Attorneys at City Hall have grown exasperated with landlord Dario Pini and the stipulated judgment by which they can crowbar Santa Barbara’s best-known building-code violator into compliance. Since the agreement was signed in July 2013, deputy city attorney John Doimas estimates inspectors have issued more than 100 notices of violation involving some of the 100 or more properties Pini owns within city limits. In that same time, Doimas estimated Pini has been fined up to $200,000.
Doimas and his boss, City Attorney Ariel Calonne, say they’ve seen little behavior change by Pini since City Hall initiated the legal action. Under the stipulated judgment, both sides meet once every four months in front of court-appointed Special Master Stan Roden. But both sides agree that this process isn’t working and should be modified to focus on just a handful of the worst Pini properties, set strict deadlines by which compliance must be met, and agree on fine amounts in advance. Judge Colleen Sterne must sign off on the new arrangement first, and no court date has been set.
Pini’s attorney Larry Powell estimated that one-third of the violations involved overflowing trash containers. Doimas said Pini’s biggest problem was doing construction work without permits, thus creating health and safety issues. Powell acknowledged that Roden may have recommended $200,000 in fines, but he said only Judge Sterne has the authority to levy such sanctions. To date, he stated, City Hall has made no effort to get Sterne to order the payments. That’s because Pini and City Hall have always worked things out, he said. As another indicator of City Hall’s impatience, however, police are compiling a list of all calls for service either about or originating from Pini’s units. In the past, such information gathering preceded major enforcement actions.