55 Isla Vista Families Served With Eviction Papers
by Martha Sadler
More than 50 Isla Vista families will be scrambling for new lodgings in the next few weeks, having received 30-day notices to vacate the Cedarwood Apartments. The notices were issued by Dennis P. Block and Associates of Los Angeles, a law firm specializing in evictions. Claiming at least 100,000 evictions in 30 years of business, Block bragged that his firm has “evicted more tenants than any other firm on the planet Earth.” Asked whether the tenants would receive relocation assistance, Block responded that his client would “follow the law — nothing less, and nothing more.” His client is a limited liability corporation known only as 6626 Picasso — Cedarwood’s address.
Block said he does not know his client’s plans for the apartments. However, ever-expanding enrollment at UCSB continues to put pressure on the housing market in Isla Vista, where some students pay as much as $650 a month to share a two-bedroom apartment with three other people. By comparison, Alma Moya, who assembles medical cameras at a Hollister Avenue factory, and her 21-year-old daughter Elizabeth Hernandez — a certified nursing assistant and Santa Barbara City College nursing student — pay $1,500 a month for their two-bedroom apartment at Cedarwood, where they have lived for 11 years.
The property changed hands last week at about the same time the eviction notices went out, according to Austin Herlihy, an employee at Radius Group realtors. The previous owner was Marsch Partners, whose patriarch John Marsch died in May. Cedarwood tenants report that Marsch built the play equipment in the courtyard of the complex, and used to enjoy coming by to watch the children play on it.
The eviction notices caused confusion and dismay among tenant families. Dated August 15 but handed out by apartment manager Jose Naves on August 18, the notices do not make it clear when the 30-day period begins. The stated consequences of failure to vacate on time are inconsistent between different versions of the notice: The English version threatens unspecified punitive damages if tenants fail to leave within 30 days, while the Spanish version says that noncompliant tenants will have to pay $600 fines and suffer damaged credit histories. Naves did not return phone calls, but his son said that he is no longer the acting manager and he doesn’t know who is. Several residents said they need letters of recommendation to secure a new apartment, but Naves declined to provide them.
Even in the unlikely case that all of the tenants secure other apartments on time, most are sorry to leave Cedarwood, which has become their neighborhood. Many residents have in-laws and other relatives living in the complex, said Moya, and some neighbors are like family to each other. In many ways, Cedarwood is ideal for families, said resident Loretta Young Diaz, because it is within walking distance from Isla Vista School, shopping, and bus lines.
Clad in swimsuits and carrying towels, 15-year-old Tamara Bitter and 14-year-old Jessica Diaz — friends since early childhood — walked together on Tuesday afternoon to the apartment pool, where they were joined by Jessica’s 9-year-old brother, sporting goggles. All three were scheduled to start school this coming Monday, but now they don’t know where they’ll be. Tamara’s family has discussed moving to Lompoc; Jessica’s might move to Texas.
Some tenants hold out hope that such uprooting won’t be necessary; they’ve begun receiving legal advice from the Santa Barbara Legal Foundation’s Alex Lambrous, and have held several meetings with representatives of the Isla Vista Tenants Union. So far, they have identified one alleged legal foul on the landlord’s part, namely that the 30-day notices were handed out to Cedarwood’s Section 8 tenants, whose rent is subsidized by the federal government and who are entitled by law to 90-day notices. It remains to be seen whether the tenants will be able to put up a legal fight in time to challenge their evictions.