Late last week, at the same Isla Vista apartment complex where mass evictions in 2006 prompted county supervisors to update Santa Barbara’s relocation ordinance, notices were stuck on doors informing tenants their rent would increase at the end of their leases by as much as 24 percent. In addition, the landlord of Breakpointe Coronado — sandwiched between Abrego and Picasso roads — would no longer pay cable or Internet bills. While the tenants have until next summer to look for a new place to live, if they wish to stay, they must re-sign their leases with Meridian Group, the property manager, by December 31. Most students have already left town for winter break.
Ethan Bertrand, who was elected to the Isla Vista Community Services District, received one of the notices. He and his four roommates each pay roughly $500 to cram into a two-bedroom apartment, which is a good deal for Isla Vista. Many of his neighbors pile even more people into two bedrooms. There are 150 units in the complex, which is made up of three buildings.
When Bertrand approached the on-site manager, he said she told him rent was being raised so much to discourage tenants from re-leasing. (A Meridian spokesperson denied this and said rents increase every year.) The owners hope to do minor renovations such as install faux hardwood floors and replace kitchen appliances. Bertrand added that tenants who choose to stay will not have their apartments renovated. The county ordinance would trigger relocation fees only if more than 10 percent of the complex is renovated before the lease expires, forcing tenants to move out.
The property manager told Bertrand that the owners behind The Hive bought the complex in cash, which the property-management company denied. When asked, David Pio of The Hive, which manages several properties owned by M&A CP Fresno LLC, said, “All I can tell you is no sale has happened. I think that would be premature to even speculate.” According to the tax rolls, a sale of the complex, valued at $46 million, had not been recorded.
Though most of Breakpointe Coronado is inhabited by college students — not the low-income families who live nearby — Bertrand lamented that such actions will ultimately spill over to apartments in the relatively affordable slice of Isla Vista.
Update, December 16: A week after some tenants living at Breakpointe Coronado Apartments in Isla Vista were informed their rent would increase by as must as 24 percent at the end of their lease, the property’s management company sent out a letter retracting the notice. “Due to a miscalculation, these rates are incorrect,” the letter stated. “As a continuing resident, your rent will only increase by 5% for the 2017-2018 lease term. Please also be advised that cable and Internet will no longer be provided.” The Breakpointe Coronado complex provides some of the most affordable rent to college students in I.V.