“People over profit!” “Stop the evictions!” “These are families not commodities!” Those are just a few of the chants cried out by a group of UCSB students representing the Isla Vista Tenants Union, who protested recent evictions and alleged unethical practices carried out by property owner Matt Platler. The organization, which is affiliated with UCSB’s Associated Students, led a demonstration Friday afternoon on the corner of Embarcadero Del Norte and El Greco.
The protest was in response to 16 low-income families being evicted from the apartment complex at 781 Embarcadero Del Norte. According to members of the I.V. Tenants Union, Platler renovated much of the complex and has raised the rent by 10 percent in hopes of attracting new tenants (most likely students, they said) who can afford to pay the higher price.
Samir Azizi, the organization’s chair, said the evictions came as a surprise to many of the families who were not given a reason for their kick-out or warning beyond the 30-day notices. Due to their low-income statuses, the families don’t have many other living options considering the high prices of I.V. housing, Azizi went on.
Organizers said Platler may have broken county law by refusing to provide the evicted tenants financial assistance to relocate as construction was taking place. According to County Ordinance 4444, property owners in such situations are obligated to assist their displaced tenants with alternative housing or the financial means to relocate. In recent weeks, Platler has denied these services and stated that the ordinance does not apply in this case. He could not be reached for comment to respond to Friday’s protest.
Azizi said that, as a next step, the organization is planning to provide the tenants with the legal resources to move the issue to small claims court. The AS Legal Resources attorney, Robin Unanden, has said that displaced tenants are entitled $10,500 from Platler.
Rhandy Siordia, Associated Students external vice president, said, “My concerns are in the general spectrum in how families are treated in I.V. This is a recurring issue. Families seem to be disenfranchised, which is sad because they are the ones that are here longer. They have children,” Siordia went on. “A lot of times families get marginalized because they don’t have the resources and don’t get much attention from the county.”
Jorge Avila, one of the few tenants who remain at the complex, spoke up, as well. Avila, 28, occupies his apartment with his cousin and father and has seen their rent increase from $975 to $1,300 a month under Platler. Avila works the late-night shift at Freebirds, and stated that the construction has been a great disturbance to his family. “There are times where the only place I can sleep is the bathroom,” he said.
Avila also stated that some of families who were evicted offered to pay the construction costs of their apartment if they were able to stay. Platler, said Avila, refused.