St. George Files Suit Against Gelb for Alleged Unpaid Debt

Pair of Isla Vista Landlords in Legal Tussle over Property Sales Costs

The seven properties in contention between Isla Vista landlords Ed St. George and James Gelb over debts include a Del Playa apartment building (on the right) suffering eroding cliffs.

Santa Barbara landlord Ed St. George is suing James Gelb of Del Playa Rentals for outstanding debt, according to public records.

The case alleges that St. George is owed over $391,000 on a group of four Del Playa Drive homes he sold Gelb in 2006 and more than $375,000 on three more of the beachfront properties sold in 2010, including unpaid interest and late fees. The 2010 properties are in Gelb’s mother’s name, according to the suit.

Gelb and St. George entered a seller carryback financing agreement, which means that St. George “loaned” the amount each home cost and transferred the property’s deed of trust to Gelb and his mother. Over the course of several years, Gelb was expected to pay the cost of the sale.

Public files indicate that Gelb asked St. George in 2014 to remove the deed of trust and take off the lien, or St. George’s right to keep Gelb’s 2010 properties until the loan was repaid or discharged, so he could complete a separate, pending transaction. According to St. George’s attorney, Robert Forouzandeh, this did not extinguish the loan.

Ed St. George
Paul Wellman (file)

Since, St. George has alleged that Gelb has not paid the final costs on those properties or drawn up new deeds of trust, which would identify the original loan amount and gives St. George the power to foreclose on properties if the debt remains unpaid.

Gelb and St. George own a number of properties in Isla Vista, and according to a 2015 analysis by the Independent, the two owned the most and second-most properties in that part of the county. St. George also owns property adjacent to Santa Barbara City College. In October, Gelb put his Isla Vista properties up for sale at nearly $80 million. Gelb’s sale includes the Del Playa properties St. George sold to him.

Gelb declined to comment on the case. Forouzandeh said that the two parties are set to meet on July 11 to discuss if the case is appropriate to set for trial.

This is not the first problem for Gelb in recent years. In January 2017, a cliff collapse under Gelb’s apartment complex at 6653 Del Playa Drive caused more than 20 residents to scramble for temporary housing.

In November, a video of Gelb yelling homophobic slurs at I.V. Community Services District president Ethan Bertrand made headlines. District Attorney Joyce Dudley charged him with disturbing the peace. He has yet to be arraigned in that case.


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