UCSB Students Weigh In

by Martha Sadler

Students have held fundraisers to pay for an attorney, marched
through Isla Vista, and signed pledge cards promising not to rent
from Conquest Student Housing, Inc., if the corporation’s eviction
of 55 families from the Cedarwood Apartments  —  in order to create
high-end student housing  —  goes through as planned. Doing
business as a limited liability partnership called 6636 Picasso,
Conquest distributed 30-day notices to the tenants at that address
on August 25.

After creating 20 high-end student apartment complexes near the
University of Southern California, Conquest recently turned its
attention to UCSB, refurbishing a 96-unit apartment complex on
Abrego Road last year. The Breakpointe complex includes a fitness
center, complimentary Dish Network television service in each
bedroom and living room, gated parking, and a nighttime security
guard. According to Conquest’s Web site, it is the “first of many”
prospective projects for the community adjacent to UCSB.

Student housing is increasingly scarce at UCSB, while
enrollments continue to rise. Despite the crunch, UCSB senior
Caitlin MacRae is part of a concerted student effort to slow or
stop the eviction of working families from Isla Vista. Joel
Rodriguez-Flores, the Associated Students Vice President for
External Affairs, traveled to Los Angeles last week to seek help
from an attorney who specializes in evictions. One of the few
protections month-to-month tenants have is protection against
discrimination; under state fair housing laws, kicking out the
mostly Latino families who reside at Cedarwood and replacing them
with primarily white students may be prohibited.

MacRae estimated that students had raised more than
$2500 — during a barbecue and two house parties — toward an initial
payment to secure the attorney’s services. “Yes, we need more
student housing,” MacRae said. “But the situation won’t be helped
by the construction of luxury complexes.” UCSB already bears the
distinction of being the whitest campus in the UC system, and
higher rents won’t help foster diversity, MacRae argued.
Ultimately, MacRae said, she and other student activists would like
Conquest to leave Isla Vista out of its plans entirely. MacRae was
one of about 200 people who marched last Wednesday to the monthly
meeting of I.V.’s Master Plan Planning Advisory Committee, taking
her turn at the microphone to speak in favor of including working
families in the community.

Meanwhile, County Supervisor Brooks Firestone, whose district
encompasses Isla Vista, was recruited to help by the Isla Vista
Tenants Union and other community organizations, including Clergy
United for Economic Justice and PUEBLO. “Some have a right as a
matter of law” to eviction notices longer than the 30 days they
were given, Firestone said when contacted last week, “and the rest
as a matter of common decency.” Tenants receiving federal
assistance are legally entitled to 90 days’ notice. The developer’s
attorney has since agreed to give tenants more time to relocate, on
a case-by-case basis, according to Firestone.

UCSB is not the only local college whose students’ housing needs
are putting pressure on surrounding neighborhoods. Six months ago,
a company calling itself SB Core quietly started moving 74 families
out of a complex on West Gutierrez Street, near Santa Barbara City
College. The last four families are preparing to leave this week;
virtually all of the evictees are Spanish-speaking immigrants.

SB Core is affiliated with Santa Monica-based Realty Center
Management Inc., which has offices all over Southern California but
until now had not ventured into the Santa Barbara market. SB Core
gave its tenants a minimum of 90 days’ notice, emptying the five
buildings one by one as it acquired financing for the project,
which will be an apartment complex for students and young
professionals, said SB Core owner-operator Shawn Mercer. Santa
Barbara City College heavily recruits out-of-state and foreign
students because they pay higher tuition than Californians.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.