Dario Pini
Paul Wellman

High profile landlord Dario Pini and attorneys for the City of Santa Barbara have reached a settlement over the 64-count complaint they filed last fall alleging that Pini systematically kept 27 rental properties in serious sub-par conditions to the detriment of both his tenants and his neighbors.

According to the proposed settlement, Pini will pay a fine of $35,000; he will also pay an indeterminate amount to hire well-known attorney — and former district attorney — Stan Roden to serve as special master to for the next five years. As such, Roden will be responsible for keeping Pini on track with repairs in a timely fashion, meeting with Pini every quarter to ensure the work gets done.

The settlement is not limited to the 27 properties named in the complaint filed last November by City Attorney Steve Wiley; instead, it encompasses all properties Pini owns within city limits. Should Wiley conclude the process is not working, he still can file an order to show cause with Judge Coleen Stern. Should that occur, the judge would also solicit Roden’s opinion on the matter before rendering a decision. Pini’s attorney Larry Powell described the settlement as “innovative and creative.”

Certainly, it is far less severe than what Wiley initially proposed. Wiley had sought civil fines up to $16,000 a day for each property. In addition, he demanded that Pini’s vast real estate empire be placed in a court receivership, meaning that Pini would lose effective control of his own properties. Wiley has long complained that Pini plays a game of cat-and-mouse with city enforcement officers, cleaning up problem properties only when legal action is threatened and only just enough to address specific allegations, but never providing the sort of ongoing management to make the problem stay away.

In this instance, Powell said his client cleaned up all the alleged problems within 30 days; some, in fact, had been resolved before the lawsuit was ever filed. By appointing Roden as special master, City Hall can keep such disputes out of court — at least initially — thus saving considerable time and money. Pini and Wiley go back decades as legal adversaries with Wiley putting Pini in jail in the early 1990s after a concerted enforcement action launched by the Santa Barbara Police Department.


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