstone executives want to buy it, then they should allow us the right to return out our previous rent and give us temporary housing.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the May 18, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.