Over the last 25 years, Dario Pini has been sued countless times by South Coast government agencies for health and safety violations, but in a major role reversal, the high-profile landlord is now taking the City of Carpinteria to court, accusing city administrators of gouging him on administrative fees. This Tuesday, the Carpinteria City Council met for hours in closed session to discuss if and how the suit could be settled. No announcement was made after the meeting.
In the past year, city administrators have imposed $32,000 in fines against Pini, stemming from long-running cat-and-mouse enforcement actions involving four rental properties and a residential hotel that Pini owns not far from Carpinteria’s City Hall. In addition to the fines — for not making repairs in a timely fashion — the city socked Pini with another $26,000 in “administrative fees” to cover the time spent by two city inspectors and the city’s community development chief to compel compliance. As with most of his properties, there were a host of violations, including a case in which a tarp was used in lieu of a roof.
Pini is appealing the administrative costs, terming them in legal papers as “patently excessive,” “unreasonable,” or a “prejudicial abuse of discretion.” Pini’s attorney Lawrence Powell explained his client was forced to issue a writ against City Hall after the administrative hearing officer upheld both the fines and the fees. He said Pini has made all of the necessary repairs, though he conceded Pini didn’t always do so within the deadline City Hall set.
The Carpinteria action was instigated when a couple of visitors in Pini’s Casa del Sol residential motel complained of dry rot, no heat, no kitchen facilities, and general dilapidation. In addition, there were complaints of accumulated garbage and lack of landscaping. When residents in adjoining properties also owned by Pini noticed the inspections, they complained of conditions in their apartment complexes, as well, triggering a broader enforcement response.