While the epic battles continue almost daily between attorneys in the receivership of Dario Pini’s rental properties, one of his tenants is getting fed up. “We knew what to expect with Dario,” said Skyler Prophet, “but Trigild is completely absentee when you try to get ahold of them.”
Trigild — a San Diego company whose CEO, William Hoffman, is the receiver appointed by the Santa Barbara Superior Court to bring eight of Pini’s properties up to code — manages seven of the apartment complexes. (The eighth property is a hotel.) The city spent decades fighting with Pini to fix a lurid list of code violations — from bed bugs to bare electrical wiring — before getting Hoffman in April.
Skyler Prophet has lived at Pini’s Los Aguajes apartments, a beat up, white stucco complex four blocks from the beach and next to the railroad tracks, for two and a half years with his wife and their dog. It’s come to feel like home, he said. Pini had appreciated Prophet’s work on the property, like his gardening and trash pickup, and Prophet said he could bargain with Pini to use rent to pay for repairs he’d made.
Trigild is a different animal: “I don’t know how to make them behave,” Prophet said. Trigild workers regularly destroy or trample Prophet’s gardens, weed-whacking knee-high sunflowers, tearing out a nitrogen-fixing cover of clover, and carting away his compost pile. When Prophet protested, Trigild’s maintenance supervisor, Tony Martinez, told Prophet he didn’t own anything and had no right to plant a garden. The supervisor made it clear Prophet could move if he didn’t like it. Trigild property manager Jennifer Altemus said she’d replace the compost — “Another lie,” said Prophet — as the compost never arrived.
It’s been five months since Trigild came in, Prophet said, and the laundry machines still don’t drain, only five windows in the 17-unit complex have screens, and someone shows up about 75 percent of the time that 24-hour notices are left on doors, which happens about twice a week. The last is a hardship for Prophet, who works three jobs, because he wants to be there when strangers are in his home. “Trigild shouldn’t have taken on eight properties if it couldn’t handle them,” Prophet said.
His frustrations are likely matched by Hoffman’s. His maintenance staff has made small steps in fixing code violations, but Hoffman’s progress has been dogged by fierce disputes with Pini’s attorney over expenses, like what it should cost to house tenants at Motel 6 so the pest fumigation can be done — they are $229,000 apart. At least four matters are scheduled for the next hearing, including a request by Hoffman for contempt of court findings against Pini and enforcement of the receiver order. Pini wants the judge to make Hoffman’s attorney charge less. The city wants Pini’s financial documents. The fireworks commence September 28 in Judge Colleen Sterne’s courtroom.